Some women choose to give up alcohol and other substances in order to help with conception, but did you know that there are certain foods that increase fertility? While the idea of “fertility foods” might feel a little foreign, the way you nourish your body matters when you’re trying to conceive. “Many women don’t realize that lifestyle, stress, and food can play a significant role in infertility,” says Jayne Williams, a certified integrative health and nutrition expert. “Eating a diet that ‘supports’ fertility includes whole foods, a healthy balance of lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber that can help boost your gut microbe, regulate hormones, and lower stress levels—all three are important to prep your body for pregnancy.”
When you’re eating for reproductive health, foods that can help lower stress hormones and increase blood flow to the uterus are the ticket, says Lindsey Becker, a fertility chef, certified health coach, and founder of Farm Cut. From salmon and walnuts, “which have been shown to reduce surges of stress hormones,” to beetroots, “which are rich in resveratrol and nitrates and are known to improve blood flow to the uterus to help with embryo implantation,” she says, here are 19 foods that increase fertility and your chances of getting pregnant.
You probably already love your guac, amirite? Turns out, avocados are a great fertility food. “They are a fantastic source of vitamin E, which studies have shown can be beneficial in improving the lining of the uterus,” says Becker.
Williams agrees. “Avocados are one of my go-to favorites for healthy fat,” she says. “They also happen to be high in potassium, folate, and vitamin K, which helps your body to properly absorb other vitamins.”
One way to enjoy your avocado is to have avocado toast topped with pomegranate seeds for added antioxidants, Becker recommends. Another great treat is to simply add a quarter of an avocado to your daily smoothie—it makes it creamier and adds a certain richness that will make your smoothie taste more like a milkshake. (Almost.) Plus, don’t forget the guacamole, Williams says, which can be made simply with jalapeños, cilantro, and onion.
2. Sunflower seeds
Male fertility can get a boost from sunflower seeds, which are great for improving sperm motility and sperm count. It’s easy to get more in your diet—sprinkle sunflower seeds on salads or try a sunflower seed butter slathered on toast.
3. Dark leafy greens
We should all be having dark green vegetables daily, but they’re especially important when you’re trying to get pregnant. Kale, spinach, and Swiss chard contain essential prenatal nutrients like calcium, iron, and folate (which also helps protect against birth defects), not to mention tons of vital daily dietary fiber, says Williams.
“There are endless ways to include your greens into your fertility diet,” Williams says. “From eating them raw in salads, sautéed, blanched, and steamed.” Kale can also be roasted to make kale chips, while spinach can be added to smoothies since it has a very mild flavor. “Just a small handful will do,” she says.
Beets and their greens are an underestimated vegetable if I ever saw one. “Beetroots are known to improve blood flow to the uterus to help with embryo implantation,” explains Becker. “Eating a diet rich in beets during IVF treatment is especially helpful.” That’s why they should definitely be added to your fertility foods list, even if you’re not going through IVF.
They’re pretty simple to prepare too. All you need to do is treat them like potatoes: Wash and scrub them clean, and then toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Wrap a whole one in tin foil and roast at 400℉ for about an hour, until tender, or shorten your time by chopping them into small pieces. Then, once they’re cooked, rub the skin off with your thumbs (wearing gloves because, otherwise, your hands will end up pink for hours) and toss with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil for a scrumptious salad. You can also add some sweet potatoes to this salad for an extra boost.
As for their greens? Cook them the way you would Swiss chard or collard greens. They’re especially great sautéed, then topped with your ready-made beet chunks.
5. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are “rich in beta-carotene, which is known to help boost the production of the hormone progesterone,” says Becker.
She’s an especially big fan of using sweet potato rounds in place of bread. Here’s how: Cut the sweet potato into quarter-inch rounds, toss with salt and olive oil, and roast for 20 minutes. Then top it with almond butter and berries for a sweet treat or smashed avocado for “a new kind of avocado toast,” she recommends. If you’re craving a burger, try them as replacement “buns.”
When it comes to fertility foods, berries are one of the easiest to get more of. Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are “rich in antioxidants like both folate and zinc,” says Williams. That’s important for both you and your partner. “Antioxidants deactivate free radicals in your body, which can damage both sperm and egg cells,” she explains. (Just make sure you opt for organic, she says, since these fruits can be high in pesticides as well.)
I like to simply snack on berries or put them on top of a yogurt parfait or oatmeal, as Williams recommends. You can also include them in a healthy smoothie to start your morning (with spinach, perhaps?). Just remember to pair them with a healthy fat and protein for a balanced plate, Williams says.
Salmon is a great food to have if you’re hoping to increase your fertility, thanks to it being a fantastic source of omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, which is important for babies’ brain and eye development, according to Williams. Becker also adds that it’s low in mercury (which you definitely want to avoid) and is anti-inflammatory.
The one caveat? “Make sure you opt for ‘wild’ salmon, to keep the mercury count as low as possible,” says Williams. With that said, salmon is best when it’s prepared simply. Just roast it with your favorite spices and a bit of healthy avocado or cold-pressed avocado oil. Then squeeze some lemon on it for extra benefits, Williams recommends.
Another fish high in brain-boosting omega-3s that you should add to your grocery shopping list is sardines. “Research has shown that optimal levels of omega-3s are important in the management of female fertility,” says Becker.
As for how to get them? That might be a bit tougher than your good ol’ salmon. “Fresh sardines are hard to find, but I always try to order them simply grilled at my favorite Mediterranean restaurants,” Becker says. “You can also find canned wild sardines at the store. Mix them with a little paleo mayo, lemon juice, and parsley, and enjoy them with your favorite gluten-free toast.”
If you want to have a fertility-friendly snack, look no further than walnuts. According to Becker, they’re another excellent source of omega-3 fats and vitamin E (which is also great for endometrial health), as well as B vitamins and protein. Williams agrees: “These powerhouse nuts are high in fiber and one of the only vegetarian foods that contain healthy omega-3s,” she says. “Not to mention magnesium, which helps increase progesterone and is known to decrease morning sickness.”
Williams recommends adding a handful of raw or dehydrated walnuts to your daily diet in order to get that fertility boost. She also says they’re great on top of roasted veggies (like that beet-and-sweet potato salad you made), parfaits, and salads. As for Becker, she prefers them as part of a fertility-boosting trail mix that also includes almonds, pumpkin seeds, and dried goji berries.
10. Greek yogurt
If you’re hoping for a fertility-boosting food that you can have first thing in the morning, then why not go with Greek yogurt? “It contains great calcium and vitamin D, which helps the follicles of your ovaries mature and promotes strong bones,” says Williams. “One serving is all you need to get these essential vitamins.” She suggests opting for the full-fat “plain” (as in, unsweetened) variety so that you can keep the sugar out of it.
If you make a Greek yogurt parfait, include berries, a tablespoon of unsweetened nut butter, and a few walnuts on top for the full effect.
As an extra-flavorful topper, Becker reaches for pomegranates. “Antioxidant-rich pomegranates are also rich in many nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and several other vitamins and minerals that aid in fertility,” she says.
It’s really easy to enjoy them too. Simply sprinkle them onto your oatmeal or Greek yogurt in the morning, or enjoy them plain, she says. You can also enjoy them on top of that salmon and spinach salad.
Eggs are a great source of protein, and they can also help boost your fertility. “Eggs are rich in choline, which studies have shown can have significant positive effects on fetal development,” says Becker.
The easiest way to have them is first thing in the morning. “Supercharge your breakfast with a veggie-packed omelet or an egg baked inside of half an avocado,” Becker recommends. Just make sure you avoid the egg-white omelet option and never skip the yolk, she says, since that’s “where all of the good nutrients are.”
13. Bee pollen
Bee pollen is another fertility food that’s great for reproductive health in both men and women. “Bee pollen has shown promise to promote sperm quantity and help boost fertility in women,” says Williams. “But make sure you get your bee pollen from a reputable source to ensure efficiency.”
While you can take it on its own, Williams says, it can also be added to smoothies “and used as a topping to your favorite parfait and breakfast bowl.” So get out your Greek yogurt and add the bee pollen.
Another food to add to your fertility diet is maca. “Superfoods like Peruvian maca may even boost sperm count,” says Williams.
This one might be best for your partner for that reason, but it certainly can’t help to incorporate some into both of your diets. A great way to do it is by adding it to your healthy smoothie for breakfast, along with avocado, spinach and maybe even a bit of Greek yogurt and bee pollen. Since it has a slightly bitter nature, Williams says, this is a great way to have your maca and eat it too.
Folic acid is critical for women who are trying to get pregnant and asparagus is full of it: One cup of asparagus gets you more than half of your daily recommended dose of folic acid, plus all your daily vitamin K. Asparagus also contains glutathione, an antioxidant which improves egg quality. So stock up on asparagus—and opt for fresh or frozen, if possible, since canned asparagus has a lot of sodium.
Watermelon is another solid source of glutathione. It’s also known to help alleviate morning sickness, heartburn, swelling, and even third-trimester cramps, so it’s a good thing to keep on your plate even after you get pregnant. Watermelon also helps male fertility, since it contains lycopen—an antioxidant that helps sperm motility.
Contrary to popular belief, liver is not the “toxic organ”; rather, it is the “detoxifier.” The liver helps remove impurities from one’s system, but it does not hold on to those impurities. It can help women get pregnant because it’s an amazing source of folate (the active form of folic acid), all your B vitamins, choline, and loads of antioxidants like inositol (which has been shown to improve egg quality in women undergoing in vitro fertilization procedures). Add three ounces of liver to your diet per week, or if you can’t imagine eating liver, you can take it as a supplement in a pill form.
18. Cod liver oil
Cod liver oil is technically an oil from fish, but it’s different from regular old fish oil. Both fish oil and cod liver oil are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids; however, cod liver oil also contains vitamins A and D, which are fat soluble vitamins important to fertility and conception. If you’re suffering from a vitamin D deficiency (and many people are), reach for cod liver oil instead of fish oil. You can take cod liver oil in capsule or liquid form daily—and be sure to take an amount that delivers 2,000 IUs of vitamin D.
An oldie but a goodie, lentils are packed with folic acid and another great way to keep fatigue at bay. Lentils may also be helpful in boosting male fertility: they contain polyamine spermidine, a compound that may help sperm fertilize an egg. The benefits of eating lentils extend beyond conception—folic acid helps form the neural tube (which functions as the early brain and spine during pregnancy). To ensure your body is producing new cells that will be crucial to a healthy pregnancy, the CDC recommends women take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. Small but mighty, these little legumes also contain high levels of fiber, potassium, and protein.
Now that you know the foods that increase your fertility, check out the foods you should avoid if you’re trying to get pregnant.
Originally Appeared on Glamour