Fertility is one of the largest concerns among men and women today who need specific amounts of certain hormone-boosting foods, along with living a lifestyle and managing one’s health that supports hormones and reproductive options. One large concern of many people who approach a plant-based diet are if the lifestyle can support optimal reproduction options and fertility. While those who eat animal foods can certainly eat a fertility-friendly diet, so can plant-based eaters without worry. It’s also true that men and women have different hormonal needs during conception, but a balance of whole foods that balance and support hormones will increase the chances for successful fertility in both men and women.
If you’re a plant-based eater and trying to conceive, here are some plant-based foods that should be focused on for both men and women. Overall, the body needs adequate calories, rest, and a balanced, nutritious whole foods diet in place of processed foods, alcohol, and smoking should of course be eliminated.
Nutrients Needed for Optimal Fertility
One of the largest and most important minerals required in the body is zinc. A decrease can reduce testosterone for men, and for a woman it assists with maintaining an optimal balance between testosterone and estrogen (since estrogen dominance can actually prevent fertility). Zinc can also affect chances of a miscarriage, low birth weight in the child, or basic problems during birth.
Plant-based foods are filled with zinc. The best options include nuts, seeds, and some whole grains. Other good sources include leafy greens, raspberries, cacao, chickpeas and lentils, asparagus, blackberries, and avocados.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fats support brain health, development, and overall hormone production in the body. They can also assist with optimizing male sex hormones and balance a woman’s hormone levels. For instance, flax can support testosterone in men along with pumpkin seeds, while it can actually help women optimize natural estrogen levels without synthetic sources.
Some of the best plant-based sources of omega-3’s include: walnuts, acai, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia, and algae (which is the only source of EPA, a type of omega-3’s found in fish). See more plant-based sources of omega-3 fats here and some delicious ways to work them into your diet.
This is a form of folate found in prental vitamins, which is necessary for a healthy metabolism, but also fertility and brain health of the developing fetus. It can also support a woman’s skins as a result of balancing or hormones and help with energy levels as it is a B vitamin. A deficiency in this nutrient can also cause a miscarriage. Folic acid is found in many plant-based foods and very easy to get enough of, though a prental vitamin can be helpful during both the conception process up until birth (or even after).
Some sources of folic acid that convert to folate in the body are: seeds (all), cauliflower, berries, edamame, tofu or tempeh, oats, asparagus, avocados, leafy greens, parsnips, chickpeas, lentils, black eye peas, brown rice, quinoa, broccoli, and green peas.
This thyroid-boosting mineral also supports testosterone in the body, prevents low thyroid function that can cause conception problems, however, it’s important to get selenium from food-based sources when possible instead of supplements, which can lead to toxicity in the body and cause concern.
Plant-based foods rich in selenium include: Brazil nuts (just one has your entire day’s worth), garlic (also helpful for hormone health), barley, brown rice, sunflower seeds, flax, spinach, and Swiss chard.
This vitamin supports not just immune health, but many functions in the body, including hormone function that optimizes fertility. Vitamin C also asssists with iron absorption in the body, which is crucial for a healthy metabolism and fertility as well. Getting enough vitamin C while eating a plant-based diet (animal foods contain none).
Emphasize these: sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, berries, spinach, kale, chard, zucchini, cauliflower, apples, bananas, broccoli, and peppers. Try some of our vitamin C rich recipes that are filled with immune and hormone-boosting benefits!
Iron assists mostly with metabolic and red blood cell health; it assists with energy for conception and preventing anemia. Iron supplements can cause many issues, so optimize food-based sources.
Iron is found in: cacao, chia, spirulina, hemp, spinach, cashews, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, lentils, and kale. While these are non-heme sources, eating them with vitamin C rich foods (which many of them also contain) can help you receive enough. See some simple ways to add iron to your meals and snacks that are easier than you think!
Last but not least, B vitamins support energy, prevent excess cortisol levels that can interfere with hormone function due to stress, they assist with brain health, and are involved in many enzymatic reactions in the body. Aside from just vitamin B12 (crucial whether or not you’re trying to conceive) are all other B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B7.
It’s true that animal products contain a large dose of B vitamins, but there are multitudes of plant-based options too. They can be easily absorbed but a balance between them all should be eaten regularly. Eat: nuts, seeds, oats, broccoli, cauliflower, greens, avocados, legumes, beans, fruits (especially bananas and tomatoes), and root vegetables to ensure you get plenty.
Aside from nutrients, you should also consider eating more libido-boosting foods. These include asparagus, artichokes, bananas, figs, cacao or chocolate (non-dairy), almonds, goji berries, and maca powder. As you can see, the plant-based world is filled with fertility-boosting foods and nutrients. It’s also important to be sure to include protein in your meals (also simple to do without animal products), consume enough healthy fats, and whole food sources of fiber-rich carbohydrates for low-glycemic options. Vitamin D and eliminating refined sugar and grains will also support hormone function further.
For more resources on plant-based fertility, feel free to see What You Need to Know About Seed Cycling for Fertility, and get more nutrition advice from a vegan dietitian by reading Starting Right: What to Eat When You’re Hoping to be Expecting.
Lead Image Source: Flickr