It’s no secret that eating a nutritious diet is important for overall health. But it can also have a significant benefit for women’s fertility. If you’re trying to conceive, it’s time to prioritize whole, nutrient-dense foods. However, despite eating well and living a healthy lifestyle, parts of a woman’s fertility journey are out of her control. I get it. That said, learning the ins and outs of conceiving is the first step in your adventure to motherhood. One of the best places to start? Understanding your egg quality. Today, we’re diving into how to improve female egg quality. Specifically, nutrients that support a healthy egg and foods to improve female egg quality.
Poor Egg Quality Can Cause Infertility
Fertility and pregnancy are two of the most beautiful, transformative, and fulfilling aspects of a woman’s life. However, many women face difficulties conceiving (and unfortunately, infertility rates continue to rise). The most common cause of female infertility? Failure to ovulate. This occurs in approximately 40% of women with infertility issues. Not ovulating is a result of several conditions, like PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). Another infertility cause? Poor egg quality. But good news is, making a few dietary changes can make a world of a difference.
Why Does Egg Quality Matter?
The quality of a woman’s egg plays a key role in her ability to have a baby. High-quality eggs have the best chance of developing into an embryo, implanting in the uterus, and resulting in a successful pregnancy. In other words, when eggs are healthy, they have a higher percentage of developing into an embryo. For context, women’s ovaries are programmed to allow one egg to grow, mature, and be released—each cycle. That one egg represents the one chance for pregnancy (that month). That egg will either be normal or abnormal. If it’s normal, wonderful. But if it’s not? Abnormal egg cells typically don’t implant in the uterus. In rare cases they do, they can result in miscarriage or genetic disorders.
Does egg quality decline as you age?
Yes. However, the data is promising: women are giving birth later. And this is great news. Although fertility declines as we age, it’s not nearly as dramatic as most of us think. In all reality, it’s more of a dip—not a nosedive—at 35. A reassuring study (cited in these guidelines) found that women ages 30-34 have an 86% chance of getting pregnant within one year of trying to conceive. And they have a 94% chance of conceiving after two years. For women ages 35-39, there’s an 82% chance of conceiving after one year, and a 90% chance of conceiving after two years. These are far from dismal percentages!
How Do You Test For Egg Quality?
Fertility doctors can draw blood at any time during a woman’s cycle to measure anti-mullerian hormone (AMH). High levels of AMH indicate a strong ovarian reserve. However, low levels of AMH can mean one of two things: fewer eggs available or problems with egg quality. Additionally, the only way to know if an egg is chromosomally normal is to attempt to fertilize it. If fertilization is successful, then a specialist can perform a genetic test on the embryo. Keep in mind that as you age, a higher percentage of eggs inside your ovaries contain genetic abnormalities. Rather than instilling fear, use this information to empower you.
Which Nutrients Improve Egg Quality?
As mentioned, female egg quality plays a vital role in the success of a pregnancy. Below are a few nutrients that can help improve egg quality—making it easier to conceive and carry a healthy pregnancy.
Folate is a B-vitamin that is essential for fetal development during pregnancy. It is also important for healthy egg development. Folate helps reduce the risk of birth defects such as neural tube defects, which occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Whole food sources of folate include leafy greens, citrus fruits, and beans.
More on the differences between folate and folic acid, here.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Not only do omega-3 fatty acids support healthy egg development, but they also help reduce inflammation. And, too much inflammation can damage eggs and reduce fertility. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish—salmon, sardines, and mackerel—as well as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Antioxidants are important for protecting the body from free radicals, which can damage eggs and reduce fertility. Powerful sources of antioxidants? Berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds.
Vitamin E is also important for protecting eggs from oxidative stress. You’ll find vitamin E in nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and can also help improve egg quality. Not many foods have vitamin D—other than fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified dairy products. The body can also produce vitamin D when bare skin is exposed to sunlight. Taking a vitamin D supplement is key.
When it comes to reducing inflammation in the body—and boosting the immune system—look no further than vitamin C. Sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, and leafy greens.
Iron is important for healthy blood flow and can also help improve egg quality. Pastured red meat, organic poultry, wild-caught fish, beans, and leafy greens all contain iron.
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant. It’s important for energy production. It can also help improve egg quality! Good sources of this nutrient include fatty fish, pastured organ meats, and organic whole grains.
Zinc is a critical component in a number of processes that regulate female germ cell growth, fertility, and pregnancy. Aim to incorporate zinc via pastured red meat, organic poultry, beans, nuts, and seeds.
L-arginine is an amino acid. It helps improve blood flow to the reproductive system, promoting healthy egg development. L-arginine is present in meat, dairy products, and nuts.
Foods To Eat For Egg Quality
Without further ado, below are nutrient-dense foods to improve female egg quality. If you’re trying to conceive (or plan to start trying soon), aim to incorporate these into a well-rounded, balanced diet. Furthermore, try to choose organic options as often as possible.
LEAFY GREENS: Think—spinach, kale, and arugula. These are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Non-starchy vegetables help protect the body from free radicals and promote overall well-being, including reproductive health. Eating leafy greens regularly can improve ovarian function and promote healthy egg production.
BERRIES: Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc. are rich in antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative stress. They also help improve blood flow to the reproductive system and promote healthy egg production. Additionally, they contain folate—an essential nutrient for fetal development during pregnancy.
FATTY FISH: Salmon, sardines, and mackerel all contain omega-3 fatty acids—the building blocks for healthy egg development. These healthy fats help promote blood flow to the reproductive organs and reduce inflammation in the body.
WHOLE GRAINS: 100% whole grains (organic and sprouted, when possible) are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A few examples: wild rice, quinoa, and rye. To improve insulin sensitivity (key for egg quality), pair whole grains with protein and healthy fats (ghee, avocado, coconut oil, etc.).
NUTS AND SEEDS: Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds, are rich in vitamin E, which is essential for healthy egg production. Vitamin E helps protect the body from free radicals and oxidative stress, which can damage eggs and reduce fertility.
EGGS: It may seem obvious, but eating eggs can actually improve egg quality. Eggs are rich in protein, which is essential for healthy egg development. They also contain choline, which is essential for fetal brain development during pregnancy.
AVOCADO: Avocado is a nutrient-dense food that is rich in healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins. It contains folate, which is essential for fetal development, and vitamin E, which helps protect eggs from oxidative stress.
LEAN PROTEIN: Lean protein—such as chicken, turkey, and fish—are essential for healthy egg development. They are rich in amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein and are essential for the growth and development of eggs.
Foods To Limit For Egg Quality
In many ways, a healthy diet is foundational for reproductive health (and a normal menstrual cycle!). Eating a diet rich in leafy greens, berries, omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean protein can help improve egg quality and increase the chances of getting pregnant. Additionally, it’s helpful to avoid ultra-processed foods, refined sugars, and inflammatory fats. All of these can reduce fertility and overall health. Along with consistent exercise, stress management, and getting enough sleep, you can improve the chances of a successful pregnancy. How to improve female egg quality starts with what’s on your plate.
Best of luck in your fertility journey!
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.