In the preparation stage before pregnancy, the nutritional focus is on increasing the nutrients needed for egg and sperm health and reducing the factors that may harm these. Vitamins A and C and other antioxidants can help protect the egg and sperm from damage by chemicals and pollutants. Low levels of zinc may affect fertility in both men and women, while folic acid levels have to be high to help prevent birth defects. Good dietary protein levels are also required for conception.
In this article, we focus on foods that provide dense nutritional content relevant to conception support, and that offer an alternative to foods that increase fertility.
01. Pumpkin Seeds
Seeds, which encapsulate all that is necessary for the beginnings of plant life, contain high levels of the nutrients needed for fertility. Pumpkin seeds contain particularly high levels of zinc, which is needed for all aspects of reproductive health, including healthy hormones and eggs, and creating new cells for growth.
These precious seeds are also an excellent source of vitamin E, the most important antioxidant when it comes to protecting eggs from damage. Vitamin E works together with the selenium content to help create a healthy womb lining, ready for fertilization and implantation. Pumpkin seeds are also one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids and deliver these in good balance with omega-6 fatty acids—in combination, these two play a vital role in keeping the oily outer layer of an egg intact.
- Contain zinc, which is essential for reproduction.
- Vitamin E content and high levels of essential fatty acids keep eggs healthy and primed for fertilization.
- Contain vitamin E and selenium in an effective combination to ensure the optimum womb environment for conception.
Store pumpkin seeds in airtight jars away from heat and light in order to keep the easily perishable essential fatty acids and vitamin E from damage that can affect their potency. Eat these seeds as healthy snacks in place of sugary foods that may reduce fertility. Add to salads to provide extra protein and healthy fat content.
Lemon is an extremely useful and versatile ingredient. It will increase the cleansing and detoxifying actions of the body that are so important for conception. Lemons are very high in vitamin C, a
major antioxidant that helps protect eggs and the uterine wall—as well as sperm—from damage from toxins. Their cleansing effect is heightened by their alkalizing action inside the body. Although they taste very acidic, once eaten, lemons actually help to balance our acid-alkaline levels.
This balance is crucial in women for their hormones to work efficiently and to ensure a hospitable environment for sperm. In men, it lets the body store sperm safely. The high potassium level in lemons also ensures that fluid reaches the cells, keeping the body hydrated, and helps to maintain healthy mucous levels within the female reproductive organs, which enables egg implantation.
- Very high in vitamin C, which protects the egg and womb from pollutants that can interfere with fertilization.
- Keep the body in an alkaline state, so promoting optimum hormone function and hydration.
- Keep digestion efficient so that you get the most nutrients possible from your diet.
Lemon juice is an excellent flavoring in dressings. Use in place of vinegar because these may exacerbate yeast and digestive problems. Lemon juice also tastes great with water, in place of a sugary beverage. For the most cleansing effect, make the water hot and add the juice of up to half a lemon.
Each egg is a microcosm of potential fertility. They contain the best sources of protein available when it comes to supporting both egg and sperm health. Eggs encapsulate the possibility of new life, and so contain all the valuable nutrients needed to support it. Their balanced and rich fat content enables the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, needed for conception, and their record-breaking B-vitamin status helps a woman to use those hormones in the best way possible.
High levels of selenium and sulfur also help to remove toxic metals, such as lead and mercury, which can interfere with fertility, while the vitamin A in eggs protects both egg and sperm from damage that can affect fertilization. Eggs contain both folate (folic acid) and choline, which have been shown to work together to prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects in the fetus.
- Contain the right kind of fats, which act as building blocks in the body’s production of fertility hormones.
- Sulfur and selenium remove toxic substances that can interfere with conception.
- Vitamin A and protein help keep eggs and sperm in optimum condition.
- Choline and folate content help prevent spina bifida.
Buy organic free-range eggs where possible to avoid ingesting unwanted hormones that may interfere with conception and increase the risk of bacterial infection. Purchase from a reliable source. Having eggs for breakfast helps promote sustained energy levels.
One of the true superfoods, broccoli has fantastic detoxifying qualities that help prepare a woman’s reproductive system for conception and healthy pregnancy. All of the cruciferous (cabbage
family) vegetables—broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, and kale— contain sulfur-based chemicals called glucosinolates, which help rid the body of harmful substances, such as pollutants and toxic metals.
These can build up in the reproductive system of both men and women and may reduce your chances of fertility. Glucosinolates also promote balance between the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, which support a healthy menstrual cycle and a woman’s chances of conception. Add in vitamin C, vitamin E, and the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene for antioxidant protection against damage to egg and sperm, and broccoli provides you with the complete cleaning package. The high levels of folate (folic acid) also help prevent birth defects and premature birth.
- Contains glucosinolates and fiber, which remove harmful, antifertility substances from the body.
- Sulfur compounds also balance hormones for conception.
- Contains high levels of protective antioxidants, which prevent damage to both egg and sperm.
- Provides folate, needed in preparation for a healthy, full-term pregnancy.
To preserve both the taste and nutrients of broccoli, steam or lightly stir-fry, and be careful not to overcook. Try different varieties and enjoy broccoli simply, with olive oil and lemon juice.
Like its other cruciferous cousins, cauliflower contains sulfur compounds that support detoxification and help balance female hormones ready for conception. As one of the cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables, along with broccoli, cabbage, kale, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts, cauliflower contains the chemical diindolylmethane (DIM), which may help your body use estrogen more efficiently and support the chances of fertility.
Cauliflower is one of the important foods to include in a fertility diet to help the liver process and eliminate toxins that may interfere with reproduction. The antioxidant vitamin C increases the effect of other antioxidants consumed to support detoxification. Vitamin C also supports the immune system to protect against infectious bacteria that may affect fertility. Cauliflower contains the two B vitamins folate (folic acid) and choline, which help protect against the likelihood of spina bifida or neural tube defect in the embryo.
- DIM helps utilize estrogen to the best advantage for pregnancy to occur.
- Sulfur compounds and vitamin C support detoxification and immunity to optimize fertility.
- Folate and choline work together to help lessen the risk of neural tube defect.
Cauliflower can suffer from overcooking and become mushy; to avoid this, stir-fry instead of boiling or steaming. Boiling cauliflower for longer than five minutes has shown a significant reduction in nutrients; these are retained well when steaming or stir-frying.
Buckwheat provides a rich helping of the B vitamins and magnesium vital for energy, sex drive, and fertility. Any food that can give these a boost is one to remember! B vitamins and magnesium are needed to produce energy in our cells, making them essential to the creation of new life. In addition, they help us cope with stress—anxiety has been shown to be a major barrier to conception.
Buckwheat is also a very good source of slow-release energy, so its inclusion in the diet helps prevent the blood sugar highs and lows that can rob would-be parents of the energy needed for procreation. It is an excellent source of rutin, a circulation-boosting antioxidant that carries blood supply, energy, and nutrients to the reproductive areas. These areas are further protected by
the cleansing capacity of buckwheat, along with its zinc and selenium content, which can help prevent damage caused by pollution, harmful chemicals, and some medications. Zinc and selenium are very often found to be low in women and men who are infertile.
- B vitamins and magnesium help keep up energy levels and combat stress, which can interfere with fertility.
- Contains rutin, which supports circulation and, therefore, blood and oxygen flow to reproductive areas.
- Antioxidants zinc and selenium support fertility levels and prevent damage from environmental toxins.
Use buckwheat flour to make pancakes. Buckwheat is often found in wheat-free products, but its lack of gluten means it doesn’t produce the “fluffiness” considered desirable in many breeds.
The antioxidants in guava protect every part of the body from free-radical damage. This damage can penetrate our DNA and affect our ability to reproduce. Free radicals come from sunlight,
pollution, fried food, and even the essential process of creating energy. Free-radical damage occurs in every part of our body all the time, and we need a constant and varied supply of antioxidants to stop it from causing harm and to protect the egg and sperm from damage.
The fiberin guava also carries toxins out of the body. Guava is especially supportive of sperm health because vitamin C increases the number of sperm produced, beta-carotene boosts their concentration, vitamin E aids their ability to travel, and zinc improves their quality. All these antioxidants protect the egg, too, and make it ripe for fertilization. The zinc in guava aids normal fetal development, and the antioxidant proanthocyanidin, which helps to make the guava flesh red, encourages blood to flow to the penis.
- High-antioxidant levels and fiber protect both egg and sperm from the free-radical damage that naturally occurs every day.
- Contains a range of nutrients, including vitamins C and E, that help create healthy sperm, able to travel to and fertilize the egg.
- Proanthocyanidin supports blood flow to the male reproductive area, enabling sexual function.
When selecting guavas, avoid any that are spotty, mushy, or very green and choose those that are yellowish in color and that yield slightly when pressed. Eat on its own as a snack, or use as any other fruit; try it juiced, in salads, or with cereal.
Lamb is dense, good-quality protein meat with a useful vitamin-B profile. Consumed in moderation, it can help the body make the structures and cells needed for fertility. Lamb provides all nine of the amino acids, the protein building blocks necessary for healthy sperm, womb lining, and cell replication, as well as the B vitamins needed to make these new proteins. It also contains good levels of the antioxidant trace minerals selenium and zinc, which protect the egg, sperm, and uterus from damage and help the liver remove the toxins that can interfere with reproductive processes.
Zinc deficiency has been linked to infertility and miscarriage because zinc is needed for all body tissues and organisms to grow. Lamb also provides another antioxidant, coenzyme-Q10, that
may help conception by improving blood supply and energy in cells within the reproductive organs.
- A good-quality protein that also contains the B vitamins, promoting a healthy uterus, sperm, and efficient cell division, all of which encourages chances of conception.
- Contains the antioxidants zinc and selenium, which protect the reproductive organs from damage.
- Coenzyme-Q10 content supports a healthy blood supply and energy within the reproductive system.
Lamb contains high levels of saturated fat, so do not eat more than once a week. Chops are the healthiest cuts. Choose free-range, organic lamb, if possible, to ensure the best quality fats and minimum levels of damaging hormones and chemicals.
Milk provides a complete protein source, supplying the building blocks needed for conception, to make new sperm, and for a healthy womb lining. This versatile food is particularly good for vegetarians, who do not have many other sources of complete protein in their diet. Milk also supplies the body with the macrominerals calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, which are needed in large amounts for a growing baby’s skeleton.
A lack of these minerals in the mother can increase a baby’s risk of growth and development problems and impaired muscular function, so it is important to keep up the maternal intake. Increasing calcium intake before pregnancy has been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), and the related complication preeclampsia, later in pregnancy.
- A complete protein that is suitable for vegetarians, which enables the body to create sperm and the new cells needed for reproduction.
- Helps the mother-to-be stock up on calcium, potassium, and phosphorus in anticipation of the baby’s bone growth and development.
- Calcium helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure developing later in pregnancy.
You won’t get the goodness of milk by using it in tea or coffee, because the potentially damaging effects of caffeine outweigh its benefits. Enjoy it on cereal orin a smoothie, and don’t overdo milk consumption if you tend to get nasal or digestive problems.
Quinoa provides all of the essential amino acids needed to make proteins, which are crucial for reproduction. It also has a rich mineral and B-vitamin content. Low protein levels can interfere with
the frequency of the menstrual cycle and also the quality of sperm, both of which can lead to lower chances of conception. This complete protein from the plant kingdom is more alkalizing than animal sources of protein, so it helps maintain the slightly alkaline environment needed for a healthy egg and womb.
This environment is also vital in the male reproductive system, in order for sperm to flourish and then be able to travel and fertilize the egg inside the woman. Omega-6 fatty acids keep all the cells concerned supple and intact and, along with the B vitamins, maintain the balance of female and male sex hormones necessary for conception. The folate (folic acid) and zinc in quinoa also work together to allow reproduction to occur and prepare the body for a healthy full-term pregnancy.
- Complete protein that supports healthy periods and sperm.
- Contains omega-6 fatty acids and B vitamins to support sex hormone levels in both women and men.
- Folate and zinc combine to enable the new cell production needed for conception.
Quinoa can be used like a grain but is actually a seed, which makes it very easy to digest. It soaks up other flavors well and can be used as a salad base or a sweet hot cereal with fruit. For a protein boost, you can also try adding it to smoothies.
Radish helps balance hormones and detoxify the body. The chemical raphanin supports thyroid health, helping would-be parents maintain energy levels. All of the cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables provide sulfur compounds, such as glucosinolates, that balance estrogen and progesterone in women, enabling healthy ovulation and fertilization, and later the ability to support the growing fetus in the womb. Radish comes with the added bonus of supporting the thyroid gland, which plays a part in regulating these hormones over the course of the menstrual cycle.
Glucosinolates also help remove xenoestrogens from the body; found in plastics and tap water, these can mimic and disrupt our body’s natural hormones. The folate (folic acid) and calcium in radish further prepare the body to support a healthy fetus and take it to a full term in a successful pregnancy.
- Sulfur-containing glucosinolates optimize the balance of hormones prior to pregnancy and help remove xenoestrogens, which can interfere with this balance.
- Contains raphanin, which supports thyroid health, providing energy for procreation and reproduction, and helping to regulate sex hormones.
- Guards against folate and calcium deficiencies can have a detrimental effect on fertility and jeopardize the pregnancy.
Add radishes to salads—their sharp, crisp taste will help the digestive juices flow. They can also be added to juices. Try more exotic varieties, if available, such as daikon.
Cinnamon is a powerful spice and a traditional aphrodisiac. It also helps reduce cravings for sweet foods that rob us of the nutrients we need for reproduction. The active compound in cinnamon,
methyl hydroxy chalcone polymer (MHCP), acts in the same way as the hormone insulin, taking sugars from dietary sources from the bloodstream into our cells to be used as energy. Eating too many refined sugars in the form of cakes, cookies, and candies cause sudden surges of sugar into the bloodstream and set up a cycle of sugar highs and lows, whereby the body regularly
craves sugar and often caffeine in order to pull itself out of an energy slump.
Just half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day has been shown to decrease excess blood sugar and put an end to these cravings. Cinnamon is also a strong antioxidant and works hard to protect the body from damage.
- Contains the substance MHCP, which evens out blood sugar levels and supports a sustained release of energy.
- Breaks the cycles of dependence on sugar, caffeine, and other stimulants that undermine fertility.
- Its powerful antioxidant properties help prevent and even repair damage caused by excess dietary sugars.
Powdered cinnamon spice is stronger than the stick form, but it does not stay fresh for as long—replace when the characteristic smell has faded. Cinnamon naturally sweetens food, so add to juices, oatmeal, yogurt, or cereal. Do not take supplements or consume cinnamon in large amounts during pregnancy.
In Japanese culture, miso has a long association with female health and fertility. Most Japanese include it in the diet several times a week. Miso is made by fermenting soybeans. In common with other traditional fermented food, such as yogurt, it can help support the immune and digestive systems, which keeps bacteria from causing harm and interfering with fertility. Miso also contains a plant form of estrogen that cleverly adjusts the levels in our body if they are too high or too low. This effect can be thrown out of balance, however, if too much is eaten.
Miso also contains vitamin K, which is needed to transport calcium to our bones. A prospective mother needs to be sure she has optimum levels of calcium before pregnancy so that her stores don’t get depleted by the growing baby’s skeleton.
- A fermented food that supports good digestion and encourages our immune system to ward off harmful infections.
- A plant form of estrogen that can help correct sex hormone imbalances when eaten a few times a week.
- Contains vitamin K, which helps calcium to mineralize into the bone in preparation for good mother and baby bone health.