Fertility Foods to Boost Your Odds of Conception

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

Well, sort of... but not really.

Here’s the thing: your overall diet does matter. Researchers have found that unhealthy eating habits can harm fertility. There’s even stronger evidence that your weight impacts your fertility. (Both being under or overweight can cause infertility.)

Will a particular food “cure” your infertility? No. That’s not going to happen. But that shouldn’t stop you from considering the so-called fertility superfoods to make sure you are getting proper nutrition to support your fertility.

Here’s why: Certain nutrients play a vital role in the reproductive system – and what we eat is an important way to get those nutrients.

Eating nutrient-rich foods is usually safer than concentrated supplements. The exception to this is with folic acid – most doctors recommend taking a folic acid supplement when you’re trying to conceive.

Since many fertility superfoods contain nutrients that are important to fertility health, that’s a good enough reason to add them to your diet.

Some research has connected particular foods to fertility health. Fertility foods won’t cure your infertility but there have been studies looking at what people eat (and don’t eat) and how it relates to fertility.

Overall good nutrition leads to good health. Good overall health can (sometimes) protect your fertility.

Now, if you’re eating burgers and french fries all day, and then throwing in some grapefruit juice to “counteract” the burger and fries… that’s not going to help. (Sorry.)

On the other hand, if you try to eat as many nutrient-rich foods as possible (and those would be superfoods), you may very well protect or even improve your fertility (in some cases). Especially if the healthy foods replace the unhealthy aspects of your diet, and especially if replacing the unhealthy foods helps you maintain or get to a healthy weight.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s check out 15 fertility foods.

1

Sunflower Seeds and Sunflower Seed Butter for Fertility

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

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Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seed kernels roasted without salt may be beneficial. Not into sunflower seeds? Consider some sunflower seed butter.

Why It May Boost Fertility

Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E. Supplementation with vitamin E has been shown to boost male fertility. Specifically, it’s been shown to boost sperm motility, improve sperm counts, and improve DNA fragmentation.

Sunflowers are also a great source of many other fertility friendly nutrients. One ounce will give you:

  • 49% of the recommended daily value of vitamin E
  • 16% of your daily folate needs
  • 31% of your daily recommended value of selenium
  • 10% of your daily recommended value of zinc

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 TBS of sunflower seed butter into a smoothie as a source of protein.
2

Fresh Grapefruit and Orange Juice for Fertility

Slices of pink grapefruit

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Grapefruit and Orange Juice

Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and orange juice may help protect fertility.

Why It May Boost Fertility

Grapefruit juice and orange juice are very high in the polyamine putrescine, which may improve semen health. Putrescine may also improve egg health. In one study, older female rats were given water rich in putrescine in the time just before and up to ovulation

The rate of chromosomal defects in the ovulated eggs decreased by more than 50%. It may be that putrescine helps both egg and sperm cells maintain their chromosomal integrity.

The boost in vitamin C from these juices may also help. Low vitamin C levels may negatively affect female hormonal balance.

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

Eat Mature Cheeses for Fertility

Parmesan crisps with cherry tomatoes, basil, and sea salt

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Mature Cheese

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

Why It May Boost Fertility

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 Yogurt and Ice Cream for Fertility

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

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Full-Fat Dairy

Full-fat dairy products, like whole milk, full-fat yogurt, ice cream, cream cheese, and other cheese, may prime your body for ovulation.

Why It May Boost Fertility

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

Eat More Cow Liver for a Fertility Boost

Raw beef liver over gray background viewed from above

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Liver

Liver, particularly from cow, is loaded with fertility-boosting nutrients. (Other organ meats may have similar health benefits.)

Why It May Boost Fertility

Cow liver is high in many nutrients that are vital to reproductive health.

One serving of cow liver (68 grams) contains:

  • 431% of the daily value of vitamin A
  • 800% of the recommended value of vitamin B12
  • 137% of your daily value of riboflavin, another important B vitamin
  • 43% of your daily value of folate (the naturally occurring form of folic acid)
  • 35% of your daily value of selenium
  • 290 mg of choline (Choline may reduce the risk of birth defects.)
  • 24% of your daily value of zinc, a mineral important for semen health
  • Naturally high in coenzyme Q10, which may boost egg quality and sperm motility
6

Cooked Tomatoes for Fertility

Bowl of tomato soup next to cherry tomatoes on the vine

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Cooked Tomatoes

Cooked tomatoes, like you might have in tomato sauce or tomato soup, may augment your fertility.

Why It May Boost Fertility

Cooked tomatoes are high in the nutrient lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.

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

Lentils and Beans for Fertility

A variety of different beans and legumes

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Lentils and Beans

Lentils and beans may aid fertility. (All kinds of beans but especially black beans.)

Why It May Boost Fertility

Lentils contain high levels of the polyamine spermidine, which may help sperm fertilize the egg.

Interestingly, research has found that spermidine levels are markedly lower in the seminal ejaculate of men experiencing low sperm counts when compared to men with healthier semen.

Lentils and beans are also a good source of folate. Folate (or folic acid) is a very important nutrient for conception and healthy embryos.

Beans and lentils are also a good source of fiber. Getting enough fiber in your diet is key to a healthy hormonal balance.

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.

8

Asparagus for Fertility

green asparagus on a white plate

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Asparagus

Cooked asparagus contains tons of key nutrients.

Why It May Boost Fertility

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

One cup of boiled asparagus will get you:

  • Just over 60% of your daily value of folate
  • Your full daily value of vitamin K
  • 8% of your daily zinc and 16% of your daily recommended amount of selenium, both important for male fertility
  • 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 for Fertility

Woman being fed an oyster by a man

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Oysters

Oysters, known as an aphrodisiac, may also help with fertility.

Why It May Boost Fertility

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

A serving size of 6 raw oysters contains only 139 calories, but all these important reproductive vitamins and minerals:

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

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 for Fertility

pomegranate with seeds

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Pomegranate Seeds

Pomegranate seeds and juice, most especially the juice, are loaded with beneficial nutrients.

Why It May Boost Fertility

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, pomegranate is high in antioxidants, which may boost male fertility.​ Most research on pomegranates and fertility has taken place in rats. Studies have found that pomegranate juice and pomegranate extract may improve sperm concentration and motility after several weeks.

One study has looked at the effect on humans.​ Seventy adult men who didn’t have healthy enough sperm to donate to a sperm bank – but were not suffering from low sperm count – took tablets containing pomegranate fruit extract and powder of Galanga Root. After three months of treatment, sperm motility improved by 60%.

11

Walnuts for Fertility

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

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Walnuts

Walnuts contain key nutrients your body needs.

Why It May Boost Fertility

Healthy fats are an important part of overall health but also healthy reproductive health.

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 but interesting study, 117 men were randomly assigned to one of two groups. 

In the control group, men were told to continue their normal diet but avoid all tree nuts. In the experimental group, the men were told to continue with their normal diets but also eat a premeasured package of walnuts each day.

Each package contained 75 grams of whole shelled walnuts. That’s about half a cup. The walnut-eating men experienced improvements in semen health. In particular, sperm vitality, motility, and morphology were enhanced.

How to Eat It

Consider replacing your afternoon snack with a serving of walnuts!

12

Eggs for Fertility

Close up of sunnyside up egg with black pepper

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Egg Yolks

Eggs, most especially the yolk, may benefit conception.

Why It May Boost Fertility

Eggs are a good source of B-vitamins, which are important for fertility. Omega-3 fats are important for fertility as well, and you can get a boost from the omega-enriched eggs. They cost a little extra but are well worth it if you don’t eat much fish.

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 for Fertility

Slices of pineapple with skin still on

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Pineapple

Legend has it that this sweet, tropical yellow fruit boosts fertility—however, research does not back this up.

Why It May Boost Fertility

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’s absolutely no science to back this practice that up.

With that said, there are other good reasons to enjoy pineapple when you’re trying to conceive. For one, it’s a good source of vitamin C. One cup will give you 46% of your daily recommended value. Low vitamin C levels have been associated with PCOS. Vitamin C may also help boost male fertility. 

One study found that supplementation with vitamin C helped boost sperm quality in heavy smokers. (Though if you’re smoking, a much better plan to boost your fertility is to quit smoking. Sometimes the obvious just has to be said...)

Pineapples contain bromelain, a natural enzyme that may have an anti-inflammatory effect. But there’s currently no research to suggest this can improve fertility.

How to Eat It

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?

14

Salmon for Fertility

Raw salmon with seasonings

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Salmon

Wild-caught salmon – yes, wild-caught, not farmed. It may be worth spending the extra money for the healthiest variety.

Why It May Boost Fertility

Salmon is on just about every superfood list – fertility focused or not. We all need more fish in our diets. Wild-caught salmon is pretty much a perfect pick.

You need to be careful about mercury contamination in fish when you’re trying to conceive and once you get pregnant. But wild-caught salmon is on the low end when it comes to toxins.

Salmon is rich in essential fatty acids and omega-3s, which has been shown to be beneficial to fertility in men and women. It’s also a must-have nutrient during pregnancy for healthy fetal growth. So you might as well add it to your menu now, you’ll be eating it for a while!

Other important reproductive nutrients found in salmon are vitamin D and selenium. Selenium has been shown to be important for semen health, and low vitamin D levels seem to be associated with poor fertility in men and women.

In fact, salmon is one of the very best food sources of vitamin D. Just three ounces of smoked salmon will give you 97% of the daily recommended value for vitamin D.

How to Eat It

There are so many yummy and healthy ways to prepare salmon. Aim to make fish a regular part of your weekly meal plans.

15

Cinnamon for Fertility

Cinnamon sticks alongside a pile of ground cinnamon

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Cinnamon

Cinnamon, the spice, as in cinnamon toast, may aid in fertility.

Why It May Boost Fertility

Insulin resistance is associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of infertility in women. Cinnamon supplementation has been shown in a number of studies to improve the health of diabetics.

In one randomized controlled clinical trial, cinnamon was found to reduce glucose levels, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol (that’s the “bad” kind), and total cholesterol in patients with diabetes. This led to researchers wondering if cinnamon could be good for fertility.

In a small but interesting study, 45 women with PCOS were either told to take a cinnamon supplement or a placebo for six months. The women who got the cinnamon showed improved ovulation and menstrual regularity, while those who got the placebo showed no improvements.

How to Eat It

Sprinkle cinnamon on your morning oatmeal, on top of your yogurt, or into your tea or coffee.

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Article Sources
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