7 Unusual foods that increase fertility in women
Most importantly let me say that there are so many fertility diets, get fertile quick, lose weight fast diets out there that it’s hard to know what to do. Many of them are aimed at quick sale and ultimately in our opinion you should be just cleaning up your eating and exercise habits. So, to help you with that we have spent 20 hours researching what are the key nutrients involved in fertility and explored some of the unexpected foods which will help you increase fertility.
We’ve all seen those lists that read, eat your legumes, green vegetables and fish. Whilst there is an element of truth in that let’s dive into seven unexpected foods which could help you conceive.
What are the key nutrients required in promoting fertility whilst trying to conceive which are backed up by research?
Trying to conceive and early pregnancy are a complex time for your body in terms of nutrition and what it requires. There is a lot of information out there and a huge number of vitamin supplements but what does research state we actually need?
Folic Acid (VitaminB9)– This one isn’t new; every bit of information lists it and there is a reason for that. Research from multiple sources including the CDC and the NHS show that folic acid is a vital very early pregnancy nutrient, so you should be taking it through your journey of conception. Folic acid is a vital component of the development of the neural tube.
A large scale study performed in collaboration between China and the USA showed that having 400mg of folic acid (which is a B-vitamin) daily reduces neural tube deformities by 85% in high prevalence area’s of China and 41% in normal prevalence found in the USA. So Folic acid is certainly a vital prenatal nutrient.
Vitamin D – This is another common recommendation; however, the evidence isn’t quite as clear cut, there have been studies showing that it both improves fertility and that it doesn’t have a substantial impact. We reviewed 13 studies looking into vitamin D on fertility and IVF and on balance we would say that it a worthwhile vitamin for trying to conceive.
The key outcomes of several studies where they found that vitamin D blood levels of 30 ng/mL or higher are associated with higher pregnancy rates.
2 studies found that Caucasian and non-Hispanic white women, those with a normal vitamin D level were four times more likely to get pregnant through IVF compared to those who had a low vitamin D level.
This is often received from the sunshine however at northern latitudes like those found in the UK the amount of vitamin D we get from the Sun especially in winter months can often not be enough. As such we should get some in our foods. Animals generally produce D3 which more readily impacts vitamin D levels in the blood in comparison to D2 which is found in plants, so we need to eat slightly more plant based vitamin D to get the same blood level found from D3.
Calcium – Is a vital mineral in pregnancy, especially later in pregnancy, however, it has researched links supporting improvement in fertility whilst trying to conceive and helps you build up your calcium reserve. It is advised to consume between 800-1000mg of calcium per day in no more than 500mg in one sitting as the excess isn’t retained.
Zinc – It has been proven that zinc helps with ovulation in women and as such is a vital mineral in the right dose, which is 15mg per day.
Iron – Ensuring that you’re not iron deficient (anaemic) is really important through trying to conceive as it supports blood flow and blood volume which support ovulation. Anovulation which means you don’t ovulate has been known to occur in those with anaemia.
Other B Vitamins – Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) is vital in the development of your babies brain, B6 (Pyridoxine )is also vital in brain and nervous system development it also has strong anti-nausea properties. B12 (Cobalamin) has recent studies that show when in combination with folic acid reduces the chance of spina bifida.
Unusual foods that increase fertility in women
1. Beef Liver
Beef Liver is one of those products that over the years has fallen out of favour. It was a popular staple food back in the early 20th century. It has an incredibly dense nutritional profile and is low in fat.
Because of this it can sometimes be a little more challenging to get in comparison to the more popular duck, lamb and chicken liver. However, many butchers and some supermarkets do stock it.
The word superfood is an often-overused word these days. However, with how densely packed with vitamins and nutrients that beef liver is it could certainly be considered one. It has the following nutritional break down which if we compare to a chicken breast, you’ll understand what I mean.
A quick look at some nutrients in 100 grams of beef liver paints a powerful picture:
|Nutrient||Amount in Beef Liver||Amount in Chicken|
|Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)||260μg (65%RDA)||4μg (1%RDA)|
|Iron||6.2mg (34%RDA)||1mg (6%RDA)|
|Vitamin A||26091IU (522%RDA)||21IU (0.5%RDA)|
|Vitamin B6||1mg (51%RDA)||0.6mg (30%RDA)|
|Vitamin B12||83.1μg (1386% RDA)||0.3μg (6%RDA)|
RDA = Recommended Daily Allowance in a 2000 kcal diet
From the above it’s clear that beef liver has a substantial number of nutrients which are positive for increasing fertility and supporting early pregnancy. Be aware that the high levels of vitamin A mean that you shouldn’t eat it in a large quantity too often in pregnancy, but once or twice a month is fine.
Getting vitamin D3 can be quite complex, as the main sources come from fish, there are many fish which are very high in D3 but are also unsafe during pregnancy due to the concentration of mercury, such as shark and swordfish. There are also many fish which should be limited for similar reasons. However, flatfish such as flounder seem to have that happy medium of eat as much as you like whilst trying to conceive and a decent level of vitamin D. In a 100g serving of flounder it contains
Vitamin A 37.2IU (1%RDA) Thiamine 0.1 μg (8%RDA)
Calcium 20.4mg (4%RDA) Iron 04 μg (4%RDA)
Vitamin D 272IU (16%RDA) Vitamin B-6 0.4 μg (20%RDA)
Vitamin B12 1.6 μg (32%RDA) Zinc 0.4 μg(4%RDA)
This is certainly not a superfood, but it’s a great option for getting some of your B vitamins and a decent chunk of readily absorbable D3.
3. Turnip Tops (Turnip greens)
These are essentially the green leaves on the top of turnips and they are packed full of nutrients. We all know that a glass of milk is great for calcium, but did you know these are a superb source of calcium and also, folic acid. These can be steamed and eaten with your regular meal as part of your greens and taste great. It has an absolutely superb nutritional profile which is very beneficial for fertility and early pregnancy. Below shows the break down of the nutrition for a cup (155g) of cooked turnip greens
vitamin C 39.46 mg (53%RDA)
folic acid 169.92 μg (42%RDA)
calcium 197.28 mg (20%RDA)
vitamin B6 0.26 mg (15%RDA)
iron 1.15 mg (6%RDA)
vitamin B1 0.06 mg (5%RDA)
Zinc 0.20 mg (2%RDA)
4. Hemp Seeds
No, I’m not advocating cannabis whilst trying to conceive or whilst pregnant. But hemp seeds aren’t cannabis. They are a type of nut. They are naturally high in fats, including omega fats which in moderation are good for you. They are fairly high in good calories but are a great source of zinc and iron which can aid fertility and early pregnancy. Per two tablespoons they contain
Zinc 5.0mg (33%RDA)
Iron 3.9mg (17%RDA)
So, they make a great snack or addition to a healthy salad or vegetable dish to give you those hard to get metals.
5. Acorn Squash
These are fabulous, they have a subtle chestnut flavour and can be used as a vegetable or to replace potatoes in most meals. They are low in calories and high in nutrients making them superb food that increases fertility and supports pregnancy. The main benefit for fertility comes from the relatively high levels of thiamine which are important in the development of foetal brains. A 100g serving contains:
Thiamine 0.2mg (13%RDA)
Vitamin B6 0.2mg (11%RDA)
Folate 23.8 μg (6%RDA)
Calcium 46.2mg (5%RDA)
Iron 1.0mg (5%RDA)
Zinc 0.2mg (1%RDA)
6. Brussel Sprouts
I know what you’re thinking, it’s not Christmas and well they’re not called little wind bags for nothing. But there have been some detailed studies about these little beauties, and they can certainly be a superfood as far as fertility is concerned. If you look at their nutritional breakdown, they are a great source of folic acid. Furthermore, they have good levels of di-indolylmethane which helps balance the oestrogen levels within the body, specifically it binds to environmental oestrogen from meats, pesticides etc which prevents excessive build up. These are certainly a food consider on your fertility journey
7. Dark Chocolate
Now I bet you didn’t expect chocolate to appear on this list! Well there are still negatives with regards to fat and sugar contents so it’s calorific, but overall dark chocolate in moderation is pretty good for you. It is also a pretty decent source of zinc, which as we said is useful for ovulation. Dark chocolate can also be used in spicy savoury dishes such as chilli to give it a deeper flavour profile, that or you could just have a cheeky bar of good quality dark chocolate in front of a film.
Why is a good diet important for my fertility?
Fertility is a complex interaction of many systems and hormones within the body. There is no one size fits all dietary plan which will improve your fertility. By eating a clean, balanced and healthy diet and ensuring that you’re getting the minerals, nutrients and vitamins you need will put you in great stead whilst trying to conceive. If you know of any unusual foods which support fertility for which there is a valid reason, then drop them in the comments, we will look into them and add them to the list.