Food and TTC: 12 Fertility Recipes + What to Avoid
It’s clear that eating well is associated with better health so it should come as no surprise that it can help with your fertility as well. While there may not be a specific “fertility food”, eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet contributes to overall wellbeing and reproductive health. With approximately 15% of couples affected by infertility, lifestyle factors like nutrition are more important than ever when trying to conceive.
Thanks to the growing body of research around foods that make you fertile and foods that can help you get pregnant, it’s never been easier to adopt a healthy diet. Cleaning up your nutrition can help regulate hormones, lower stress levels, and improve your overall health and in this post we will explore the role of food when it comes to TTC and how you can start making positive changes.
How food can impact fertility
Research has consistently shown that many lifestyle factors have a significant impact on your health, and by extension, fertility. While many are used to giving up obvious negatives like smoking and alcohol when TTC, research has shown that adhering to a diet rich in proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, and vegetables can positively impact fertility. Perhaps more importantly, unhealthy diets like those high in sugar, sweets, trans fats, and red meat were found to have negative effects.
How you nourish your body directly affects your reproductive functions in a number of ways. Hormonal imbalances caused by a poor diet, like one high in carbohydrates, can wreak havoc on ovulation and make the body work harder to process what is being consumed. Eating a diet that supports reproductive health means regulating those hormones and lowering physiological stress on your body.
Many of the recommendations in this guide are derived from the Mediterranean Diet. Rich in plant-based foods, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy unsaturated fats, the Mediterranean Diet promotes wellness and provides crucial nutrients for hormonal function and balance. More a way of eating than a strict diet plan, research has shown positive effects on fertility when following the principles of a Mediterranean Diet.
Where to start
Adopting a healthy eating pattern, similar to the Mediterranean Diet, involves eating plant-based meals full of healthy proteins, vegetables, beans and legumes, consuming ample amounts of healthy fats, and limiting red meat and refined sugar.
Healthy fats (nuts, avocados)
Healthy fats from olive oil, seafood, nuts, and seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These acids reduce inflammation in the body and may protect egg and sperm quality. Because the body is unable to manufacture unsaturated fats like these on their own, you need to get them from dietary sources. In addition to their fertility boosting properties, unsaturated fats can also lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Lean proteins (chicken, salmon)
Protein is vital for the creation and repair of all body tissues including the production of hormones. High protein intake has been associated with negative fertility outcomes and may contribute to ovulatory problems. Avoiding processed meats, excessive consumption of red meats, and adding plant-based protein to your diet may reduce the risk of ovulatory stress, thereby amplifying fertility.
Fruits & vegetables
No single fruit or vegetable can provide everything you need, so it’s important to follow what your teacher said and ‘eat the rainbow’. A variety of fruits and vegetables have always been a part of a healthy diet and provide the body with vital nutrients as well as antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Antioxidants, the nutrients that fight inflammation and neutralize free radicals in our body, support fertility by protecting the egg and sperm. Because both are highly sensitive to the stress caused by free radicals, neutralizing free radicals in your system by consuming antioxidants is an important step in improving fertility. The best sources come from brightly colored fruits and vegetables like berries, beets, bell peppers, and avocados.
We’ve put together the following list of 12 incredible fertility recipes to help boost your health and improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Full of high-quality protein from eggs, this recipe is not only easy to put together, but packs a nutritional punch as well. Made with whatever veggies you have on hand, this simple meal satisfies without any added sugar or carbs.
A popular plant-based dish from the Middle East, Foul Mudammas (pronounced “fool mudammas”) is basically stewed fava beans. Since it’s so easy to personalize this dish, try adding different spices or complements like chili peppers or ground cumin. An excellent source of fiber, protein, and iron, this dish is easy to make and can be served for any meal.
Packed with fresh veggies and healthy fats from olive oil, a traditional Mediterranean salad such as this cucumber and tomato one is easy and quick to make. A simple dash of spices like salt and pepper are all that’s needed, but you can always kick things up a notch and make it your own by adding additional seasonings to increase flavor depth.
More than just a salad, this dish is full of legumes, vegetables, and healthy fats. Make this dish your own by experimenting with meat options such as grilled chicken.
Full of fertility boosting foods like walnuts and salmon, this recipe is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Pair with a simple side for an easy and delicious fertility recipe.
Filled with flavours from the Mediterranean, these stuffed chicken breasts boast a healthy blend of ingredients that make them not only delicious but nutritious as well.
A classic cookie recipe that packs a fertility boosting punch thanks to the whole wheat and nuts used. Full of mineral manganese and the antioxidant selenium, these cookies are worth the effort.
Apples, and especially baked ones covered in cherries and almonds, offer heart-healthy fiber and many essential nutrients for your diet. They are an excellent alternative to sugar-laden desserts while offering plenty of nutrients.
Good for your heart and your fertility, berries are an excellent source of nutrition when you are trying to boost your fertility. Jazz things up by marinating them in balsamic vinegar for a fresh take on a classic dish.
Pasta isn’t completely off limits when it comes to eating a fertility boosting diet. However, you’ll want to up the game from traditional sauce laden dishes to one with more nutritional depth such as this one. Adding spinach, garbanzos and raisins raises the nutritional profile of conventional pasta to one that packs a powerful dose of vitamins and nutrients.
A staple food of the Mediterranean, polenta is a great whole grain that can be used in a variety of recipes. Pair with roasted vegetables for a colorful and nutritious meal.
Full of fiber, vitamins, protein, and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, legumes like beans offer a reliable and affordable protein source. Try this stew for a plant-based protein meal that is high on flavour and nutrition.
Foods to avoid
Now that you know some ingredients to support your reproductive health, let’s talk about what to avoid. Trans fats, alcohol, low fat dairy, caffeine, and sugar have all been associated with adverse fertility outcomes for a variety of reasons.
It is strongly recommended that you avoid trans fats in your diet, not just for fertility but for overall health as well. Because these man-made fats are found primarily in highly processed foods, they can trigger insulin resistance and disrupt metabolism and thereby ovulation. Some examples of foods containing trans fats include french fries, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, fried chicken, and frozen pizza.
Although alcohol is okay in moderation before pregnancy, drinking can cause changes in ovulation and your cycle. Research varies on how much is safe to consume when trying to conceive, but the negative impact on conception and pregnancy are clear. If you are trying to conceive, abstaining from alcohol is recommended to give you the best chance of success.
Low fat dairy
Eating low fat dairy may have a negative relationship with fertility. Research has shown that consuming low fat dairy may affect ovulation and thereby fertility. According to one study, a high intake of low fat dairy foods may increase the risk of anovulatory infertility, whereas consuming high fat dairy foods may decrease this risk. It’s not known whether this is due to processing or the higher sugar found in low fat options, but switching to high fat dairy products supports reproductive health.
Too much caffeine isn’t good for anyone, but when you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s even more important to pay attention to your consumption. While you don’t have to cut it out all together, limiting caffeine intake to under 200mg a day may actually help you get pregnant. And since you’ll need to curb your intake during pregnancy, it’s a good idea to start limiting consumption now.
Eating too much sugar can interfere with your hormones, especially those involved in ovulation, and limiting your overall intake is key for boosting overall health and fertility. Whether it’s the spike in insulin, weight gain, or lowered immunity and hormone disruption, consuming too much sugar can interfere with your fertility goals and should be avoided if you are TTC.
While there may not be a magic superfood when it comes to fertility, lifestyle factors like nutrition do play a role in getting pregnant. Adopting a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet will not only contribute to your overall health, but can be a powerful boost for your fertility as well.
✔️ Medically Reviewed by Katerina Shkodzik, M.D., OB-GYN
Dr. Katerina Shkodzik is a certified OB-GYN with a special focus on reproductive endocrinology and infertility issues. She has been practising since 2015.
Dr. Shkodzik completed her residency program in the Department of OB/GYN at the Belarusian State Medical University and fellowship program in the Department of Gynecological Surgery at the Medical University of Bialystok, Poland.
Dr. Shkodzik is extensively involved in digital health projects providing her medical expertise and integrating of cutting edge technologies in medical science and clinical practice since 2018.
Dr. Shkodzik has participated in several studies focused on PCOS, endometriosis, menstrual cycle characteristics and their abnormalities based on big data of digital health in collaboration with leading universities.
She believes that paying special attention to women's health is a crucial step to improving the world we live in.