So you’re embarking on a fertility journey – hooray! You may know that it is very important to eat a nourishing diet when pregnant, but did you know that a health promoting diet is also important when looking to conceive? What we eat now will affect our egg (and sperm) health 3 months down the line, so it’s crucial to eat well BEFORE we even get pregnant. Today I’m going to talk you through my favourite fertility promoting foods – and they may surprise you!
One of the things I see most often in my practice is clients who are looking to have a baby making changes to their diet to eat healthier. And so they start eating a lot of smoothies, salads, kale etc. Whilst we all know that fruits and vegetables contain a lot of vitamins and minerals, what you may not know is that there are other foods which are actually even more important not only for hormonal health, but also fertility.
Did you know that in traditional cultures, couples would be fed a special fertility diet even before getting married, so that their bodies would be fully nourished and ready to conceive a healthy baby soon after marriage? Oftentimes their fertility diet would start months before marriage (and subsequent consummation of the marriage). That’s because it takes about 100 days for a woman’s egg to prepare for ovulation, and about 71 days for the sperm to mature.
So what sort of things do you think these couples were being fed? You may be surprised to hear that it was not green smoothies and copious amounts of salads 🙂 Traditional foods from around the world included: liver and organs, fish eggs, pastured eggs, walnuts, maca root, fresh figs, sweet potatoes and coconuts.
Let’s look at three of my favourite foods for fertility (and truth be told, hormonal health in general!):
A long lost food, liver (and other organ meats) was once prized and consumed over muscle meats (which were often fed to the dogs). And that’s for good reason, as organ meats are packed full of nutrition. Liver, for example, is a great source of bioavailable vitamin A, an essential vitamin for reproductive health, skin and vision. It also contains lots of b vitamins, which makes it a great food for energy levels as well as for fertility, as it contains folate and choline, both important nutrients for the baby’s neural development. Liver is also a fantastic source of iron, a mineral of which there is an increased demand in pregnancy. Other nutrients contained in liver are copper and vitamin D. I like to think of liver as nature’s multivitamin!
You may remember being served liver as a child, or your grandparents eating it once a week. Eating liver once a week is like taking nature’s multivitamin. I know that the taste and consistency may not be to everyone’s palate, so here are some ways to enjoy it.
- Blend some organic chicken livers and add them to a bolognese sauce or a chilli con carne. You will not even taste it (I promise!) and it will just give the dish a much deeper flavour.
- Eat is as a deliciously creamy liver pate’ on some buttered oatcakes or sourdough bread. Served with a side of grapes.
- If you’re feeling adventurous, gently fry some thinly sliced liver in lots of organic butter and onion until pink (overcooked liver has a much coarser texture) and serve with a side of artichoke hearts. I actually craved this dish throughout my pregnancy!
One of my clients recoiled at the idea of incorporating liver into her diet, but found that by blending it and adding it to her meat sauces she started to feel more energised throughout her day. She is now a liver convert and will eat it as a nursing mother, who needs all the energy she can get 🙂
Oh the humble egg. Such an understated perfect little food. I mean, think about it – an egg contains all the nutrients to turn a cell into a baby chicken! Packed full of nutrition, eggs also contain vitamin A, D, B vitamins and choline, but also selenium (an antioxidant important for thyroid function, healthy follicles and sperm development), calcium and zinc (important for the integrity of the gut lining as well as for sperm production).
Up until recently, many avoided eggs due to its cholesterol content, but it has now been shown that dietary cholesterol does not in fact affect our blood levels of cholesterol. Furthermore, did you know that we need cholesterol to make our sex hormones? So eat your eggs, and don’t you dare ditch the yolks!
Most of my clients love incorporating more eggs into their diet, as they are accessible and a beautifully versatile food. They can be boiled, poached, scrambled and eaten on some buttered sourdough bread for a quick and easy meal. Or turned into a tasty omelette with mushrooms and grated parmesan cheese. When hard boiled, they can be taken along for a quick and nutritious snack, or incorporated in other recipes such as pancakes, decadent chocolate mousses or custards. When choosing eggs, make sure you purchase pasture raised eggs for optimal nutrient density.
And while we’re talking about eggs, I thought I’d give a quick mention to fish eggs too. Fish roe was one of the traditional fertility foods to couples wanting to conceive, and for good reason – they contain vitamin D, B12, and omega fatty acids. They can be an acquired taste, but are delicious served as salmon roe on white rice, or as a taramasalata sauce made with smoked roe, garlic and olive oil.
Organic butter from cows grazing on grass contains so many nutrients it is also one of my favourite fertility foods, and let’s face, butter makes everything taste great! Adding butter on your cooked vegetables helps your body absorb the fat soluble vitamins contained in those foods. It also contains many antioxidants (such as vitamin E) which protect the body from free radical damage. High in vitamin A and D it is not only perfect for fertility but also for immune function. It protects the thyroid due to its iodine content, as well as fatty acids which protect the gastrointestinal tract.
Studies have shown that women consuming low fat dairy had more fertility issues than women consuming high fat dairy, so I always recommend my clients consume a good quality, high fat dairy source such as butter. Most are happy to have my blessing to do so!
Being a saturated fat, it is more heat stable than vegetable oils for cooking (and frankly tastes a lot better). Find an organic, grass fed source of butter and smother it on vegetables, a good quality sourdough bread, use it to scramble eggs or mushrooms, or add it to freshly popped popcorn for a delicious movie night.
But what about people with dairy issues? Most people who struggle with dairy usually do not have the same problem with butter, as it is mostly fat and contains almost no lactose. If it is still an issue for you, you may want to try ghee – a clarified butter with the milk solids removed – which is a delicious alternative and even more stable to cook with than butter.
So there you have it – my top three favourite fertility foods. Are you surprised? I hope this has given you some inspiration on how to include more nutrient dense foods into your diet to nourish your body and your hormonal health. If you’re ready to feel empowered and back in control of your fertility, click here to book a call and let’s chat about how some simple diet and lifestyle changes can help you flourish.
Excerpt from Weston A. Price’s 1939 classic: “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”:
“For the Indians living inside the Rocky Mountain Range in the far North of Canada, the successful nutrition for nine months of the year was largely limited to wild game, chiefly moose and caribou. During the summer months the Indians were able to use growing plants. During the winter some use was made of bark and buds of trees. I found the Indians putting great emphasis upon the eating of the organs of the animals, including the wall of parts of the digestive tract. Much of the muscle meat of the animals was fed to the dogs. It is important that skeletons are rarely found where large game animals have been slaughtered by the Indians of the North. The skeletal remains are found as piles of finely broken bone chips or splinters that have been cracked up to obtain as much as possible of the marrow and nutritive qualities of the bones. These Indians obtain their fat-soluble vitamins and also most of their minerals from the organs of the animals. An important part of the nutrition of the children consisted in various preparations of bone marrow, both as a substitute for milk and as a special dietary ration”.