The fourth post in a five-part series about fertility and the endocrine system.
By Andrea Fay, Nutritionist
Part 4: Top Ten Amazing Foods for Fertility
Part 5: Sperm Health for Fertility
Our past two posts focused heavily on how lifestyle and nutrition have an impact on fertility. We’ve learned to move our bodies, not just to get healthier but to give our organs (including our uterus and testicles) more oxygen–and that oxygen does wonders for our bodies.
Cortisol levels drop, insulin is better received by our bodies. Exercise makes us feel good and gives us more energy for each day.
Organic foods like veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, salmon, eggs and other whole foods make us feel good too, because they don’t have all the pesticides that NIH says has an effect on our fertility. Good for you fats, steady streaming complex carbohydrates, folate, amazing antioxidants, perfect-for-fertility-plant-based protein and iron are the parts of different foods to focus on getting in your diet for balancing your endocrine system.
We also talked about how endocrine blockers are in our everyday life, but the good news is there are ways to limit exposure.
Now, we’re going to look at some foods that simply shine more than others when it comes to fertility. They’re the ones we want to get good doses of during our day.
Top Ten Amazing Foods
1. Cruciferous Vegetables
Foods like: broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage and kale help balance hormones with a compound called indole-3-carbinol which can bind to the receptors on oestrogen. The compound does this selectively so it can regulate the metabolism of estrogen whether you’re high or low in the hormone–it helps to balance levels.
Cruciferous veggies are packed full of glutathione, a wonder antioxidant that works to fight free-radicals, helps with overall inflammation, increases the efficiency of the immune system, fights cancer and overall aids the entire health of the body. Get these glutathiones in your belly.
Side note, cruciferous foods can have an effect on the thyroid gland and can irritate the stomach–especially raw. Lightly steaming these veggies from time to time can help to lower the chances of that happening.
My favorite vegetable of all time (technically a fruit). The amazing omega-3 fat content in an avocado is helpful for fertility because it lowers inflammation in the body as well as aids in both egg (oocyte) and sperm quality. Fat is also a building block to hormones themselves, so getting it in your diet is important.
Avocados also contain beta-sitosterol that helps balance cortisol (a stress hormone; the lower your level, the healthier your body). High levels of cortisol have been linked to infertility. Eating foods that work to combat it in your body is important because high cortisol levels end up being cyclical in your body. High levels of cortisol can alter your circadian rhythm (your sleep/wake cycle), which causes a greater release of cortisol, causing physical and mental stress. . Lowering levels of cortisol will help you from falling into this exhaustive cycle. Eat foods to help lower the level, take time to relax and make sure you’re getting good sleep at night.
These green, pitted, beauties are also full of fiber, B-vitamins, magnesium and potassium. Interestingly enough, they also contain tryptophan which is the precursor to serotonin—the feel good hormone in our brains. Seriously—Avocados are amazing!!
3. Leafy Greens
Greens help balance estrogen levels by increasing your fiber intake. Fiber helps clear the body of excess estrogen by binding to it and eliminating it. Leafy Greens can also increase your body’s ability to transport oxygen (via an increase in iron and nitrogen), including to reproductive organs.
Every area of our bodies that have more oxygen are healthier and function better. Also, as a side note, there are very few diseases that can thrive in a highly oxygenated area.
4. Seaweed & Kelp
Iodine in seaweed and kelp aids in the thyroid gland’s ability to function (which is one of the major control centers of the endocrine system). A healthy functioning thyroid gland greatly helps with balancing the endocrine system as a whole. These two sea plants also have B vitamins, iron and copper.
These nutrient packed tubers help with ovulation stimulation by acting as an anti-estrogen. The anti-estrogen effect tricks the brain into thinking there’s less estrogen in the body. When the brain thinks there’s less estrogen, it sends signals to release the hormone gonadotropin which increases ovulation.
Fun fact, there’s been studies done on the effects yams have on twins and other multiples. Researchers found that after they fed rats yams their litter size increased from 4 up to 9 babies.
6. Watermelon and Asparagus
These are packed with glutathione, the antioxidant we talked about earlier. It also protects egg quality by reducing free-radicals.
The super high zinc level in oysters is amazing for increasing sperm quantity and mobility. It also has other nutrients that increase egg quality. And these mollusks have been on the list of aphrodisiac foods forever, so it’s a win/win for the fertility front (wink, wink).
Berries are some of the highest foods in vitamin C. Vitamin C helps increase progesterone levels (which is known as the pregnancy hormone).
Progesterone is responsible for preparing the body for the fertilized egg or oocyte. It increases the thickness of the uterine lining so that it’s the best environment for the oocyte to implant and a viable pregnancy to occur.
Berries also have a lot of fiber, which binds to excess estrogen and helps to balance hormones.
9. Beans & Legumes
Beans are good for you in many ways. They help to promote progesterone production (which we mentioned all the benefits of above).
They’re also full of iron, protein and fiber, all of which aid in fertility.
A wonder spice reduces inflammation and has shown to increase blood flow to the uterus. It’s also something to get in your diet no matter what.
It’s a proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that fights cancer and other diseases.
Find Time to Relax
Finally, eat well and help your body be balanced with nutrition, movement and lifestyle but also balance yourself with rest and relaxation. It can be hard to feel relaxed when you’re brain is focused on trying to get pregnant, or going through the emotional rollercoaster of miscarriage or the pain of IVF treatment. But here’s the deal, taking care of yourself is important for your overall health and your fertility journey.
Find a yoga class you love, spend time in meditation or prayer, breathe, unclench your jaw, find an amazing therapist, get a massage or go out with friends. No matter what it is that brings you to the place of relaxation, do it.
Also, whole-heartedly live in the knowledge that you are amazing. Your body is amazing. Be gracious to yourself. And–you’re beautiful—from your smallest cell to your complete self.
Our next post focuses on the importance of sperm health for fertility.