Think of your diet as your body’s fuel source, providing key vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and proteins that your cells and organs need to function and stay healthy. These nutrients can help your body get rid of harmful toxins, safeguard your DNA and improve blood flow so that you can spread these goods around. All of this helps protect eggs (and sperm!), and improves the health of the reproductive organs. Good blood flow (plus plenty of post-ovulation progesterone) also supports a thick and healthy uterine lining so your embryo has a nice spot to land and sink into.
So what foods should you eat when trying to get pregnant? For a fertility diet that supports egg health, ovulation and implantation, you’ll want to munch on healthy fats, protective proteins, antioxidants and blood flow–boosting beets. (P.S. Men and people with sperm can also benefit from these nutrient-packed foods to support male fertility.)
1. Omega-3 fatty acids
Your best and healthiest fats for fertility are mono- and polyunsaturated fats (MUFAs and PUFAs, respectively). The latter includes Omega-3s, which are found in marine sources such as fish (sardines, salmon, anchovies, mackerel) and algae. You can find MUFAs and other kinds of PUFAs in olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados.
Animal studies have found that diets high in Omega-3s (DHA) and lower in Omega-6s (soybean oil) lead to larger and more viable litters. In humans, dietary Omega-3s such as marine-sourced EPA and DHA have been associated with positive effects on sex hormones and greater chances of ovulation. One study even showed that having higher amounts of Omega-3s was associated with a greater chance of pregnancy and live birth.
Cooked eggs are a great source of protein, vitamins and healthy fats. A large egg contains about seven grams of protein, providing the amino acid building blocks needed for many biological structures, including embryos!
But it’s not just the protein-packed egg white that delivers nutrients. Egg yolks are rich in essential fatty acids, lipids, Vitamins A, D, E, and K, and a full range of B Vitamins. Egg yolks are also the biggest source of dietary Choline, one of the most important nutrients during pregnancy for the development and function of the fetus’ nervous system and brain.
The nutritional content of eggs is closely linked to the hen’s diet. “Omega-3 eggs” come from hens that are fed with microalgae and/or linseeds. Opt for free-range Omega-3 eggs whenever possible for extra fertility benefits. Happy, healthy hens mean healthier, more nutritious eggs.
Stick to cooked eggs while trying to conceive and in pregnancy. As for how you eat them, you’ve got options: We love to make batches of hard-boiled eggs and add them to salads, meal bowls and avocado toast, or simply eat them on their own.
Eggs and sperm are most susceptible to damage when they’re in their development stage, approximately three months pre-conception. As part of regular metabolism, the body makes compounds called reactive oxygen species (ROS) and other free radicals that can quickly react with different compounds in the body and cause oxidative stress. When your body’s antioxidants can’t control this stress, it can cause major havoc to your cells, including damage to egg (and sperm) cells, and their DNA.
But your diet can help with your body’s defence. Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can help control the population of ROS and protect against damage. For higher antioxidant concentrations, turn to blueberries, blackberries, pomegranate, goji, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries and currants.
Add these yummy berries to yogurt, oatmeal, protein smoothies and salads, or enjoy them on their own as a snack. Berries also make a great dessert swap for cakes, cookies and other treats full of refined and processed sugars.
Beets (beetroot) can help your fertility in a number of ways. First, they increase the production of nitric oxide in the body. This is an important compound for keeping healthy blood pressure overall, plus it has a strong influence on how blood (and thus, oxygen) moves throughout the body. This is important for fertility because nitric oxide keeps blood vessels healthy, including the micro blood vessels in the uterus (and in the penis too, which is important if you’re trying to conceive with a male partner). The uterus depends on blood flow to build a lining, and implantation can’t be successful without the development of new blood vessels that will help grow and supply the placenta.
Beets have other powers too! Their reddish-purple colour is attributed to pigments called betalains that have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So, you can protect your eggs and support a healthy landing spot for embryo implantation at the same time!
Beets are tasty served cold or warm. Eat them on their own or add them to salads. Their sweetness and texture pairs well with arugula, red onions and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil (bonus: it offers antioxidants, MUFAs and PUFAs!) and your favourite citrus juice or vinegar.
5. Plant-based proteins
Consuming plant-based proteins has been shown to decrease the risk of ovulatory problems. For example, certain dietary proteins, such as those in legumes, help improve insulin sensitivity whether you’re diabetic or not. This is important when trying to conceive since high levels of circulating insulin can act directly on the ovaries and interfere with egg development. And in those with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) who struggle with obesity, plant-based proteins can help manage healthy weight loss and have been also shown to improve testosterone levels.
Try adding more lentils, beans, peas and soy into our diet to score these benefits. This can be as easy as adding lentils to your salads, snacking on hummus or cooking up a batch of vegetarian chili.
While a nutrient-rich diet is key when you're trying to conceive, you'll also want to make sure that you're taking a high-quality prenatal supplement to help cover all your bases.