My Top 5 Fertility Foods
I’m excited to bring you my top 5 fertility foods not only because they have the science to back them. But they are super versatile, affordable, easily available, nutritious and delicious. They even go fabulously together in one easy to prepare dish. So here goes…
This marine powerhouse is packed full of Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA (I won’t bore you with their long chemical names), but they are anti-inflammatory fats which are essential for the body. This means we cannot synthesise them ourselves, hence we need them in our diets. The consumption of fish is associated with shorter time to pregnancy and better semen quality. It forms the basis of the Mediterranean diet which research has shown to be beneficial when trying to conceive.
2. Split Lentils
These scrumptious seed pods are part of the pea family and an excellent source of plant protein. Did you know that by switching just 25g animal protein for plant protein each day, you can improve your fertility by 50%? I love the split variety because it reduces the cooking time and you don’t need to soak them, simply add them to your spag bol and put half the mince back in the freezer. You’re not only nourishing your body but you’re also taking care of your bank balance too.
3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
If you’ve read a few of my posts, you’ll probably know that I’m a huge fan of extra virgin olive oil. Interestingly, it’s loaded with antioxidants which is what gives olive oil its distinct flavor making it a culinary superstar. So why is it in my top 5 fertility foods? These antioxidants help to fight free radicals in the body. Fertilization of an egg and the resulting rapid fire of cell replication is a time of vulnerability to oxidative stress.
Such stress can come in the form of stress, poor sleep, environmental exposures and poor nutrition. Basically, too much oxidative stress during this time can impact the viability of pregnancy. This is why consuming a diet rich in antioxidants has been found to be so beneficial for fertility. It also contains a reasonable amount of Vit E and Vit K. Vit E itself acts as an antioxidant and supplementation has been shown to be particularly beneficial for implantation.
It’s not surprising that nuts, particularly brazil nuts feature on my top 5, as they’re such a nutrient dense food and great snack. Now, these little powerhouses feature because they’re a great source of unsaturated fats, fibre, minerals, tocopherols, phytosterols, and polyphenols.
Research by Salas-Huetos et al, found that the inclusion of a mix of nuts in a western diet for 14 weeks significantly improved sperm motility, vitality, morphology and the total sperm count. Be sure to include 2 brazil nuts a day for your daily selenium requirements. It’s good to get a variety as they all contain different amounts of nutrients.
I recommend a handful of nuts each day as part of the Mediterranean diet to boost fertility. I often have a bag of raw or dry roasted mixed nuts in my handbag and car for those snack attack moments.
Last but not least, my all-time favourite, spinach. My husband laughs and claims spinach is my favourite food and says I put spinach in everything. I can’t help it, it’s so easy to grow at home and is great with pasta, in smoothies, in salads, added as a handful on the side of a meal in a last-ditch attempt to bump up my veggie intake for the day.
Nutritionally, spinach is a great plant source of iron (non-haem), which admittedly isn’t as well absorbed as iron in the haem form from meat, fish and poultry. However, that aside, if you’re vegetarian or following a largely plant based diet, it becomes a very important source. It’s also one of the richest sources of folate. If you’ve read my earlier blog on Folic Acid, you’ll know all about its importance in early pregnancy. But did you know that poor folate intake prior to conception is associated with small for gestational age babies at birth? Women with poor folate intake also have greater issues with fertility.
Quantities of folic acid vary depending on the different prenatal supplement you’re taking. I’ve seen ranges between 400ug to 5mg/day. To recap, it’s recommended you supplement with a minimum of 400ug/day for at least one month before conception and for 12 weeks after conceiving but also eat a diet rich in folate with spinach being an excellent source.
So, there you have my Top 5 Foods for Fertility. How often do you think you consume these? Once a week, once a day, once a month? If you’d like individualized advice on nutrition for your fertility, to optimize your chances of conception make sure you see a prenatal fertility dietitian for trusted advice.
If you’d like to find out more about how I can help, book in now for a free chat to see whether science-backed nutrition treatment can help.
Claudia Vavasour – Prenatal Fertility Dietitian NZRD