Are you trying to get pregnant and wondering what fertility superfoods you should be eating? Everyone (and their mother) has advice, and most of it, frustratingly, is conflicting.
You don’t have to subscribe to any extreme diets like vegan, paleo, won’t-eat-anything-with-more-than-three-ingredientser, etc.,
There are, however, a few foods that stand apart as particularly helpful for making babies. Keep reading for my top 10 list of the best foods to eat when you’re trying to conceive (TTC).
What makes these fertility superfoods so super? It’s all about their nutrient density, and their phytonutrients – like antioxidants – that have mega-health boosting benefits.
Each of the following fertility foods provide key nutrients for making a healthy baby, as well as nutrients that many women in the U.S. tend to be deficient in, and would beom eating more
While food always comes first, there are a few nutrients that you need for fertility that are really hard to get enough of from food alone. That’s why I recommend supplementing your Fertility Diet, even if you’re eating ALL the superfoods, with a high-quality prenatal supplement.
Now, let’s dive into the best fertility superfoods to eat when trying to get pregnant (note this are not in a particular order):
Fertility Superfood: Salmon
Salmon is arguably the best food for your fertility. It’s chock full of omega-3 fats that you want to store up prior to baby-making. DHA, an omega-3 fat found in abundance in salmon, is critical for baby’s brain development, reducing inflammation, balancing your hormones and improving you egg quality.
Salmon also provides vitamin D, which most of us are deficient in, as well as bone-building calcium and muscle-building protein.
Ways to enjoy salmon:
Don’t knock it ’til you try it. Canned, wild-caught salmon (with the bones for extra calcium) provides not only DHA, but also some of the most highly bioavailable calcium and vitamin D. You can eat it just like you would canned tuna, for example:
Mix canned salmon with a dollop of plain, organic full fat yogurt + fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper and optional dill, capers and chopped celery. Serve on a bed of arugula and drizzle with olive oil + more fresh lemon juice.
Mash up avocado with a fork and mix it into canned salmon. Stir in finely chopped red bell pepper, then wrap it up with arugula in corn tortillas (a splash of hot sauce is highly recommended).
Baked salmon filet
Place filet of wild-caught salmon in baking dish. Squeeze lemon juice over the fish. Season generously with s&p + any herbs or spices of your liking (I like A LOT of garlic). Bake for ~10 minutes at 375℉, or until salmon is cooked through and flaky, but still moist.
Fertility Superfood: Avocado
Ok, so I’m kind of a weirdo in that I don’t actually love avocado – not on its own anyway. But, guacamole I could eat all day everyday, which I would do with gusto because I know that the healthy fats help keep hormones and appetite stabilized.
Are you taking folic acid (a.k.a. folate in its natural form) to prevent neural tube defects? Beyond supplements, avos are one of the best food sources of folate, supporting healthy spinal cord and brain development.
And that’s not all – The vitamin E in avocado is a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant that fortifies your defenses against the toxins of the world.
Fun Fact: Avocados have more potassium than bananas, aiding in fluid balance (a.k.a. less swelling, ladies).
Fun Ways to Enjoy Avocado
Avocado toast, obviously.
Spread avo on toast, rice cake or sweet potato toast with a sprinkle of real salt. Dig in or make it fancy with everything but the bagel seasoning, a lemon spritz or fresh basil. Add extra antioxidants with a slice of tomato, or extra protein with a fried egg or organic ricotta. (I add all of the above!)
With a spoon
Option A) Sprinkle large flake sea salt, red pepper flakes and drizzle with honey over avocado and dig in with a spoon;
Option B) Sprinkle Everything but the bagel (this stuff is so good) all over the avo and dig in with a spoon.
On top of, well, pretty much everything.
Avocado goes well on top of soups, salads, sandwiches, grain bowls, etc.
Mexican cottage cheese.
Say what?! Just try it. Mix cubes of avocado into organic cottage cheese, then top with salsa and/or hot sauce. Eat with a spoon or as a dip with tortilla chips. Snack of champions!
Fertility Superfood: Kefir (plain, whole milk & organic)
Step aside yogurt, there is a new dairy in town.
Organic kefir, a drinkable alternative to yogurt, has just as much protein and way more beneficial bacteria. Having a healthy gut microbiome is important for almost all aspects of well-being, but plays a particular role in estrogen clearance, hormone balance and reducing inflammation.
Be sure to get full-fat plain yogurt. Research out of Harvard School of Public Health, which laid the foundation for the the Fertility Diet, found that full-fat, plain dairy products are better for ovulatory fertility than the reduced-fat variety. This is likely because:
- The additional fat slows down absorption to stabilize blood sugar, and thus hormone levels; and
- Fat is needed for absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K – all needed for conception, implantation and a healthy pregnancy.
How to enjoy kefir
A glass of cold kefir is a great snack all by itself. It can be a bit tart, but also refreshing!
Blend kefir up with whatever frozen fruit you have on hand. Throw in some spinach for an extra boost of greens + some avocado to make it rich, creamy & extra nutritious. Give your smoothie an extra fertility boost by mixing in your powder prenatal supplement and collagen protein.
Really! This is a thing! And probably one of the healthiest, tastiest desserts around.
Stir 2 Tbsp honey into two cups of kefir. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with berries, nuts, seeds, cocoa nibs or whatever you have in your pantry. Pop it in the freezer and let it harden. Once solid, break it into pieces for a beautiful and tasty treat. You’re welcome 😉
Fertility Superfood: Eggs (with the yolk!)
Eggs, specifically the yolks, are one of the few foods that are rich in choline, a B-vitamin similar to folic acid. An estimated 90% of women are deficient in choline, which is alarming given that we now know choline to be as essential as folate for preventing neural tube defects.
Two eggs per day (with yolks!) provide about half of your daily choline needs, so be sure your prenatal vitamin also contains choline (I recommend that your prenatal provides >/= 400 mg per day of choline)
PSA: Nutrition advice evolves as new science emerges. The old advice to avoid cholesterol in food (i.e. egg yolks) to prevent high blood cholesterol levels is antiquated. We now know that eating cholesterol does not increase your risk of heart disease or stroke.
In fact, cholesterol is needed for the structural wall of every cell, and for making hormones (estrogen, progesterone & vitamin D). If you have a family history of heart disease, you may need to be more careful, but one egg each day is still considered safe (and highly recommended for your fertility).
Fertility Superfood 5: Lentils
These little legumes are small, but they’re mighty. They’re a super source of protein and fiber.
Fiber is particularly helpful for fertility by combating estrogen excess (colloquially known as estrogen dominance). Fiber helps reduce excess estrogen from the body, clearing the way for progesterone levels to rise after ovulation, thus helping the fertilized egg to implant in the uterine wall.
Fun Fact: A 1-cup serving of cooked lentils has more protein than a 3-oz serving of ground beef.
How to enjoy lentils
There are some seriously delicious, gluten-free lentil pasta options on the market these days. Toss cooked pasta with a handful of chopped spinach & marinara for a complete meal in no-time. Modern Table is a fav in my household (not a sponsored rec)!
Bowls and salads
Batch cook a big pot of lentils at the beginning of the week (or by the pre-cooked option from Trader Joe’s) by bringing 1 cup of dried lentils to a boil with 2 cups water, then reducing heat to simmer for 20-30 minutes. Let cool and store in the fridge, tossing on top of salads and bowls all week long.
Fertility Superfood 6: Dark Leafy Greens
For your fertility, your goal is to include at least two servings of leafy greens every day. Try kale, collard greens, arugula, spinach, bok choy or Swiss chard. These mighty greens are a rich source of folate, one of the nutrients important to store up on before conception to protect baby from neural tube defects.
Eating your greens is also a great way to boost your antioxidant and fiber intake, both crucial dietary components for promoting optimal health as you gear up for baby.
How to enjoy
Blending up your greens in a smoothie is probably the easiest way to get in 1-2 servings. Throw in a couple handfuls of spinach or kale to any smoothie – you won’t even taste it.
When you keep greens on hand, meals are a cinch. Batch cook a pot of grains (quinoa, farro, brown rice, etc.) and a dressing or sauce, grab some canned beans and a bag of nuts or seeds, then tossing together a power bowl is as easy as dishing up the components you have in your kitchen.
Frittatas (AKA crustless quiche)
You will almost always find a frittata in my kitchen. They are full of protein, and when packed with greens, they help pack in an extra serving of leafy green goodness. Frittata recipe inspiration.
Fertility Superfood: Pumpkin Seeds
When toasted, they’re known as pepitas, and these delicious seeds are chock full of fiber, vitamin E and zinc. Zinc is an important nutrient for both male and female fertility. Research has linked zinc to healthy sperm production in men + improved ovulation in women.
How to enjoy pumpkin seeds
Toasted or raw, you can use pumpkin seeds to garnish just about anything- soups, salads, oatmeal and yogurt. Try roasted pepitas as a yummy snack to munch on.
Pumpkin Seed Butter
If you have a food processor or high speed blender, it’s super easy to make your own nut or seed butters. Just blend a few cups of pumpkin seeds for about 5-10 minutes, stopping every minute or so to scrape down the sides and keep your machine from overheating. Add in a few healthy pinches of real salt to taste, spread on fruit or toast, and gobble up.
In a blender or food processor, blend up:
- 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup pepitas
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 jalapeño, diced and seeded (optional).
Makes a yummy batch of pesto to toss onto your lentil pasta for a double-whammy fertility boost (Pictured below 👇).
Fertility Superfood: Beets
The beautiful magenta color in beets is due to their high antioxidant content. Antioxidants fight off damaging free radicals in the body to improve egg quality, prevent miscarriage, reduce inflammation and make a more welcoming home for baby-to-be.
Beets are also a great source of:
- Vitamin C – think immune-boost, adrenal support & building block for collagen protein that makes your skin more supple and elastic;
- Fiber – promotes blood sugar and hormone balance;
- Folate – which you need on board preconception to reduce risk of neural tube defects in babe-to-be.
Fun Fact: Beet greens are just as nutritious as those deep red roots. Sauté the greens and add to an egg frittata, or use them raw in smoothies. Beet greens can be bitter, but cooking them with fertility fats, like extra virgin olive oil or grass-fed butter, cuts the bitterness. Sauté with a dash of honey or maple syrup, garlic and red chili flakes for a scrumptious side dish.
Not a fan of beets? Give these preparations a whirl:
No need to peel! Just chop off the stems and cut the root bulb into 1/4″ cubes. Roast in the oven at 400℉ for 40-60 minutes – until they’re browned / caramelized (they should be tender enough to poke with a fork when they are done). Make a big batch to toss in salads and bowls all week long.
Boil beets in water for about 30 minutes (without peeling), or until tender when poked with a fork. Drain cooking water, then run cooked beets under cold water and the skins will slip off with a brush of your hand.
To make a big batch (3 servings of beet smoothie), blend:
- 2 small beets (boiled & peeled)
- 1 avocado
- 2 frozen bananas
- 1 cup frozen berries
- 2″ fresh ginger (peeled)
- 3 cups plain, full fat, organic kefir
- 3 medjool dates (pitted)
Fertility Superfood: Grass Fed Beef
Surprised to see beef on the list?
True, the Fertility Diet out of Harvard emphases plant-based protein. However, and this is a big however, they did not control for organic or grass-fed. This is a significant oversight because the method of feed for the cows makes a BIG difference in the healthfulness of the meat & dairy produced.
Grass-fed beef has more antioxidants & anti-inflammatory omega-3
Cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys – they all flourish when allowed outside to romp around, i.e. “pastured” or “grass-fed”. These animals produce meat with more anti-inflammatory fats and antioxidants.
Look for “grass finished” or 100% grass-fed to get the healthiest option for you and the planet. Grass-fed beef has 2-5x more omega-3 fats, as well as more antioxidants, vitamins & minerals like the powerful anti-inflammatory, vitamin E.
If grass-fed meat is hard to come by in your life, try Butcher Box which delivers 100% grass-finished meat to your door.
Organic is second best as it means the animal has at least some access to the great outdoors and is not pumped full of antibiotics or growth hormones.
Fat is where all of the toxins are stored, so if you can’t get organic or 100% grass-fed, choose extra lean cuts of conventional meat or poultry. Lean cuts include boneless-skinless breasts, pork loin cutlets, or ground beef, turkey or pork that’s at least 90% lean.
Grass-fed beef is a rich source of iron
Grass-fed beef is rich in iron, a nutrient you will want to store up on prior to conception. During pregnancy, your blood volume will increase by as much as 50%, which requires a lot of iron (and water)!
Yes, many plant foods contain iron. However, much of that iron from plants is not absorbable and gets flushed down the pot.
Iron supplements can also be problematic, causing stomach upset and constipation, while iron-deficiency makes you feel depleted & sluggish.
One of the best ways to keep yourself energized before, during and after pregnancy is to eat an animal-source of iron every day. This can come in the form of grass-fed beef, poultry or fish.
Fun Fact: After liver, clams & oysters are the richest food source of both iron and zinc. Time for an oyster date night 😉
In sum, with grass-fed beef, you get more nutrients with less fat, and the fat you do get will help reduce inflammation and build baby’s brain.
This doesn’t mean you have to eat meat daily. Once or twice a week is enough, and if you’re getting quality, grass-fed and organic beef, up to once per day is great.
Not a beef fan? Here are some options to try:
Serve a burger patty on top of a salad, or use a sprouted, whole-grain or gluten free bun (the fertility diet is not low-carb!) Top with leafy greens, avocado and lacto-fermented pickles for a bonus hit of probiotics.
Slow-cook into flavorful stews to nourish you all week-long. Choose cuts with the bone-in for a collagen boost.
Fertility Superfood: Berries
Packed with antioxidants, fiber and immune-boosting / adrenal-supporting whole food vitamin C, berries are a fruit to consume daily while trying to conceive.
As far as fruits go, berries fall fairly low on the glycemic index scale, meaning you get to enjoy the sweetness without spiking your blood sugar.
Fun ways to enjoy berries:
Pairing berries with nut butter, kefir, oats & chia seeds makes for a satisfying breakfast with all the flavors of PB & J.
Dessert, duh 😉
Every balanced diet includes the space to treat yourself. For an easy go-to treat, try melting some dark chocolate and drizzling over a bowl of berries, then sprinkle with some chopped nuts or pumpkin seeds.
Or whip up some heavy cream from cows raised on organic grass, sweeten with a dash of maple syrup, and dollop on top of a bowl of berries.
I’m trying to cut myself off at 10 foods, but I can’t help also make a plug for flaxseeds (they help lower excess estrogen for hormone balance) chia seeds (full of calcium & fiber), plus oysters (best source of iron & zinc).
If you’re frustrated that you’re still not pregnant and want to make sure you do everything humanly possible to have a healthy pregnancy, I can help.
I offer fertility nutrition coaching to give you custom solutions, designed for your unique physiology, so you can take control of your health & your fertility.
Rooting for you,