Fertility Foods to Boost Your Odds of Conception

Fertility and diet are hot topics, and fertility superfoods are part of that craze. But can eating certain foods really boost your fertility?

While there is no specific food or fertility diet that will magically boost your chances of conception, a nutritious, well-balanced diet can certainly help support your fertility and improve your odds. That goes for both men and women!

It's important to note that even the healthiest diets can't "cure" certain serious conditions that cause infertility in women and men. If, for example, a woman's fallopian tubes are blocked which prevents sperm from reaching an egg, dietary changes won't remove the blockage and open the tubes.

With that in mind, below are 15 healthy foods that may be beneficial to those wishing to optimize their diet for fertility.

1

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds beside a sunflower and a glass jar of sunflower oil, a fertility superfood

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Roasted, unsalted, sunflower seed kernels are rich in vitamin E, an essential nutrient shown to boost sperm count and sperm motility. In addition, sunflower seeds are jam-packed with zinc, folic acid, and selenium, all of which are important for both male and female fertility.

Sunflower seeds are also a good source of fatty acids omega 3 and 6.

How to Eat It

Here are some ways to eat more sunflower seeds:

  • Sprinkle sunflower seeds on your salad instead of croutons.
  • Try using sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter. Sunbutter is a popular brand.
  • Put 2 tablespoons of sunflower seed butter into a smoothie as a source of protein.
2

Citrus Fruits

Slices of pink grapefruit

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Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits one of the best sources for vitamin C, which helps stabilize your ovulation and encourages the release of an egg. They're also packed with calcium, potassium, and folate—a B vitamin that can help you get pregnant by regulating ovulation.

Grapefruits and oranges are also very high in the polyamine putrescine, which can improve egg and semen health. On top of improving your own reproductive health, putrescine can lower chromosomal defects in ovulated eggs by 50%.

How to Eat It

Getting more into your diet:

  • Make smoothies with orange or grapefruit juice as a base
  • Add grapefruit or orange slices to salads
  • Squeeze your own orange juice

Caution: Grapefruit juice is known to increase the effects of some medications, in some cases to dangerous levels. If you’re taking any kind of medication, speak to your doctor about whether grapefruit juice is safe for you.

3

Mature Cheeses

Parmesan crisps with cherry tomatoes, basil, and sea salt

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Mature cheeses, like mature cheddar, parmesan, and manchego, may improve sperm health.

Mature cheeses are high in polyamines. Polyamines are proteins found in plant and animal products. They are also naturally occurring in humans.

Research has found that polyamines may play an important role in the reproductive system. Mature cheese is specifically high in the polyamine putrescine, which may play a role in sperm health. Putrescine is also suspected of improving egg health, especially in women 35 and older. (Yes, that's the same putrescine benefits that grapefruit juice may have.)

How to Eat It

Be careful with portion control when adding cheese to your diet! A small amount packs in a lot of calories and saturated fat. So enjoy... just within reason.

4

Full-Fat Dairy

Two small scooped of ice cream with a strawberry -- fertility friendly food

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Pastured dairy is a great choice for fertility and pregnancy for those who can tolerate it. Dairy is rich in saturated fat, which is especially beneficial for fertility. It's also a good source of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, K, and K2) and a healthy, natural trans-fat.

A Harvard study found that women who ate full-fat dairy products were less likely to experience ovulation problems than women who ate primarily low-fat dairy products. In this study, low-fat dairy products included skim or low-fat milk, sherbet, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Full-fat products included whole milk, ice cream, cream cheese, and other cheese.

How to Eat It

The easiest way to get a serving a full-fat dairy into your diet is to switch to whole milk instead of low-fat milk. (Easy only if you already have milk in your morning tea or cereal.) Or, if you like yogurt, switch to-full fat yogurt instead of the low-fat varieties.

An occasional serving of full-fat ice cream can make a nice treat. Just be sure to take into account the extra calories in your diet. If you’re going for ice cream, limit yourself to one to two servings per week.

Remember that being overweight can negatively affect fertility, so you don’t want to overdo it here.

5

Liver

Raw beef liver over gray background viewed from above

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Liver, particularly from a cow, is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It's loaded with fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin A which is difficult to obtain elsewhere in the diet.

Besides being the ultimate source of true vitamin A, liver is loaded with highly absorbable iron, which helps prevent miscarriage and maternal anemia, and vitamin B12, which is required for the proper formation of red blood cells and DNA. Liver is also a rich source of choline, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate.

6

Cooked Tomatoes

Bowl of tomato soup next to cherry tomatoes on the vine

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Cooked tomatoes are high in the nutrient lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which can help augment your fertility.

Lycopene has been extensively studied for its potential role in improving male fertility. Lycopene supplementation has even been researched as a possible treatment for male infertility. One study found that supplementation of 4 to 8 mg of lycopene per day for 8 to 12 months led to improved semen health and increased pregnancy rates.

How to Eat It

While both raw and cooked tomatoes contain lycopene, one cup of cooked tomatoes contains almost twice as much lycopene as one cup of raw tomatoes.

So when you can, opt for the cooked tomato recipes. But tomatoes in any form are still good for you!

7

Beans and Lentils

A variety of different beans and legumes

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Beans and lentils are an excellent source of fiber and folic acid, both of which are crucial to maintaining a healthy hormonal balance. Lentils also contain high levels of the polyamine spermidine, which may help sperm fertilize the egg.

Lentils and beans are also high in protein, which can help promote healthier ovulation. Studies show that when 5% of calories eaten come from vegetable protein rather than animal protein—in particular chicken and red meats—the risk of infertility due to anovulation falls by over 50%.

How to Eat It

Consider replacing one or two meat meals with lentil or bean-based meals. You can also try throwing some beans into your salad instead of cheese or meat.

If you choose a canned variety, check that it's free of BPA, a chemical that can negatively impact your estrogen levels.

8

Asparagus

green asparagus on a white plate

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Asparagus is a nutrient-packed superfood. It’s low calorie, will fill you up, and gives you a boost of fertility vital nutrients. In one cup serving, you'll get your full daily value of vitamin K, 60% of your daily value of folate, and over 20% of other essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and the B vitamin thiamin.

How to Eat It

Avoid canned asparagus that is full of salt. Reach for fresh or frozen. If you want to go canned, look for low sodium options.

9

Oysters

Woman being fed an oyster by a man

Eric Raptosh Photography/Getty Images

Oysters appear on just about every fertility food list. They are packed with fertility-boosting nutrients!

A serving size of six raw oysters contains only 139 calories, but all these important reproductive vitamins and minerals:

  • 408% of your daily recommended vitamin B-12
  • 188% of your daily recommended zinc
  • 187% of your daily recommended selenium
  • 43% of your daily recommended iron

How to Eat It

Many people feel intimidated by oyster preparation, but you don’t have to be. You can prepare and serve this dish at home.

The healthiest option is raw, but not everyone can stomach the idea of raw oysters.

10

Pomegranate

pomegranate with seeds

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Pomegranates have long been associated with fertility and birth due to their many seeds. This is not a scientific reason to indulge in pomegranates... but still an interesting one!

As for science, pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants which may improve sperm quality. In a 2014 study, 70 adult men who didn’t have healthy enough sperm to donate to a sperm bank tablets containing pomegranate fruit extract and powder of Galanga Root. After three months of treatment, After three months of treatment, sperm motility increased by 62%.

11

Walnuts

Pile of walnuts, with a split open walnut in the middle with heart shape

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Walnuts are rich in omega-3s and omega-6s. This is part of what led researchers to consider whether they might boost fertility. 

In a small study, 117 men were split into two groups: one would avoid eating tree nuts and another would eat 75 grams of walnuts every day. Before the experiment began and again 12 weeks later, the men's semen gave a semen sample.

After 12 weeks, the group that ate walnuts saw in improvement in sperm vitality, movement, and shape. They also saw fewer chromosomal abnormalities in their sperm samples after eating the walnuts. The control group experienced no changes.

How to Eat It

Consider replacing your afternoon snack with a serving of walnuts!

12

Egg Yolks

Close up of sunnyside up egg with black pepper

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Egg yolks supply almost all of the whole egg's iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-6, folate, and vitamin B-12. They also contain 100% of the egg's vitamin A.

Egg yolks from pasture-raised chickens are also extremely rich in fertility-boosting omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and vitamin K2.

Another good reason to eat eggs: they are an inexpensive source of lean protein, which has also been found to be good for fertility in men and women. Eggs also contain choline. Choline may reduce the risk of some birth defects. However, not all studies have not found this.

How to Get More in Your Diet

Some nutrition experts recommend throwing out the yellow and eating just the whites of the egg. Don’t do that! When you’re trying to boost fertility, you want the nutrients contained in the yolk.

If you’re trying to lose weight, aim to cut back on calories somewhere else.

13

Pineapple

Slices of pineapple with skin still on

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There’s a very common belief that eating pineapple core for 5 days following ovulation or embryo transfer (during IVF) will help with implantation. But there is not enough science to back this practice that up.

With that said, there are other reasons to enjoy pineapple when you’re trying to conceive. For one, pineapple is a great source of vitamin C. One cup will give you 46% of your daily recommended value. Low vitamin C levels have been associated with PCOS. 

Pineapples also contain bromelain, a natural enzyme that has an anti-inflammatory and anticoagulation (blood-thinning) effect. Bromelain encourages your immune system to move away from an inflammatory state. Inflammatory foods can impede your fertility, and chronic inflammation may actually encourage your body to suppress ovulation.

How to Eat It

This tropical fruit Pineapple is a low-calorie fruit that can satisfy your sweet tooth in a much healthier way than candy can. So why not enjoy it?

Choose the fresh pineapple whenever possible. Most of the bromelain in canned pineapple is destroyed due to the heat used in the canning process.

14

Wild-Caught Salmon

Raw salmon with seasonings

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Salmon is on just about every superfood list – fertility focused or not. And for good reason!

Salmon is rich in essential fatty acids and omega-3s, which have been shown to be beneficial to fertility in men and women. It is also a great source of selenium and vitamin D. Selenium is a vitamin essential for healthy sperm, and low vitamin D levels seem to be associated with poor fertility in men and women.

In fact, salmon is one of the best places to get your daily recommended value of vitamin D. Just 3 ounces of smoked salmon will give you 97% of the daily recommended value for vitamin D.

How to Eat It

You need to be careful about mercury contamination in fish when you’re trying to conceive and once you get pregnant. Be sure to invest in wild-caught salmon rather than farm-raised to avoid mercury contamination, antibiotics, and toxic food dyes.

15

Cinnamon

Cinnamon sticks alongside a pile of ground cinnamon

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Taking cinnamon supplements can help jumpstart irregular menstrual cycles in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of infertility. 

In a small but interesting study, women with PCOS reported nearly twice the number of menstrual periods while taking a daily cinnamon supplement than women given a placebo. And as you know: More periods mean more opportunities to conceive.

How to Eat It

Sprinkle cinnamon on your morning oatmeal, on top of your yogurt, or into your tea or coffee. The spice can also be taken in supplement form.

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