healthy eating can be hard.
Fuelling your body with the right vitamins and nutrients is a great way to kick start your baby-making bod into gear, and fuel your future little one too. Healthy eating isn’t about dividing food into good or bad categories, but rather, I encourage my clients to think about how nutrient-rich food makes you feel.
For example, if your caffeine addiction is making it hard to fall asleep, it’s time to reevaluate your 4 cup a day habit (sorry, but you know it’s true!) But if your sunday morning cuppa is an important part of your selfcare routine, it does more good than harm. No judgement!
That being said, let’s break down some of those feel-good nutrient dense foods with the ABCs of Fertility Nutrition.
THE ABCS OF HEALTHY EATING WHILE TRYING TO CONCIEVE
Avocados: packed with folic acid and healthy fat, avos are good for so much than a millenial’s toast. Fats play a big role in our endocrine system which helps with hormonal regulation.
Booze: Studies show that women over 30 who have more than 4 drinks per week had worse outcomes in IVF than those who drank less. The same goes for sperm quality. While no one is saying you should cut out a glass of wine with your friends, be aware of how MUCH you are drinking while trying to conceive. Moderation, baby!
Carrots, and other yellow-orange veggies, are a superfood for sperm health. Harvard University found that betokeratine, the component that makes carrots that vibrant colour, increases sperm mobility. Carrots are also high in fibre and antioxidants for overall health!
Dark Chocolate is another healthy fat - blessed be the fruit! If you need a little sugar kick while on your fertility journey, consider a 70% or higher dark chocolate, as it increases blood flood to the uterus and can even double semen volume.
Eggs, especially from pasture-raised farms, are super high in omega-3s and are nutrient-dense. They’re also rich in choline, a key nutrient to fetal brain development. If you avoid eggs in your fertility diet, make sure your prenatal vitamin is packed with choline from a supplement.
Full fat dairy: Most people in the wellness space are anti-dairy these days, but research shows that full-fat dairy has its benefits in moderation. If your body is able to process lactose, studies found that drinking one 8-ounce glass of whole milk daily cut the risk of infertility by 50 percent. However, in this study, women who ate two or more servings of low-fat dairy daily were almost twice as likely to be infertile.
Grains - whole grains that is! The fibre content is key to help your body get rid of excess hormones and balance blood sugar. Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and whole wheat pasta all fall into this category. It’s important to note that if you have gluten sensitivities, it’s smart to eliminate all gluten from your diet while trying to conceive.
Hummus is a great snack for fertility because it’s filled with iron, which you need for healthy blood flow. Chickpeas are a carb that’s low on the glycemic index, as opposed to things like white pasta and bread. Blood sugar balancing also balances your hormones. Try dipping carrots or celery into this yummy dip!
Indole-3-Carbinol: Both antioxidant and anticarcinogenic, this is a substance that supports the liver in detoxification of excess estrogen. Indole-3-carbinol enhances the metabolism, breaking down excess estrogen in the body. Find this in your cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
Jerusalem artichoke: you’ve heard all about probiotics, but what about prebiotics? Foods like Jerusalem artichokes have a natural prebiotics that promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Digestive health is key to healthy fertility!
K Vitamins support proper blood clotting. If you have a history with endometriosis, kick up your leafy, dark greens (kale, spinach, alfafa sprouts) to get more Vitamin K into your diet.
Loose leaf green tea: If you’re looking to kick your coffee habit, swapping to green tea is a great idea. Although green tea does contain caffeine, the antioxidant properties of the tea may outweigh the negative effects of the caffeine. These polyphenols prevent and repair damaged cells. Since caffeine is not recommended for a fertility diet, it is the best drink decaffeinated green tea.
Maca is a natural fertility remedy from Peruvian culture. Maca root is an adaptogenic herb that nourishes the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone regulation. Adaptogens help your body naturally fight off disease and stress. Maca also helps restore natural sexual function, boosting libido and sperm health.
Nut Butter: Almond and peanut butters are filled with healthy fats. Fat is needed to support fertility, so a low-fat diet isn’t going to give you the most optimal outcomes. Incorporate nut butters into your diet by slathering some on to whole grain toast or as a flavour booster in your smoothies - YUM.
Organic: studies show that pesticides and insecticides have a direct relationship with female and male infertility. Switching your entire diet to organic is a) hard and b) expensive, so focus on organic produce. The Environmental Working Group has released a ‘Clean 15’ Guide - a list of the fruits & veggies with the least amount of pesticide residue. Check out the guide for produce that you’re probably safe to purchase in your regular grocery store.
Processed foods are OUT, and whole foods are in. Foods that are closest to their original form as possible, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are the best starting point of forming your fertility diet. This isn’t to say you’ll never have a slice of Betty Crocker birthday cake again, but be on the lookout for irritating and low nutrient ingredients. Processed foods are often inflammatory, devoid of nutrients and can affect your hormones.
Quinoa: The Incas viewed Quinoa as a sacred food, calling it the "mother seed" or “mother of all grains.” This is because it’s packed with folic acid, Vitamin E (antioxidant), iron, magnesium and phosphorous. It’s also low sugar so it’s great for a fertility diet.
Royal jelly isn’t always a jelly, it’s often taken as a supplement capsule or liquid. Its name comes from the fact that worker bees feed this substance to the Queen Bee to help her lay 2000 eggs per day. Due to its high content of amino acids and proteins, research shows that royal jelly mimics human estrogen, causing hormonal regulation and egg strengthening (any claims that it can make more egg production is false, but they will be stronger). It also contains all of the B Vitamins!
Salmon, and other cold water fish are high in omega-3s. These fatty acids are great for hormone regulation and reducing inflammation. If you eat fish, the benefits of omega 3 found in the fish outweigh the risk of mercury. To stay on the safe side, go for low-mercury/low toxicity fish (salmon, trout, shrimp, halibut).
Tomatoes: The Cleveland Clinic recently found that lycopene, the compound that gives tomatoes their juicy red colour, could increase sperm count by up to 70%. Get your Caprese on!
Unagi - okay this one is a bit of a stretch (how many foods starting with ‘u’ can U name?) - but I wanted to comment on the whole sushi & pregnancy thing. Alongside coffee & booze, most people think that sushi is on the no-fly list for fertility and pregnancy. Sushi in Canada is flash frozen, so it’s relatively low-risk. Certain fish, like salmon, are packed with omega-3s are are great for fertility.
Vitamin B6 is the most important of all the B vitamins for fertility (while you should amp up all your B vits while trying to conceive). B6 supports the liver in detoxing excess estrogen from the body. You can find this vit in fish, chicken, bananas, spinach, nutritional yeast and whole grains.
Wheat Grass is great for lowering Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels - this is key as a high baseline FSH is often very predictive of low egg quantity. Wheat Grass also helps balance your overall hormone health and alkalines your PH levels - making for a better environment for sperm to live in.
X - i got nothing. Sorry y’all.
Yin-nourishing foods such as full-fat dairy, clean meat, fish, and eggs are an important part of the fertility diet from a Chinese medicine perspective. Yin is the fluid component of the body that keeps us balanced and stable. Too much yin energy, as well as too much yang energy, can interfere with a balanced menstrual cycle. Therefore, it is important to have both heating and cooling foods. Warming foods help maintain a healthy uterus and pregnancy!
Zzzs…. Forget all the relaxation and anti-inflammatory properties sleep brings, getting a good night’s rest also affects prolactin in your body, the hormone that helps with the release of eggs. Try to eat your last meal of the day a few hours before you go to bed to fall asleep more easily.
Birth Boss Maternity Care is launching fertility coaching services this winter.
Get on the waitlist here.