As we gear up for Thanksgiving, our mouths are watering thinking of favorite dishes from our families’ tables. I've had the opportunity to treat many couples with acupuncture and Chinese
herbs to boost fertility. But I feel strongly that eating a nutrient-dense diet forms the backbone of all fertility protocols. I frequently hear questions about foods for boosting fertility. And since food is on our minds, I thought I’d inspire some nourishing choices this holiday season.
According to Chinese medicine, the food we eat and the air we breathe are the sources of qi and blood that are essential to vibrant health, including robust reproductive health. When you’re eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet, you are laying the essential foundation for a healthy pregnancy—and that goes for women and men. Check out our Pinterest board filled with delicious recipe ideas to help boost your fertility.
For many of us, eating habits are ingrained from childhood, and change takes time. If the recommendations below are very different than your usual food routine, make these changes gradually. Try adding one new suggestion every couple of weeks. Rather than focusing on what you have to cut out of your diet, think about finding and trying new foods that you enjoy:
1. Eat Fresh, Seasonal, Organic Whole Foods: Choosing organic, whole foods brings you nutrition fresh from the earth, in its most naturally energetic form. Going organic also means avoiding GMO’s and reducing the toxic load for your liver. If organic foods aren’t available, then be assured that just eating unprocessed foods will improve your health. Here’s a list of the most pesticide-laden foods from the Environmental Working Group to help you make good choices.
2. Eat Warm, Cooked Foods. If you think of your digestive system as a warm cauldron, eating lots of cold, raw foods is like pouring cold water over the coals. The pot just won’t simmer and you won’t digest your food properly. If you love salads, make them warm by sautéing your greens or steaming them by adding a warm protein or freshly cooked whole grain. It’s slow cooker season, so think of curries, soups, and roasted vegetables.
3. Get Plenty of the Good Fats. Our bodies require a healthy amount of dietary fat for hormone production, cell membrane maintenance (for sperm and egg cells), and ovulation.
- Coconut oil is a good source of saturated fat and helps maintain healthy intestinal bacteria. Add it to your roasting pan and your stir-fry.
- Eat whole eggs, preferably pastured or organic and free-range.
- If you eat meat, incorporate pasture-raised beef, lamb and bison into your diet.
- Eat plenty of unsaturated fats like high-quality olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Women with PCOS may want to avoid saturated fats and focus on these healthy fats instead.
- Essential fatty acids play a role in balancing hormones and opening the follicle to release an egg. Most of us need more Omega-3s in our diet and we can get them from walnuts and fatty cold-water fish like cod, salmon, sardines and mackerel, or from a high-quality fish supplement.
4. Get Enough Protein. At least 2.5 ounces a day (that’s about the size of a small cooked chicken breast). If you can tolerate dairy, choose organic, full-fat dairy from pasture-raised cows when available. Eating low-fat dairy is associated with reduced fertility. We encourage our patients to eat one serving of full fat dairy daily in the form of grass fed butter, aged cheeses and whole milk yogurt.
5. Get Cultured. Try adding kimchi to your sautéed greens, grab a kombucha instead of a soda, and pick up some kefir from the yogurt section. These foods are loaded with probiotics, which keep your gut healthy and your digestion strong. In addition, the birth canal is the baby’s first exposure to bacteria, and an inoculation of good bacteria can have long-term benefits for a child’s immune system.
6. Sip for your health. Strive to drink six 8-oz. glasses of water throughout the day. Men with low sperm count and women with less-than-optimal cervical mucus especially need to focus on proper hydration. Herbal tea, green tea and kombucha can fill in for some of your water intake. Finally, you may have heard about bone broth—it’s an excellent source of minerals and a digestive elixir for gut health. It’s easy to make at home; you can read more about its benefits and get a recipe here.
These are just the basics, and as always, the best diet is tailored to meet your individual needs. As always, I welcome your questions about a fertility diet that’s best for you and your partner. You can schedule a free 15-minute consultation with me by calling 267-293-9479.
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I'm an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, specializing in reproductive health care.