Food is powerful medicine, and we can make conscious choices every day to deeply nourish ourselves and boost our fertility. In a time when many factors are out of our control, it’s empowering to take charge of our health and choose our provisions wisely. In my clinical experience, I’ve seen over and over again that when one makes dietary changes along with other holistic therapies (i.e., acupuncture, meditation, herbs, and supplements etc.) they optimize their health, become more fertile and babies are born.
While individualized recommendations are always essential, research suggests focusing on a whole food, plant-based Mediterranean style diet promotes fertility, especially in cases of ovulatory infertility. What does that mean? It means a diet rich in:
- Fresh vegetables and fruits– full of essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, iron etc. for overall health and vitality. Eat a rainbow daily!
- Healthy fats, especially omega 3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, chia and flax seeds and cold-water fish.
- Protein primarily from plant sources such as legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, and edamame, or fish with low mercury levels.
- Low glycemic carbohydrates such as brown rice, steel-cut oats, quinoa, whole grain products.
- Full fat dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir. Although there are many individuals and health conditions where these are inappropriate.
- Vitamin B12. Good sources include eggs, yogurt and milk, salmon and trout, and fortified foods. Adequate B12 levels assist with regular ovulation, decreased risk of miscarriage and overall increase fertility in females and males.
- Iron from plants, such as dark leafy greens, dried apricots, legumes (i.e., lentils) and black strap molasses.
- Fresh herbs and mild spices to aid digestion, absorption, and assimilation.
It’s best to avoid trans fatty acids and partially hydrogenated oils in prepared foods, which have been linked to decreased fertility in both men and women. I also encourage minimizing or eliminating intake of red meat (due to saturated fat content and exposure to antibiotics, hormonal residues, and other toxins), alcohol, caffeine, refined flours, and processed foods. Taking a high-quality prenatal multivitamin is important, as well.
Are your ready to start your day with a nutrient dense, healthy meal to energize you while boosting your fertility? Not sure where to begin? Here are 3 fertility boosting breakfasts to get you started.
Green Goddess Smoothie
This smoothie is fantastic on busy mornings. Warning: you just might feel like a goddess after drinking it.
The brilliant green from kale or spinach is packed with calcium, chlorophyll, vitamins, and minerals. Pineapple adds a sweet digestive and anti-inflammatory boost due to high bromelain (enzyme) content. Chia is such a lovely little powerhouse of a seed, full of omega 3 fatty acids, protein, antioxidants, and other micronutrients. Maca is an adaptogenic herb from South America. It is known to increase energy and libido, while helping the body adapt to non-specific stress. Coconut water helps hydrate the body and deliver extra electrolytes. And, if your body temperature runs cold, add a slice of fresh ginger root and blend well.
Ingredients (serves 1)
1 cup baby kale or spinach
1 cup pineapple (can be frozen)
1 TBS chia seeds
1-2 tsp maca powder
1.5-2 cups coconut water or plant-based milk
1 scoop plant-based vanilla protein powder
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.
Mediterranean Omelet (serves 2)
This dish is great if you have a little more time. Feel free to mix up the veggies and herbs depending on the season and what is available in your area. Aim for a colorful mix of vegetables and at least two fresh or dried herbs. Brew up a cup of your favorite tea and serve with a slice of whole grain toast for a well-rounded hearty breakfast or brunch.
Ingredients (organic, if possible)
½ red pepper, diced
1 cup spinach, chopped
½ cup broccoli florets
½ onion, finely diced
5 eggs (free range, organic, if possible)
5 fresh basil leaves or 2 tsp dried basil
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp sea salt
¼ cup crumbled feta (optional)
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
4 TBS water
Crushed red and/or black pepper (to taste)
Chop all the veggies. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl, add 2 TBS water and set aside. Heat 1 TBS olive oil and add onion. Sautee for a few minutes until soft. Add salt, herbs, broccoli, red pepper, and 2 TBS water. Sautee for another 5-8 minutes. Add spinach and cook until soft.
Remove all veggies from the pan and place in a separate bowl. Add 1 TBS olive oil and add eggs. Swirl around pan allowing all to cook evenly. You may want to cover the pan. Once the eggs are cooked place the veggies on half of the cooked egg mixture. Sprinkle on feta cheese, a little more basil, salt, and pepper. Fold. Cut in half and serve hot.
Vitality Granola Topped with Berries
Made ahead of time, vitality granola becomes a quick and healthful start to your day. I often make a double batch on Sundays to last a little longer in our household.
Rolled oats have been proven to lower cholesterol, enhance immunity, and help to stabilize blood sugar levels. The nuts and seeds provide calcium, protein, essential fats, and other vitamins and minerals. You can also mix up the spices used, add a little more or less of what you like, or swap ginger for cardamom, for example.
For a gluten-free version, buy oats that are labeled “gluten-free,” and use rice or garbanzo bean flour instead of wheat or spelt flour.
3 cups rolled oats
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 tsp wheat flour or spelt flour
½ tsp sea salt
2 TBS ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ cup sunflower seeds
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 TBS chia seeds
1- 1 ½ cup unsulfured dried fruit (apricots, cherries, raisins, and/or dates), rinsed and chopped
¼ cup light vegetable oil such as sunflower
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 TBS vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Combine the oats, coconut, flour, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl and mix well. In another bowl, mix the sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin, and chia seeds, and set aside
Stir all the wet ingredients into the oat mixture, ensuring that everything is equally coated.
Spread the wet oat mixture evenly on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper or lightly coated with oil. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until the granola is nicely browned.
Remove from the oven and add the nut and seed mixture, then return to the oven for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until crisp. Remove from the oven and add the dried fruit.
Let cool to room temperature before storing in a glass or plastic airtight jar.
Scoop ½-1 cup granola in a bowl and top with equal parts fresh organic berries. Pour milk of your choice on top or place the granola on top of a bowl of Greek yogurt for an even higher protein breakfast.
Cheers and happy eating,
Chavarro, J.E., Rich-Edwards, J., Rosner, B., Wilett, W. (2007) Diet and lifestyle in the prevention of ovulatory disorder infertility. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 10 (5), 1050-1058.
Gaskins, A. J., & Chavarro, J. E. (2018). Diet and fertility: a review. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 218(4), 379–389.
Sharma, R., Biedenharn, K.R., Fedor, J.M. et al. (2013) Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol 11, 66.