Take your prenatals…That’s the catch all reminder from your OB/GYN to your nutritionist. Nutrition is just one of many fertility factors, but it’s a huge one. Prenatal vitamins contain the supplemental nutrients necessary to fortify your body in the event of pregnancy. But they aren’t designed to take the place of real nutrition. While I love some brands like Innate Prenatal, Rainbow Light, and (for those who don’t like to swallow pills) Smarty Pants gummy vitamins and ERZO biscuit prenatals, I recommend fortifying your diet with foods that can provide the vitamins and minerals you need to help get your body baby-ready and help boost your fertility and supplementing where necessary. This A to Zinc guide includes lists my top 10!
1. Vitamin B6 may be used as a hormone regulator. It also helps to regulate blood sugars, alleviates PMS, and may be useful in relieving symptoms of morning sickness. B6 has also been shown to help with Luteal Phase Defect. Where to get it: banana, spinach, bell peppers, and turnip greens, collard greens, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, chard.
2. Vitamin B12 has been shown to improve sperm quality and production. It also may help to boost the endometrium lining in egg fertilization, decreasing the chances of miscarriage. Some studies have found that a deficiency of B12 may increase the chances of irregular ovulation, and in severe cases stop ovulation altogether. Where to get it: Supplements are best for better absorption.
3. Vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women with luteal phase defect, meaning the luteal phase is shorter than usual. Vitamin C has improves sperm quality and shields sperm from DNA damage and prevents sperm from clumping. Where to get it: Green leafy veggies, red peppers, broccoli, cranberries, cabbage, tomatoes, and citrus fruit.
4. CoQ10 is responsible for the cells’ energy. It is also an important antioxidant that helps to protect cells from free radical damage, which has an impact egg health. Where to get it: Take a supplement.
5. Vitamin D helps the body create sex hormones which of course directly affects ovulation and hormonal balance.Where to get it: Mushrooms! Portobello, maitake, morel, button, and shiitake mushrooms are all high in vitamin D. Sitting them in the sunlight will even boost their Vitamin D content. Eggs, fatty fish, and cod liver oil also contain Vitamin D. As a vegan, I rely on blue green algae for my Vitamin D (that’s where the fish get theirs). Get outside in the sunlight at least 30 minutes daily without sunglasses.
6. Vitamin E improves egg and sperm health. Vitamin E is also an important antioxidant to help protect sperm and egg DNA integrity. For women, it improves the quality of cervical mucus, thus enhancing the chances of implantation of the fertilized eggs. It helps prolong the sperm’s life within the female a couple more days, so as to increase the chances for the egg to be fertilized. For men, a daily intake of vitamin E is recommended in order to enhance sperm motility. Where to get it: Sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, papaya, dark leafy greens, broccoli, wheat germ oil, olive and sunflower oil.
7. Folic Acid is perhaps one of the best known vitamins necessary for pregnancy. This vitamin helps prevent neural tube defects as well as congenital heart defects, cleft lips, limb defects, and urinary tract anomalies in developing fetuses. Deficiency in folic acid may increase the risk of going into preterm delivery, infant low birth weight and fetal growth retardation. Deficiency may also increase the homocysteine level in the blood, which can lead to spontaneous abortion and pregnancy complications, such as placental abruption and pre-eclampsia. Where to get it: Pinto beans, garbanzo beans, asparagus, spinach, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, collard greens.
8. Iron is incredibly important for fertility. Women who do not get sufficient iron may lack ovulation or have poor egg health. Where to get it: Lentils, spinach, tofu, sesame seeds, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, garbanzo beans, navy beans, molasses.
9. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Essential Fatty Acids (FFAs) have been shown to help fertility by helping to regulate hormones in the body, increase cervical mucous, promote ovulation and increase the blood flow to the reproductive organs. Where to find it: Flax seeds, walnuts, chia seed, borage oil, algae.
10. Zinc keeps the reproductive system in balance. It promotes proper cell division and decreases the risk of miscarriage, and it is one of the key trace minerals for male fertility. Where to find it: Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, green peas. Zinc can be damaged by cooking so it is important to eat some foods high in zinc in their raw forms.