Fertility Foods to Boost Your Odds of Conception

Fertility and diet are hot topics—and fertility-related foods 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 and well-balanced diet can certainly help support overall health, including reproductive health, in both men and women.

It's important to note that food choices do not play a role in certain serious conditions that cause infertility in women and men. If, for example, the fallopian tubes are blocked, preventing sperm from reaching an egg, dietary changes won't remove the blockage and open the tubes.

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

1

Sunflower Seeds

Close-Up Of Sunflower Seeds In Bowl Over White Background
Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images

Roasted, unsalted sunflower seed kernels are rich in vitamin E, an essential nutrient shown to boost sperm count and sperm motility in some people. In addition, sunflower seeds are jam-packed with folate and selenium, which are important for both male and female fertility. Sunflower seeds are also a good source of omega-6 fatty acids and contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

How to Eat It

Sunflower seeds can make a great snack on their own, but you can also easily incorporate them into your favorite meals. Try sprinkling sunflower seeds on your salad, using them in trail mix, or substituting sunflower seed butter for peanut butter. You can also add a couple of tablespoons of sunflower seed butter into a smoothie, or stir it into yogurt, to add extra flavor as well as a little more nutrition.

2

Citrus Fruits

Directly above shot of sliced grapefruit on white background
Halfdark / Getty Images

Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits some of the best sources for vitamin C. Grapefruits and oranges contain the polyamine putrescine, which some animal research has associated with the potential to improve egg and semen health.

How to Eat It

Enjoy orange slices on their own or try incorporating citrus juice into your smoothies. Sliced grapefruit also makes a great addition to fresh salads.

Caution: Grapefruit juice can interact with some medications in very dangerous ways. If you’re taking any kind of medication, speak to your doctor about whether grapefruit juice is safe for you.

3

Mature Cheeses

Different grated parmesan in glass bowls
Westend61 / Getty Images

Mature cheeses, like aged 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 found in grapefruit.)

How to Eat It

Sprinkle some cheese on just about anything or have a few pieces along with some nuts or fruit as an afternoon snack. Just be mindful of portion sizes when adding cheese to your diet as a small amount packs in a lot of calories and saturated fat. Enjoy in moderation.

4

Full-Fat Dairy

yogurt in bowl on wooden table. healthy eating
wilatlak villette / Getty Images

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, including vitamins A, E, D, K, and K2.

A Harvard study found that women who ate full-fat dairy products were less likely to experience ovulation problems compared to 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 cheeses.

How to Eat It

If you already consume dairy, the easiest way to get full-fat dairy into your diet is to switch to whole-fat products such as swapping skim milk with whole milk and low-fat yogurt with full-fat yogurt.

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

5

Liver

Baked chicken liver with onion on a plate
derketta / Getty Images

Liver, particularly cow's liver, 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 natural 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.

How to Eat It

You can certainly go the traditional route with a simple liver and onions recipe, but if you're new to liver, consider adding it to other meat-based favorites like meatloaf, shepherd's pie, or even meatballs.

6

Cooked Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes on the vine roasted with herbs and balsamic vinegar. Top view.
Geshas / Getty Images

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 4mg to 8mg 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, 1 cup of cooked tomatoes contains almost twice as much lycopene as 1 cup of raw tomatoes. So when you can, opt for the cooked tomato recipes like tomato-based soups and stews, tomato sauces, and even just roasted tomatoes.

7

Beans and Lentils

Various legumes in bowls: chickpeas, cannellini beans, quail beans, black beans, yellow lentils, red lentils, black lentils
Westend61 / Getty Images

Beans and lentils are an excellent source of fiber and folate, 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 the cans are free of BPA, a chemical that can negatively impact estrogen levels in women.

8

Asparagus

Asparagus on a Wooden Chopping Board, Top View, Close Up on White Background. Cooking, Vegetarian, Healthy Eating
Nature, food, landscape, travel / Getty Images

Asparagus is a nutrient-packed superfood. It’s low in calories, will fill you up, and gives you a boost of fertility vital nutrients. In 1 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

When possible, reach for fresh or frozen asparagus. Enjoy it as a vegetable side (it's delicious roasted or grilled) or added to recipes like frittatas or stir-fries. Canned asparagus, while convenient, is often full of added sodium. If you go for a canned or jarred product, look for low sodium options and rinse asparagus under running water before using.

9

Oysters

Raw Oyster Platter
Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

Oysters appear on just about every fertility food list. They are packed with fertility-boosting nutrients. A serving of six raw oysters contains only 139 calories, but all these important reproductive vitamins and minerals:

  • 408% of your daily recommended vitamin B12
  • 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 you can also enjoy them baked.

10

Pomegranate

Pomegranate Seeds in a white bowl
Vlad Fishman / Getty Images

Pomegranates have long been associated with fertility and birth due to their many seeds. While not a scientific reason to indulge in pomegranates, it's certainly 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, sperm motility increased by 62%.

How to Eat It

Pomegranate seeds make for a delicious, healthy snack on their own, but also make for a great topping for yogurt, oatmeal, and even salads and quinoa bowls.

11

Walnuts

Assorted dried fruits
La Bicicleta Vermella / Getty Images

Walnuts are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This is part of what led researchers to consider whether they might support 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 provided a semen sample.

After 12 weeks, the group who 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

A small handful of walnuts makes for a great afternoon snack. Or you can try adding walnuts to chicken salad, oatmeal, or even a little ice cream for a nutritious crunch.

12

Egg Yolks

Toasted bread with avocado and hard boiled egg
Winslow Productions / Getty Images

Egg yolks supply almost all of the egg's iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12. 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 both men and women. Eggs also contain choline, which may reduce the risk of some birth defects. However, not all studies have not found this benefit.

How to Eat It

In the past, egg yolks had a bad rap mainly due to concerns about dietary cholesterol. But more recently, nutrition experts have embraced the yolk for its nutrient density and balance of healthy protein and fat. Eggs are extremely versatile. Whether enjoying hard-boiled, scrambled, poached, or fried, embrace the whole egg—yolk included.

13

Pineapple

Sliced Pineapple
Jennifer A Smith / Getty Images

There’s a very common belief that eating pineapple core for five days following ovulation or embryo transfer (during IVF) will help with implantation. 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. A 1-cup serving will give you 46% of your daily recommended value. Low vitamin C levels have been associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (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 the body to suppress ovulation.

How to Eat It

This tropical fruit can satisfy your sweet tooth naturally. Choose fresh pineapple whenever possible as most of the bromelain in canned pineapple is destroyed due to the heat used in the canning process. Eat it alone or added to salsa or even grilled.

14

Wild-Caught Salmon

Grilled salmon steak garnished with green asparagus, lemon and tomatoes
AlexRaths / Getty Images

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 appear 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 levels in fish when you’re trying to conceive and during pregnancy. Invest in wild-caught salmon rather than farm-raised, when possible, to avoid mercury contamination, antibiotics, and toxic food dyes.

15

Cinnamon

Finely ground cinnamon in white ceramic bowl isolated on white wood background from above. Cinnamon sticks.
etienne voss / Getty Images

Taking cinnamon supplements can help jumpstart irregular menstrual cycles in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of female 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 ovulatory regular cycles 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, but be sure to consult your doctor before starting a new supplement.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Salas-Huetos A, Bulló M, Salas-Salvadó J. Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: A systematic review of observational studies. Hum Reprod Update. 2017;23(4):371-389. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmx006

  2. Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dried. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2020.

  3. Lefèvre PL, Palin MF, Murphy BD. Polyamines on the reproductive landscape. Endocr Rev. 2011;32(5):694-712. doi:10.1210/er.2011-0012.

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Grapefruit juice and some drugs don't mix. Updated July 18, 2017.

  5. Lefèvre PL, Palin MF, Murphy BD. Polyamines on the reproductive landscape. Endocr Rev. 2011;32(5):694-712. doi:10.1210/er.2011-0012.

  6. Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner B, Willett WC. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility. Hum Reprod. 2007;22(5):1340-1347. doi:10.1093/humrep/dem019

  7. Durairajanayagam D, Agarwal A, Ong C, Prashast P. Lycopene and male infertility. Asian J Androl. 2014;16(3):420-425. doi:10.4103/1008-682X.126384

  8. Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. Protein intake and ovulatory infertility. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008;198(2):210.e1-e7. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2007.06.057

  9. Fedder MDK, Jakobsen HB, Giversen I, Christensen LP, Parner ET, Fedder J. An extract of pomegranate fruit and galangal rhizome increases the numbers of motile sperm: A prospective, randomised, controlled, double-blinded trial. PLoS One. 2014;9(9):e108532. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0108532

  10. Robbins WA, Xun L, Fitzgerald LZ, Esguerra S, Henning SM, Carpenter CL. Walnuts improve semen quality in men consuming a western-style diet: Randomized control dietary intervention trial. Biol Reprod. 2012;87(4):101. doi:10.1095/biolreprod.112.101634

  11. Mills JL, Fan R, Brody LC, et al. Maternal choline concentrations during pregnancy and choline-related genetic variants as risk factors for neural tube defects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(4):1069-1074. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.079319

  12. Wang H, Ruan X, Li Y, Cheng J, Mueck AO. Oxidative stress indicators in Chinese women with PCOS and correlation with features of metabolic syndrome and dependency on lipid patterns. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2019;300(5):1413-1421. doi:10.1007/s00404-019-05305-7

  13. Tartagni M, Matteo M, Baldini D, et al. Males with low serum levels of vitamin D have lower pregnancy rates when ovulation induction and timed intercourse are used as a treatment for infertile couples: Results from a pilot study. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2015;13:127. doi:10.1186/s12958-015-0126-9

  14. Gebhardt SE, Thomas RG. Nutritive Value of Foods. Beltsville, MD: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2002.

  15. Kort DH, Lobo RA. Preliminary evidence that cinnamon improves menstrual cyclicity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A randomized controlled trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014;211(5):487.e1-6. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2014.05.009