When you’re trying to boost your fertility, you’re probably keenly aware of what’s going on inside your body. But are you thinking about what’s going into it?
While it’s always a good idea to be aware of your nutritional intake, you can support your reproductive wellness by consuming a well-rounded diet that focuses on nutrient-dense foods. In particular, aim to include foods that contain folate, iron, calcium, and Vitamins B6, B12 and D.
It might seem like a lot of work to manage and measure your intake of all of these nutrients each day; luckily, many whole foods contain more than one!
We’ve put together a few quick meals that will help you meet your daily need for each of these nutrients and get you a kick-start on creating a complete meal plan for fertility.
Turkey, pepper and greens omelet
Whisk together two eggs with ¼ cup of whole milk to make an omelet. Fill your egg base with 3 oz browned ground turkey, 1 cup sautéed spinach and ½ cup sliced sautéed bell peppers. Slice up 1 cup of papaya on the side.
Folate (spinach, peppers, papaya)
Iron (turkey, spinach)
Vitamin B6 (turkey)
Vitamin B12 (eggs, turkey)
Vitamin D (eggs)
Vitamin C (papaya)
Sweet potato skillet with hummus
Sauté garlic, mushrooms, kale, asparagus, shredded Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes in 1 tsp sesame oil. Top with 1/3 cup hummus.
Folate (asparagus, kale, Brussels sprouts)
Iron (hummus [chickpeas, sesame seeds])
Vitamin B6 (Brussels sprouts, garlic)
Vitamin D (mushrooms)
Vitamin C (Brussels sprouts)
Grilled salmon salad with grapefruit
Toss romaine lettuce in an olive oil-balsamic vinaigrette and top with 3oz of grilled fish, shaved parmesan cheese, ¼ cup grapefruit, 2 tsp sunflower seeds and 2 tsp pumpkin seeds.
Folate (romaine, sunflower seeds)
Iron (salmon, pumpkin seeds)
Vitamins B6, B12 and D (salmon)
Vitamin C (grapefruit)
Lentil and portobello burger
Combine lentils, flax meal, shredded carrots, spinach and crushed almonds. Form into a patty with a little olive oil and brown in a frying pan until slightly crispy on the outside. Serve in a whole grain bun topped with sautéed Portobello mushrooms and romaine and pair with an orange.
Folate (lentils, carrots, flax, romaine)
Vitamin B6 (spinach)
Vitamin D (portobello)
Vitamin C (orange)
Beef and vegetable skewers with tzatziki
Skewer cubes of beef and squash, along with thickly-cut broccoli, and barbecue until beef is cooked to your liking. Serve with Greek yogurt tzatziki sauce and lemon wedges on the side.
Folate (broccoli, squash)
Vitamin D (Greek yogurt)
Iron, Vitamins B6 and B12 (beef)
Vitamin C (lemon)
Veggie burrito quinoa bowls
Throw together quinoa, sautéed or steamed bell peppers and collard greens, ½ cup of pinto beans and sliced avocado. Top with your favorite shredded cheese, scallions, cilantro and salsa.
Folate (pinto beans, avocado)
Vitamin B6 (peppers, collard greens)
Calcium, Vitamins B12 and D (cheese)
Vitamin C (peppers)
Get to Know the Nutrients
Folate – or folic acid – can be found in many plant foods. Building up a sufficient level of folic acid in the body before pregnancy is essential for preventing birth defects including neural tube defects, congenital heart defects and urinary tract anomalies. Sufficient folic acid may also prevent pregnancy complications like preterm labor, low birth weight and miscarriage. It can be difficult to consume the recommended daily 600mcg of folic acid through diet alone. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends taking a multi-vitamin containing folic acid if you may become pregnant and throughout pregnancy.
Because blood volume increases significantly during pregnancy, having sufficient iron in the body is important. The body uses iron to build red blood cells, which is also important during pre-conception: without the right amount, ovulation and healthy ovum growth may be inhibited, leading to difficulty becoming pregnant. Bonus: Consuming Vitamin C will also help with iron absorption.
Calcium is an essential mineral during pregnancy as it is used to build baby’s bones and teeth. If diet isn’t providing enough calcium for baby’s needs, the pregnancy will leach calcium from mom’s bones, putting her at higher risk for osteoporosis or fractures later on. Building up and maintaining sufficient levels will lead to better outcomes for both.
B-Vitamins are involved in the production and regulation of hormones, which affect ovulation and uterine lining growth. Predictable, consistent ovulation and healthy tissues make getting pregnant much easier. B6 can also regulate blood sugar, which can keep the body balanced into early pregnancy. Vitamins B6 and B12 are often taken as supplements, but you can easily meet your daily needs for these with food if you follow an omnivorous or pescatarian diet. (Not into meat or fish? No worries: just ensure you’re taking a B-vitamin complex.)
Finally, Vitamin D helps the body manufacture the sex hormones that cue ovulation and regulate internal communication between reproductive organs. A deficiency in Vitamin D can greatly affect your chances of becoming pregnant (and a lack during pregnancy can inhibit healthy growth of baby’s bones, teeth, skin and eyes). We can get a good deal of our daily Vitamin D needs from exposure to the sun, but natural foods and fortified foods (think breads, cereals and dairy), along with a multivitamin or D supplement, can make up the difference.
Other nutrients to consider
Of course, there are other nutrients to consider when crafting a well-rounded diet for fertility. Again, many foods that contain the nutrients above do double-duty, but it can be helpful to be specifically aware of your intake of omega fatty acids (DHA and EPA) and zinc.
Essential fatty acids contribute to healthy tissue growth in the uterus and promote blood flow to reproductive organs. During pregnancy, low levels of DHA and EPA may affect baby’s brain development and have been linked to low birth weight. Good sources of EFAs include flax, walnuts, chia seeds, salmon and other fatty fish.
Zinc is a key component of healthy cell division and the regulation of progesterone and estrogen. Ample zinc can decrease your risk for early miscarriage (and bonus, has been shown to boost sperm production and sperm health in men with fertility challenges). You can find zinc in beef, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt and turkey, as well as organ meats and shrimp.