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Fueling Fertility: Select Foods to Boost Pregnancy Chances

Jessica Joseph, RN, BSN, MHA
April 3, 2023
Fertility Boosting Foods: Salmon, Berries, Avocado, Walnuts, Broccoli, Olive Oil
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Nutrition for Fertility

Nutrition is often overlooked as a critical factor in promoting pregnancy outcomes. Dietary modification is a simple and cost-effective method to enhance fertility in both men and women. Proper nutrition is vital for getting pregnant since certain foods can boost fertility.  A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can positively impact fertility.  Maintaining a healthy body weight is important for fertility as well.  Both overweight and underweight individuals may experience difficulties conceiving.


According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, iron-rich foods can promote ovulation.  Vitamin C should also be added to your diet to absorb iron. Based on a Harvard study, the Academy suggests replacing animal protein with vegetarian protein, incorporating monounsaturated fats and complex (high fiber) carbohydrates.  In addition to these nutrients, the NIH recommends polyunsaturated fats and full-fat dairy.

Iron Rich Foods

  • Beans: black beans, chickpeas (hummus), lentils, pinto beans, split peas

  • Spinach

  • Sweet Potatoes

  • Broccoli

Vegetarian Protein

  • Tofu (Soy)

  • Tempeh

  • Lentils

  • Edamame

Monounsaturated Fats

  • Avocados

  • Olive oil

  • Almonds

Full Fat Dairy

  • Whole Milk

  • Yogurt

  • Kefir

Vitamin C Sources

  • Citrus: Lemons, Oranges, Grapefruit

  • Berries: Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries

  • Bell Peppers

Omega 3 (Polyunsaturated) Fats

  • Salmon

  • Walnuts

  • Flaxseeds

Complex Carbohydrates (high fiber)

  • Whole grain pasta

  • Whole wheat bread

  • Brown rice

Foods to Minimize

  • Refined carbs such as white bread, rice, pasta, and desserts

  • Fish that contains mercury

Organic vs. Non-Organic Foods for Fertility

When selecting fruits and vegetables, it is best to choose organic options.  Non-organic produce contains pesticides, considered endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that can adversely affect fertility.  For guidance on which fruits and vegetables to select organic options, refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.  For more information on EDCs, refer to Guided Fertility's article Environmental Considerations: EDCs and Fertility. 

Supplements for Fertility

Fertility nutritionists recommend a food-first approach to getting vital nutrients versus taking supplements. However, some nutrients are challenging to obtain via food alone.  Adding specific nutrients can enhance your chances of becoming pregnant. American Pregnancy Association recommends starting a good prenatal vitamin (PNV) three months to 1 year before getting pregnant. Essential nutrients for your PNV are folate, choline, DHA, iron, and Vitamins A, E, D, B6 & B12.  Some over-the-counter PNV contains these vital nutrients.  However, your doctor can also prescribe a PNV if you have difficulty finding one with adequate nutrition.


According to the Fertility Nutritionist, while picking a prenatal vitamin, it is crucial to follow specific criteria:


  1. Make sure your PNV has methylfolate instead of folic acid since it’s the absorbable form of the nutrient.

  2. Look for 3rd third-party verification seal on the bottle that ensures the product’s purity, strength, and accuracy.

  3. Get Vitamin D levels checked, as some women are deficient and may need to take additional Vitamin D supplements, along with their PNV, based on the results of their tests.



Dietary Guidelines for Men’s Fertility

Men should also eat organic fruits & vegetables and high-DHA foods. Foods high in antioxidants (berries, broccoli, spinach, kale, beans) can promote male fertility. Organic is preferable since they tend to be pesticide-free.  DHA-rich foods low in mercury, such as salmon and walnuts, can also improve fertility.


Men should also consider taking a fertility supplement if they meet the following criteria:

  • Over the age of 30 and trying to conceive

  • Trying for over six months

  • Supported by a fertility clinic


If considering a men’s supplement, below are key ingredients that improve sperm parameters:

  • Shilajit, CoQ10, and Folate (Fertility booster)

  • ​ Vitamin C, zinc, and N-acetyl-L-cysteine ​ (improves sperm motility)

  • Vitamin B12 and L-Taurine (promotes optimal sperm count)

  • Vitamin D and Vitamin E (optimizes sperm and egg fusion)

  • Essential nutrients for DNA defense:

    • Trans-Resveratrol

    • L-Carnitine

  • Vitamins A, C, and E, Zinc, Selenium, and DHA (antioxidants that improve sperm health)



Foods to Limit for Fertility

Limiting the consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks, and trans fats may improve fertility outcomes.  High consumption of sugary drinks like soda, fruit juices, and sweetened beverages has been associated with reduced fertility.  Opt for water, herbal tea, or unsweetened beverages instead. 


Trans fats are unhealthy fats in fried foods, baked goods, and processed snacks.  They can increase inflammation and insulin resistance, potentially affecting fertility.  Check food labels for “partially hydrogenated oils” to avoid trans fats.  Caffeine and alcohol intake should be moderated, as excessive consumption may negatively affect fertility.  Adequate hydration is essential for overall health and fertility. 


While moderate caffeine intake is considered safe, excessive consumption may affect fertility.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends one twelve-ounce coffee daily or 200 mg of caffeine.


It is recommended to limit alcohol consumption when trying to conceive.  Excessive alcohol intake can disrupt hormone balance and negatively impact fertility. 



Fertility Nutritionists

Working with a fertility nutritionist makes an immense difference in pregnancy success.  Fertility nutritionists will consider dietary restrictions, food allergies, weight gain/loss goals, and overall lifestyle.  Nutrient optimization is crucial for fertility, and nutritionists are trained to recognize deficiencies or imbalances affecting fertility. Fertility nutritionists can:


  • Order tests to evaluate if you have any nutritional deficiencies, such as Vitamin D deficiency  

  • Manage conditions such as PCOS or endometriosis by providing specialized dietary recommendations

  • Recommend food and dietary strategies that promote hormonal equilibrium, which regulates menstrual cycles and improves ovulation

  • Assess your diet, lifestyle, and medical history to develop a nutrition plan supporting optimal fertility  

  • Suggest foods that reduce inflammation, stabilize blood sugar, and support reproductive health


Working with a fertility nutritionist will ensure you will have ongoing support and accountability.  They can monitor your progress, adjust your nutrition plan as needed, and provide motivation while trying to conceive. 



Pregnancy Nutrition

Once pregnant, the American Pregnancy Association has good diet, health, and lifestyle guidelines.  It’s important to remember that nutrition is just one aspect of fertility, and individual factors can vary.  Seeking guidance from medical professionals is crucial for comprehensive support.


Panth N, Gavarkovs A, Tamez M, Mattei J. The Influence of Diet on Fertility and the Implications for Public Health Nutrition in the United States. Front Public Health. 2018 Jul 31;6:211. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2018.00211. PMID: 30109221; PMCID: PMC6079277.

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