Doesn’t it make sense that the foods that maintain and enhance fertility can help regulate your hormones even beyond the fertile years? The diet for conception and pregnant women is the same diet women of ALL ages should be eating. The fertility diet is the regimen which balances the endocrine system. If you want babies but haven’t yet found Mr. Right yet or the time, start making sure your body is in prime condition by taking extra care with your diet.
Beware ladies, this is a long article. I found the information so fascinating and so relevant to anti-aging that I kept adding and adding… Rest assured, taking a moment to read this will benefit you!
The below info was garnered from:
1. The TOTALLY brilliant site: http://natural-fertility-info.com/
Foods that can Inhibit Fertility and Your Endocrine System
· Trans Fats – Put that donut down ladies! Throw away those frozen meals and ‘fake’ foods. Trans fats or hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils have been shown to affect fertility negatively. Avoid fried or processed foods while trying to conceive. Polyunsaturated fats are your new friends and you can find them in in nuts, seeds, fish, algae, leafy greens, and krill. Whole food sources are always best, as processing and heating may damage polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are your other new best friends so get into: avocados, olives and olive oil, nuts, dark chocolate, organic (and sugar free) peanut butter, poultry, canola oil and seeds.
· Mercury – Start looking at smaller fish for your omega 3s. Mackerel, fresh anchovies, sardines. Avoid high mercury fish like: swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, tuna steak, and shark.
· Caffeine – Men who drink caffeine while trying to impregnate their partner actually can produce faster and more capable sperm. While there is no hard evidence linking caffeine and conceiving in women, I have been told that the caffeine makes women less relaxed. That said I know plenty of women who get pregnant while drinking their daily cup of Jo. However, if you are having problems getting pregnant – give up the caff for a while and see what happens.
· Alcohol – a glass of red can get you in the mood. But hard and regular drinking is very destructive to women. Women do not process alcohol in the same was as men so don’t try to keep up with your partner’s drinking. Booze is extremely aging as it dehydrates the skin (which brings on a whole slew of problems…) “There is a link between drinking and fertility, although exactly how alcohol makes women less fertile isn’t understood clearly,” says Dr Anthony Rutherford, a consultant in reproductive medicine and Chairman of the British Fertility Society. “Many studies have shown that even drinking lightly can have an effect.” These include a Danish study that showed drinking between one and five drinks a week can reduce a women’s chances of conceiving, and 10 drinks or more decreases the likelihood of conception even further. A 2009 study done at Harvard University of couples undergoing IVF showed that women who drank more than six units per week were 18% less likely to conceive, while men were 14% less likely. Excessive alcohol lowers testosterone levels and sperm quality and quantity in men. It can also reduce libido, and cause impotence.
· No soy of any form unless fermented such as miso and tempeh. Soy foods have been shown to contain estrogen mimicking properties. It is best to avoid processed soy foods such as soy milk, soy burgers, soy protein powder, soy chips, soy meats, and soy cheeses to avoid a negative impact on your hormonal balance. If you have hypothyroidism avoid soy completely.
· Avoid refined sugars or fruit juices (unless freshly juiced)
Pasteurized juices such as bottled apple juice, orange juice, and other bottled fruit juices contain concentrated sugar, which can throw off your blood sugar levels and negatively effect your immune system. Also avoid any processed/refined and artificial sugars. Some great alternatives are stevia, honey, and maple syrup.
· Sugar, soda & pasteurized juices
Pasteurized juices such as bottled apple juice, orange juice, and other bottled fruit juices contain concentrated sugar, which can throw off your blood sugar levels and negatively effect your immune system and hormonal balance. Also avoid any processed/refined and artificial sugars. Some great alternatives are stevia, honey, and maple syrup.
· GMO Foods
Genetically Modified foods are becoming a real problem when it comes to fertility, causing an influx in worldwide infertility rates. Since the 1970’s alone, sperm counts among the world’s male population have declined as much as 40-50%, according to some studies. GMO foods may be one of the reasons.
· Fat-Free Foods
Foods which are altered to be reduced in fat or fat-free are highly processed and high in sugar. When choosing foods always chose the foods as nature intended. Full fat dairy is one example that was shown in a study by Harvard to increase fertility over the fat-reduced options. Again, fat is what our bodies need to produce hormones.
Fertility and Endocrine Boosting Foods
- Dairy: Dairy is rich in calcium, a nutrient that’s essential not just for bone health but also for reproductive health. So it pays to bone up on dairy (that includes milk, yogurt, and cheese) when you’re TTC (trying to conceive). Organic, grass-fed, whole fat, raw dairy is the best choice of dairy sources. While you’re donning a milk mustache, try a full-fat one once a day — particularly if you have ovulation issues: Some researchers think that one serving of whole milk (or even full-fat ice cream) can decrease the risk of ovulatory infertility. But remember that just one serving of full-fat dairy a day is all you need. Any more than that will just pack on pounds (and hinder your TTC efforts). Not down with dairy? You can also find calcium in other fertility foods such as leafy greens, canned salmon with bones, tofu, almonds, and fortified juices. Aim for about 1,000 mg of calcium daily. And keep up the calcium quotient when you get pregnant since it’s crucial for the development of your baby-to-be’s bones and teeth. For all those out there who are bad-mouthing dairy – don’t forget the lactic acid is very good for your skin! Eat a balanced diet and mix in goat and sheep dairy as our body processes it more easily than cow dairy. Personally, giving up cheese is not an option for me.
- Lean protein: Animal protein such as lean turkey, chicken, and beef are chock-full of iron. And studies show that there’s a link between iron and fertility. Women who have enough iron have a higher fertility rate than women who are deficient in the nutrient. So pump up your intake of lean animal protein to about two servings a day — but make sure to stay away from the high-fat variety and avoid more than three daily servings since research shows that too much protein (even lean protein) can decrease fertility. Conventionally raised cattle contain high levels of added hormones and antibiotics which can contribute to estrogen dominate conditions. Grass Fed meats, on the other hand, are a great source of essential fatty acids, are low in saturated fat, and are a great source of protein. If you are experiencing endometriosis you may want to reduce the amount of red meat that you eat. Like red meat, conventionally raised chicken is full of antibiotics and hormones which can have negative effects on hormonal health. When shopping for chicken, look for the words “cage free”, “free range”, or “organic” on the label. Ideally purchasing your chicken from a local farm with free-range practices is best. In fact, consider swapping out one serving of animal protein for a serving of plant protein, in such fertility foods as beans, tofu, or quinoa. If you’re not eating any animal protein, you may want to make sure your prenatal vitamin has iron.
- Complex carbohydrates: Eating complex carbohydrates (whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits) as opposed to refined carbohydrates (like white bread, white rice, or sugary snacks) may increase fertility. How? Digesting refined carbs causes an increase in blood sugar and insulin in the body — and increased insulin levels can disrupt reproductive hormones and interfere with the menstrual cycle (and who wants a messed up cycle when TTC?). Complex carbs, on the other hand, take longer to digest and don’t cause spikes in insulin levels. What’s more, complex carbs may even promote regular ovulation. Another bonus to eating complex carbs like whole grains? They contain multiple nutrients, including folic acid, which increases fertility and decreases the incidence of neural-tube defects in a fetus, which can occur early in pregnancy — even before you know you’ve got a baby on board. Of course, when it comes to folic acid, more is better, so choose a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 mcg. Whole grains are also filled with fiber, important vitamins, and immune supporting properties. Fiber is important for helping the body to get rid of excess hormones and helps to keep the blood sugar balanced. Avoid processed and refined white foods and grains such as white bread, semolina pastas, and white rice. Instead choose whole wheat or sprouted bread, rice or whole wheat pasta, quinoa, and brown rice.
- Fatty fish: The omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and herring have some big, fat fertility-boosting benefits. They may help to regulate reproductive hormones, increase blood flow to reproductive organs, and relieve stress (stress has been shown to be a surefire fertility buster). Fish supplies important essential fatty acids (omega 3) to our diet. These fatty acids aid in the production of hormones, reduce inflammation, and help regulate the menstrual cycle. Fish is also a great source of protein and vitamin A. Avoid large deep water fish such as ahi tuna, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass due to potential concentrations of mercury, and focus on cold water fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, cod, and Alaskan halibut. Also when choosing salmon, avoid north Atlantic farmed salmon and choose wild salmon instead. Farmed salmon contains antibiotics and toxic food dyes.What if you’re not a fan of fish? You can get omega-3 fatty acids from other fertility foods such as flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and enriched eggs. You can also talk with your health-care practitioner about supplementing with omega-3s.
- Wild yams: Some experts think that this Thanksgiving staple contains a substance that may help stimulate ovulation. In fact, populations that eat a lot of wild yams have a high rate of twins. When it comes to fertility foods, this one may have double the effect!
- Berries: Blueberries and raspberries are particularly packed with antioxidants, which help prevent damage and aging to your body’s cells — and this includes cells in your reproductive system — namely, your eggs. So a diet that’s rich in berries may help keep your eggs healthy and increase their shelf life.
- Oysters: The oyster is famous for being an aphrodisiac and for good reason — it contains zinc, which is crucial for conception. Zinc deficiency can disrupt the menstrual cycle and slow the production of good-quality eggs. What if you simply can’t swallow the idea of swallowing this fertility food? You can find zinc — though less of it — in such fertility foods as beef, poultry, dairy, nuts, eggs, whole grains, and legumes. Or you can get zinc from your prenatal vitamin.
- Drink lots of clean water
Be sure to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of clean, purified or filtered water daily. It is best to avoid bottled water as some of the plastics in the bottle can contribute to hormonal imbalance due to estrogen mimicking chemicals. The best waters to choose from are reverse osmosis and distilled. Avoid tap water, as many recent studies have shown tap water to be laced with harmful pesticides from agricultural runoff. Water can help you produce more cervical fluid to draw in sperm.
Important Foods Specifically for Fertility
Take a look at the foods mentioned below and you will begin to notice that all of these foods are nutrient dense, meaning they pack a lot of nutrition per serving. They are also the foods most abundant in the nutrients mentioned in the Fertility Nutrients section of this guide.
Eggs – Vitamin D, B12, Protein
Make sure to find eggs which are farm fresh and have deep orange/yellow yolks. They are worth the extra cost as they provide much more nutrients and are cleaner than the general factory farmed egg. Some of the best places to find quality eggs are at the farmer’s market, neighbors or the health food store.
Nuts and Seeds – Omega 3, Zinc, Vitamin E, Protein
Eat nuts and seeds in their raw form as essential fatty acids and zinc are sensitive to heat and can be destroyed if cooked. I have listed amounts of nuts and seeds and their nutritional density so you can see how packed they are with nutrients.
The best seeds and nuts for omega 3 are:
Walnuts – 1/4cup = 2,270mg
Flax seeds – 2 Tbs = 3,510mg
Hemp seeds – 3Tbs = 3,000mg
Chia seeds – 1Tbs = 2,300mg
The best seeds and nuts for zinc are:
Pumpkin – 1/4cup = 2.7mg
Sesame – 1/4cup =2.8mg
The best seeds and nuts for vitamin E are:
Sunflower Seeds – 1/4cup = 18.10mg
Almonds – 1/4cup = 8.97mg
The best seeds and nuts for iron are:
Pumpkin seeds – 1/4cup = 5.16mg
Sesame seeds – 1/4cup = 5.24mg
Note, I make a daily nut/seed drink by grinding flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. I then add water and drink! You can vary the nuts but keep all nuts and seeds in the fridge. This drink also works wonders for constipation!
Grass-fed meats – Omega 3, Iron, B12, Protein
Grass-fed meats come from animals which have grazed in grass pasture and eaten fresh grass for most of their life. This meat has less fat and a little bit stronger taste than corn fed meats, but it provides a lot more nutrients because the animals have eaten their natural diet. Grass-fed meats are high in omega 3, have been raised without antibiotics and hormones. Regular grocery store, factory raised meats are higher in omega 6 (we already get too much of this) and have been raised on GMO corn which fattens them up, but is not their natural diet (GMO foods have been linked to infertility). They are also are fed hormones and antibiotics regularly which can impact your hormonal balance and immune system.
Dark Leafy Vegetables – Iron, Folic acid, B6, Vitamin E
Dark leafy vegetables are packed with minerals, antioxidants and vitamins essential to healthy fertility. Examples of dark leafy green vegetables are spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and collards.
Fruit – Vitamin C, Flavanoids, Variety of antioxidants
Fruits are the foods highest in antioxidants per serving. Some of the fruits highest in antioxidants are prunes, pomegranates, raisins, blueberries and strawberries. Remember that antioxidants are heat sensitive so to get their benefit eat your fruit fresh, ripe and raw.
Colorful veggies – B6, Vitamin C
The color of a vegetable will tell you what nutrients and benefits it will provide for your body. For instance vegetables that are red or green in color are high in vitamin C. Vegetables that are orange have high vitamin A. White vegetables tend to have sulfur, etc. The easiest way to get a ton of nutrients is to eat a wide variety of vegetables. Make sure you are eating a variety of colors daily. The easiest way to do this is to eat either a salad, stir-fry or fresh vegetable juice daily.
Fish and Shell Fish – Vitamin D, Omega 3, Zinc, Selenium, B12, CoQ10
Fish and shell fish (muscles, clams, etc) are some of the most nutrient dense foods we can eat. Fish provides an abundance of essential fatty acids, vitamin D, zinc, b12, selenium and CoQ10. The catch is that most of these nutrients are heat sensitive so remember this while you are preparing these foods. If you are concerned about the water source of your fish, eat fish from cold waters or you can include a purified cod liver oil supplement into your diet. Try to avoid farmed fish as they will not have the high amounts of omega 3 and have been fed antibiotics.
Liver – Vitamin D, Zinc, Selenium, Iron, Folic acid, B12, CoQ10
Liver is one of the most prized and nutrient dense foods available. Across the board liver is very high in vitamin D, zinc, iron, folic acid and B12. For instance just 4oz has over 200% of your daily Folic acid needs. One way that you can make liver tasty it to make pate’ with chicken liver and having this with whole grain crackers 1-2x a week. Make sure to use liver from grass-fed/free-range animals only.
Lentils and other beans – Iron, Folic acid
Before I began studying nutrition I had no idea just how radically nutritious lentils and beans are. Lentils are the second highest source of iron of ALL foods and the second highest source of folic acid (just behind calf’s liver). Just 1 cup of cooked lentils provides 90% of your daily folic acid needs. And if you get sick of lentils, garbanzo and pinto beans follow close behind. Learn to get creative with your beans. You can use them to make soups, hummus, as a side dish, in stir-fry and in brownies.
Raw or cultured dairy – Vitamin D, B12, Zinc
Raw dairy is basically milk products which have not been pasteurized so they still have their important enzymes and delicate nutrients intact. Also raw dairy comes from cows that are grass/pasture fed and do not receive hormones or antibiotics. I don’t have enough space here to go into all the benefits of raw milk and how it is VERY safe to drink, just know that it is a very different food from the milk that is available from grocery stores, even organic milk. I realize that many states do not sell raw milk at the store. If you live in one of those states, you can get raw milk straight from the farmer or you can culture your organic, pasteurized milk you buy from the store to help improve its nutritional profile and digestibility. Milk can be a beneficial food for some on the fertility diet – like those who need an easy source of protein, are underweight and can tolerate milk (I cannot tolerate pasteurized milk BUT can drink raw milk with no problem whatsoever). There are some instances where milk should be avoided; instances where there is stagnation in the body like with endometriosis or if you have an allergy to it.
What about grains?
Grains is an area of the Natural Fertility Diet that we suggest you experiment with what works for you. There have been links to infertility in those who have gluten intolerance (celiac disease – you can get tested for this) as well as a possible link to immunological infertility and grains. In some, grains will be a non-issue, but if you have made many changes yet have not seen results, this may be an area for you to look into. Grains and pseudo-grains that are gluten-free (amaranth, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, etc.) are a great option and tend to be more nutrient dense than the general grains we are used to eating.
Important Nutrients for Fertility
While all nutrients are important for health, there are some that have been specifically shown to have a direct impact on fertility. Below is a list of these nutrients and the foods you can find them in…
Antioxidants, Vitamins & Minerals for Fertility
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is needed to help the body create sex hormones which in turn affects ovulation and hormonal balance. Yale University School of Medicine conducted a study of 67 infertile women, where it was discovered that a mere 7% had normal Vitamin D levels..
Food sources: Eggs, fatty fish, dairy, and cod liver oil. You can also get vitamin D from sitting out in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes per day. But absorption is impacted by the darkness of your skin.
Vitamin E: Has been shown in studies to improve sperm health and motility in men. Studies have shown a diet deficient in Vitamin E to be a cause of infertility in rats. The meaning of the name for vitamin E ‘Tocopherol’ literally means to bear young. Vitamin E is also an important antioxidant to help protect sperm and egg DNA integrity.
Food sources: Sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, papaya, dark leafy greens.
CoQ10: Necessary for every cell in the body for energy production, CoQ10 has also been shown in studies to increase ova (egg) and sperm health. It is necessary for sperm motility in semen. It is also an important antioxidant that helps to protect cells from free radical damage; protecting DNA.
Food sources: Found in seafood and organ meats, though it is very difficult to obtain through the diet. CoQ10 Ubiquinol supplementation is the best way to obtain CoQ10. Amounts in the body decline with age.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women with luteal phase defect, according to a study published in “Fertility and Sterility”. As for men, vitamin C has been shown to improve sperm quality and protect sperm from DNA damage; helping to reduce the change of miscarriage and chromosomal problems. Vitamin C also appears to keep sperm from clumping together, making them more motile.
Food sources: Abundant in plants and fruits including red peppers, broccoli, cranberries, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus fruit.
Lipoic Acid: Lipoic acid is a very important antioxidant because it not only helps to protect the female reproductive organs and has been shown to improve sperm quality and motility but it also helps the body to continually re-use the antioxidants in the body.
Food sources: In small amounts found in potatoes, spinach and red meat.
B6: Vitamin B6 may be used as a hormone regulator. It also helps to regulate blood sugars, alleviates PMS, and may be useful in relieving symptoms of morning sickness. B6 has also been shown to help with Luteal Phase Defect.
Food sources: Tuna, banana, turkey, liver, salmon, cod, spinach, bell peppers, and turnip greens, collard greens, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, chard.
B12: Vitamin B12 has been shown to improve sperm quality and production. It also may help to boost the endometrium lining in egg fertilization, decreasing the chances of miscarriage. Some studies have found that a deficiency of B12 may increase the chances of irregular ovulation, and in severe cases stop ovulation altogether.
Food sources: Clams, oysters, muscles, liver, caviar (fish eggs), fish, crab, lobster, beef, lamb, cheese, eggs.
Folic Acid: Perhaps one of the best known vitamins necessary for pregnancy is Folic acid. This vitamin helps prevent neural tube defects as well as congenital heart defects, cleft lips, limb defects, and urinary tract anomalies in developing fetuses. Deficiency in folic acid may increase the risk of going into preterm delivery, infant low birth weight and fetal growth retardation. Deficiency may also increase the homocysteine level in the blood, which can lead to spontaneous abortion and pregnancy complications, such as placental abruption and pre-eclampsia.
Food sources: liver, lentils, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, asparagus, spinach, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, collard greens
Iron: Studies have shown that women who do not get sufficient amounts of iron may suffer anovulation (lack of ovulation) and possibly poor egg health, which can inhibit pregnancy at a rate 60% higher than those with sufficient iron stores in their blood.
Food sources: Lentils, spinach, tofu, sesame seeds, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds (raw), venison, garbanzo beans, navy beans, molasses, beef
Selenium: An antioxidant that helps to protect the eggs and sperm from free radicals. Free radicals can cause chromosomal damage which is known to be a cause of miscarriages and birth defects. Selenium is also necessary for the creation of sperm. In studies men with low sperm counts have also been found to have low levels of selenium.
Food sources: Liver, snapper, cod, halibut, tuna, salmon, sardines, shrimp, crimini mushrooms, turkey
Zinc: In women, zinc works with more than 300 different enzymes in the body to keep things working well. Without it, your cells can not divide properly; your estrogen and progesterone levels can get out of balance and your reproductive system may not be fully functioning. Low levels of zinc have been directly linked to miscarriage in the early stages of a pregnancy, according to The Centers for Disease Control’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Report.
In men zinc is considered one of the most important trace minerals to date for male fertility; increasing zinc levels in infertile men has been shown to boost sperm levels; improve the form, function and quality of male sperm and decrease male infertility.
Food sources: Calf liver, oysters, beef, lamb, venison, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, turkey, green peas, shrimp. Zinc can be damaged by cooking so it is important to eat some foods high in zinc in their raw forms.
Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 acids have been shown to help fertility by helping to regulate hormones in the body, increase cervical mucous, promote ovulation and overall improve the quality of the uterus by increasing the blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Omega-3 fats also contain two acids that are crucial to good health: DHA and EPA. These two acids have been shown to help many forms of disease. Low levels of DHA have been linked to depression and other mental health issues. During pregnancy, a lack of DHA may be associated with premature birth, low birth weight and hyperactivity in children.
Food sources: Flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines, halibut, shrimp, snapper, scallops, chia seed.
Superfoods should be a part of every couples fertility diet to help bridge the gap for proper nutrition, nourish the egg and the sperm, and help to balance hormones. An easy way to get fertility supefoods into your diet daily is to drink fertility smoothies.
Here is a rundown of 5 Fertility Superfoods you should know about:
Maca is a wonderful superfood from Peru that helps to balance the hormones, increase egg health, increase sperm count and sperm health while also being a tonic for the endocrine system. Maca also helps increase progesterone if the body is low in this important hormone. Maca comes in capsules, powder and tincture. It can be taken everyday.
Royal jelly is another fertility specific superfood which may help increase egg health, quality of egg, and general fertility. Royal jelly is the food that is fed to the queen bee that makes her the queen bee. She goes on to live 6 years and lays up to 2000 eggs per day. Most bees live less than two months.
Royal Jelly is rich in vitamins, A, B, C, D,and E. It is also contains minerals including calcium and iron, all of the essential amino acids plus antibacterial and immune stimulating properties. It comes in capsules or in a base of honey. It can be taken everyday.
Bee Propolis and Bee Pollen
Bee propolis and bee pollen are two additional fertility super foods from our friend the bee. These foods are rich in nutrients. Bee pollen contains 50% more protein than beef and is rich in every vitamin and mineral. Bee Propolis is a powerful immune system stimulant and inflammation aid. It also helps women who have endometriosis.
Bee propolis and Bee Pollen are available in capsules or in a base of honey. They can be taken everyday.
Spirulina, Wheat Grass, and Leafy Green Vegetables
FertiliGreens is a Superfood blend that contains a mixture of leafy greens, wheat grass, spirulina, barley grass, and nourishing herbs which helps to supply the body with nutrients, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and chlorophyll.
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