The path to parenthood is an extraordinary (and deeply personal) journey. Amidst the myriad of emotions—and inevitable obstacles—it’s easy to overlook the importance of a nourished foundation. Said differently: there’s a strong correlation between your eating habits and pregnancy. Your grocery basket and conception go hand-in-hand! With that in mind, what are foods that increase fertility in females? And, what targeted nutrients support egg quality? Whether you’re in the midst of balancing your hormones, are trying to conceive, or have received a positive pregnancy test, it’s time to put the fork in your fertility.
Why Your Diet Matters During Pregnancy
The impact of nutrition on fertility is profound. A well-rounded diet—particularly one that emphasizes blood sugar balance—not only supports conception but also fosters a healthy pregnancy. Key nutrients, like folic acid, iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids, are vital for reproductive health. These aid in developing the baby’s neural tube, bones, and overall well-being.
Folic acid is particularly crucial in the early stages of pregnancy. It helps prevent neural tube defects. Foods rich in folic acid include leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard), broccoli, asparagus, beets, citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, etc.), legumes (lentils, chickpeas, and black beans), avocado, sunflower seeds, and sprouted grains.
Confused about folic acid vs. folate? Pregnant women need folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, to support the baby’s neural tube development and prevent neural tube defects. While folate occurs naturally in foods, taking folic acid supplements is often recommended during pregnancy to ensure an adequate intake.
Iron is essential for preventing anemia during pregnancy. Incorporate iron-rich foods like grass-fed animal protein (pastured beef, venison, poultry, and lamb), beans, quinoa, brown rice, legumes, tofu, apricots, pumpkin seeds, and dark leafy greens.
Calcium is crucial for the development of the baby’s bones and teeth. Organic dairy products, fortified plant-based milk, wild-caught salmon (with bones), leafy greens, figs, bok choy, and edamame are excellent sources of calcium.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, support the baby’s brain and eye development.
What should you eat before conceiving?
Ultimately, prioritizing specific ingredients can significantly enhance your chances of conception. And the research proves it. To start, load up on leafy greens (rich in folate and iron). Additionally, incorporate fruits like berries and citrus, abundant in antioxidants and vitamin C. Include whole grains—such as quinoa and brown rice—for fiber and blood sugar-friendly carbs. Ensure an adequate intake of protein, like grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, pastured eggs, and beans, as they contribute to satiation and egg quality. Healthy fats are key, too (avocados, nuts, and olive oil), for hormone balance and stable blood sugar. And don’t forget to stay hydrated!
Are there foods that don’t help with conception?
Yes, certain ingredients may hinder conception. For example, constantly eating highly processed foods—like refined carbs—can lead to insulin spikes (disrupting) hormone regulation. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives. If you love carbs, reach for high-protein cereals, high-fiber bagels (like ROYO), and chocolate with low-gylcemic sugars, like JoJo’s. Additionally, excessive caffeine and alcohol can adversely affect the menstrual cycle. Consider switching to matcha and sparkling water instead. When possible, crowd out these less supportive foods to help promote optimal fertility.
Pre-conception snack ideas
Optimizing your nutrition with easy and healthy pre-conception snacks is a fantastic way to support fertility. Below are a few snack ideas with fertility-boosting nutrients:
Create a homemade trail mix with a mix of nuts—like roasted almonds and walnuts, seeds (pepitas and sunflower seeds), dried fruits (unsulfered apricots, currants, etc.), shredded coconut, and dark chocolate chips. This snack contains healthy fats, protein, and essential vitamins.
Avocado Toast with smoked salmon
Top sourdough toast with mashed avocado, a sprinkle of hemp seeds, smoked salmon, thinly sliced red onion, and a dash of lemon juice. Avocado provides healthy fats, while the salmon offers omega-3 fatty acids.
Hummus with Veggie Sticks
Dip colorful vegetable sticks (carrots, cucumber, bell peppers) in hummus. This snack is rich in fiber, vitamins, and plant-based protein. In the winter, feel free to swap fresh veggies for roasted veggies (sweet potatoes, green beans, butternut squash, etc.).
Hard-Boiled Eggs and string cheese
Prepare a batch of hard-boiled eggs and keep them in the fridge for a quick and protein-packed snack. Top with sea salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Pair with an organic string cheese for more protein.
Kiwi, chia seeds, and nut Butter
Enjoy a small bowl of fresh kiwis with chia seeds, cinnamon, and a dollop of nut butter for a combination of antioxidants, vitamins, and healthy fats.
Cottage Cheese with seedy crackers
bone broth and dates with tahini
Bone broth is rich in nutrients like collagen, amino acids, and minerals. Additionally, the gelatin in bone broth may help improve gut health, optimizing nutrient absorption essential for fertility! Enjoy alongside dates stuffed with tahini and sea salt for a sweet and salty snack.
These snack ideas are not only delicious but also provide a balance of nutrients that can contribute to a healthy pre-conception diet. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized dietary recommendations based on your individual needs and health status.
Specific Foods to Eat Per Trimester
Broken down by trimester, below are foods that increase fertility in females. Ultimately, what you eat before and during your pregnancy fosters a nourished womb.
First Trimester: Building a Strong Foundation
Avocado toast with eggs: Avocados provide healthy fats, while eggs offer protein and choline essential for neural tube development. When possible, choose bread with minimal ingredients (sourdough or sprouted wheat) and pasture-raised eggs. To add more bang for your nutritional buck, sauté your eggs with kale and ghee.
Greek yogurt parfait: Greek yogurt is rich in protein and calcium, promoting bone development, and berries provide antioxidants. Sprinkle ground flax, chia, and walnuts on top for more fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
Second Trimester: Supporting Growth
Salmon, Swiss chard, and roasted beet bowl: Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, Swiss chard is rich in iron, and beets provide energizing, folate-rich carbs. Drizzle with tahini for extra iron and healthy fats.
Berry protein smoothie: Berries provide low-glycemic carbs and antioxidants, spinach contains iron, Greek yogurt has protein and probiotics, and almond butter helps stabilize blood sugar. For more protein and satiation, add a scoop of vanilla protein powder and a spoonful of chia seeds.
Third Trimester: Preparing for Birth
Lean chicken stir-fry with broccoli: Lean chicken is an optimal source of protein and broccoli has folic acid, iron, and calcium. Season with coconut aminos and sesame oil. Because calorie needs are higher as pregnancy progresses, add brown rice, colorful veggies (bell peppers, carrots, etc.), and avocado for more staying power.
Chia seed pudding with cow’s milk: Chia seeds are a source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, and cow’s milk adds calcium (alternatively, use unsweetened almond or coconut milk). See here for my keto chocolate chia pudding. Top with granola, chopped apple, and raw almond butter.
Food as medicine
In more ways than one, embracing a fertility-boosting diet (and supplements) is key for enhancing the chances of conception. It also lays the foundation for a healthy pregnancy. The right nutrients nourish both you and your baby—the goal! Enjoy experimenting with these delicious recipes to support your fertility journey. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized dietary advice tailored to your specific needs.
Images courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Wellness with Edie. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider.