What are fertility superfoods? Nutrition support to optimize natural conception from a fertility RDN

Wouldn’t it be great if we could eat a quinoa-kale salad or a Greek yogurt-blueberry parfait and call it a day? Fertility, unfortunately, can be an incredibly complex and elusive thing for many couples.

The Mayo Clinic reports that in the United States, between 10% and 15% of couples experience infertility. This can cause physical, emotional, economic, and psychological strain on couples who are trying to conceive.

Though there are many factors that may influence fertility – environmental, nutritional, and genetic, among others – professors from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston reported in a 2019 study that a pro-fertility diet (one that includes high levels of folic acid, dairy, soy, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and products with low amounts of pesticide) increased chances of live birth for women who were undergoing assisted reproductive technologies. 

In other words, couples who were going through in vitro fertilization (IVF), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), pronuclear stage tubal transfer (PROST), tubal embryo transfer (TET), and zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT), had a higher chance of a successful pregnancy and birth with a pro-fertility diet.

This, however, doesn’t address getting pregnant – the conception part. 

What we do know as Integrative PCOS and Fertility Nutrition Certified Practitioners are individualized diet plans to help couples meet their wellness and weight loss (or weight gain) goals can help with natural fertility, and reduce risks during pregnancy as well as birth. 

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight through individualized nutrition therapy, reducing alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and beginning an exercise program are all lifestyle changes that support healthy fertility

So, let’s talk nutrition. What does a pro-fertility diet look like in practice?  

  • Plant-based foods: Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. These provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can improve fertility outcomes. Beware of pesticides and chemicals on fresh produce. Wash your produce well or look for your favorite flavors at a Farmer’s Market.
  • Healthy fats: Opt for sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds. These fats support hormone production and may enhance fertility.
  • High-quality proteins: Include lean sources of protein like poultry, fish, and plant-based options such as beans and lentils. Adequate protein intake is important for reproductive health.
  • Complex carbohydrates: Choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread. These carbohydrates have a lower glycemic index, promoting stable blood sugar levels. 
  • Dairy and full-fat milk: Select full-fat dairy products like milk and yogurt in moderation. They provide beneficial nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, which may support fertility.
  • Antioxidant-rich foods: Include foods like berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens, and colorful vegetables. Antioxidants protect the reproductive system from oxidative stress.
  • Limit processed foods: Reduce intake of highly processed foods, sugary snacks, and refined grains. These foods can disrupt hormone balance and negatively affect fertility. 
  • Caffeine and alcohol: Moderate caffeine consumption (1-2 cups of coffee per day) and limit alcohol intake, as excessive amounts may impair fertility.

So to answer the question, What are fertility superfoods? Really, there are none. However, by reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, choosing high-quality foods, and reducing highly processed foods, limiting alcohol, and quitting smoking, couples can improve their chances of natural conception.