In this episode of Food, Freedom, and Fertility, Caitlin and Sophia discuss the role functional foods can play in fertility. Today’s episode highlights the specific benefits of eggs (especially the yolks!), leafy green vegetables, small bony fish (think sardines, anchovies), oysters, nuts, full-fat dairy, artichoke hearts, liver, citrus zest, and carrots, and discusses how to incorporate them into your repertoire.
Egg yolks are one of the highest food sources of choline, which is important for baby’s developing brain and nervous system. They also contain cholesterol, which many hormones rely on as a building block! Higher quality eggs, specifically those from pastured chickens are going to have higher levels of choline and other nutrients than those from grain-fed chickens, so may be a good place to invest a couple extra dollars. In addition to your traditional breakfast foods, try adding extra eggs to your baked goods or desserts, like Sophia’s lemon curd!
Leafy Green Vegetables
This won’t be the first or last time you hear this, but leafy green vegetables are your fertility friend! Not only do they contain high levels of folate and other fertility-friendly nutrients, they also contain a compound called calcium D-glucarate which helps our bodies manage our estrogen supply. Try both raw and cooked preparations of your favorite green vegetables to reap all the benefits.
Small, Bony Fish
These little guys (think sardines and anchovies) are eaten with the bones and are not only a great source of omega-3 fatty acids but also the most bioavailable source of calcium you can find and are lower in heavy metals than larger fish. Try throwing a couple anchovies into your Caesar salad dressing or chopping up some sardines to add to your tuna salad or fish tacos.
Oysters are one of the best food sources of zinc, which is an essential nutrient for healthy eggs and sperm. If using fresh oysters is cost-prohibitive, give canned oysters a try! They can go into a clam-like chowder or served on crackers with cream cheese.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are not only a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, but also contain improtant essential nutrients like vitamin E, zinc (walnuts), and selenium (Brazil nuts). Try mixing up different types in a trail mix or blending with greens, garlic, and olive oil for a nutrient-packed pesto! For more information on how seeds can impact fertility hormones check out our episode: Seed Cycling: What is it? How to Implement.
Full-fat dairy has been scientifically proven to increase fertility, while low-fat versions may actually be counterproductive. Full-fat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta, and mozzarella are all great options. And instead of that oil-laden coffee creamer, try some half and half or whole milk with a little vanilla extract!
Artichoke hearts are one of the highest fiber foods you can find. Fiber is something most Americans do not get enough of and is essential for estrogen detoxification, bowel regularity, and blood sugar balance. You can buy these babies canned or jarred and they can easily be tossed into your favorite pasta, salad, pizza, sandwich, you name it! You can even mix them with a little cream cheese, spinach and parmesan for a fun dip.
Enter nature’s multivitamin. Liver is not only the single richest food source of iron, but also provides many other essential nutrients, including zinc, choline, and vitamin A. Iron is especially important for women trying to conceive because of the rapid rate that blood volume expands during pregnancy. While liver may not be the most palatable of these functional foods, because it provides so many benefits it may be worth working a little harder to get it into your body! Try pureeing and freezing small portions to toss in with your burger patties, chili, meat sauce, or taco meat.
Citrus zest contains bioflavonoids, which aid in estrogen detoxification and promote vascular integrity (helps with those pesky hemorrhoids and varicose veins). Try adding zest to mineral water for a refreshing afternoon drink or toss into salad dressings or rice for some added brightness.
The skin on carrots can also aid in estrogen detoxification, so instead of reaching for those baby carrots, try cutting whole, washed, unpeeled carrots into sticks to get all the nutritional benefits.