Whether you’re just starting to think about having a baby, are already trying or you’re undergoing fertility treatments, a healthy diet is one of the best ways to increase your odds.
Although a whole-foods diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is key, experts say there are some unexpected choices that will give you the nutrients for healthy eggs and optimal hormone function. Here are 10.
A study in the journal Human Reproduction found that women undergoing in-vitro fertilization who are also vitamin D deficient may have a lower chance of getting pregnant.
With a sufficient amount of the vitamin, “you’re actually fortifying your immune system and you’re helping your hormones to be able to function properly,” said Emily Bartlett, an acupuncturist specializing in fertility in Los Angeles, Calif. and co-author of “Feed Your Fertility: Your Guide to Cultivating a Healthy Pregnancy with Chinese Medicine, Real Food, and Holistic Living.”
Although you can get vitamin D from fatty fish and eggs, one of the best foods with naturally occurring vitamin D is bacon Instead of picking up a package at your local grocery store, look for pasture-raised pork from reputable farms.
2. Bone broth
Bone broth is an excellent source of minerals and one of the best foods to heal your gut and promote digestion.
“When your digestive system is functioning properly, your metabolism is working properly and your whole body can function more optimally, including your hormones,” Bartlett said.
You can buy bone broth or make your own and drink it or use it for soups, stews and sauces.
Eggs have vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, saturated fats, cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that are essential for fertility. What’s more, the choline in eggs is vital for preventing neural tube defects and helping baby’s brain develop during pregnancy.
“When you eat an egg, you’re actually getting the nutrition from the entire animal,” Bartlett said.
The best choice are organic eggs from pasture-raised hens but if you can’t find them, get free-range, organic instead.
Beef is one of the best foods for optimizing fertility, but choosing the right type is key. Instead of factory-farmed, grain-fed beef pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, choose 100 percent grass-fed, pasture-raised beef. This type of beef contains omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), fat-soluble vitamins and healthy versions of fat and cholesterol, which are all important for hormone function and production in the body, Bartlett said.
Plus, beef is a good source of iron, a nutrient many women are deficient in before they even get pregnant, said Tamara S. Melton, an Atlanta-based registered dietitian/nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).Other sources of iron include chicken, turkey, lean pork, fish, soybeans and lentils. Dark leafy greens are great too but be sure to pair them with vitamin-C rich foods which help your body absorb iron more effectively, Melton added.
5. Coconut oil
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, coconut oil is one of the best plant-based sources of saturated fat. Plus, the medium-chain fatty acids are quickly absorbed into the body, so you can access the energy quickly.
An aphrodisiac, oysters can ignite the flames for baby-making, but they’re also high in zinc, selenium, and the fat soluble vitamins A and D which are key for fertility.
Recent studies confirm butter is back and it won’t lead to heart disease, and experts say it’s even great for fertility. Like with beef, look for grass-fed butter from pasture-raised cows so you can get the essential fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, K and vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 not only tells your body how to use calcium, but it’s important for metabolism, which is linked to conception, the baby’s development and your well-being during and after pregnancy.
“When you have cows that have been raised on a pasture, the butter will have a better nutritional profile,” Bartlett said.
It might not seem all that appetizing, but eating liver can help fertility because you’ll get vitamin A. Sure, carrots and sweet potatoes have the nutrient, but since the carotenes in these foods may not be converted to Vitamin A, it might not be enough.
“True vitamin A comes from animal sources and liver is the highest source of it,” Bartlett said. Try a pâté spread on crackers or mix it in with chopped meat. As an alternative, try a minimally processed cod liver oil.
8. Fish roe
Regarded by some cultures as a sacred food, fish roe would be saved for couples who were hoping to conceive. Just a tablespoon is a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and B12, folate and selenium. Get your fill from those tiny orange eggs on sushi or add a bit of caviar to put on your eggs or stir in with tuna.
Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, is well-proven to prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida and it can also help fertility. In fact, women who take a higher dose of folic acid before conceiving are less likely to have a miscarriage before 20 weeks of pregnancy, a study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found. Eat lentils, beans, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, avocado, and oranges to get folate.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.