If you are looking to become pregnant then you may already know a little (or a lot) about the connection between nutrition and fertility and the important role that specific nutrients, in particular, folate, B vitamins, omega-3, zinc, magnesium and selenium can play in optimising fertility. Following a “fertility diet”, similar to a Mediterranean style diet, comprising plant protein, wholegrains, full-fat dairy, iron and monounsaturated fats during the preconception period is recommended. Here we have created some “fertility diet” breakfasts to give you a practical way of focusing on the fertility enhancing aspects of food to help you create easy, delicious, balanced breakfasts that have the potential to optimise your chances of conception.
1. Porridge made with whole milk, with added blueberries and chia seeds
Porridge is a great choice for breakfast any day of the week. It helps to keep us feeling full which is useful to manage our weight, oats are whole grains which are recommended as part of the fertility diet (1). A large study suggested that whole milk may be more protective of fertility than reduced fat versions (2) hence the recommendation for whole milk. Chia seeds are a great source of fibre and omega-3. Higher intakes of fibre are associated with improved fecundability (3) and omega-3 intake should be encouraged for all trying to conceive, especially those who are a little bit older (4). The added blueberries are there for a burst of antioxidants - an important addition to every fertility diet (5,6). This is a nice low glycaemic index breakfast which will help to promote healthy blood glucose and insulin levels.
2. Scrambled eggs and sardines on a slice of whole grain toast
Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are a great addition to breakfast eggs. As well as being essential for foetal development, intake of omega 3 fatty acids has been linked to improved egg quality and prolonged reproductive lifespan (4). Eggs are a great choice as part of a fertility diet. They are rich in choline, a nutrient that is often lacking from prenatal supplements (7) but is extremely important for placental function as well as early brain development, helping to prevent neural tube defects (8). As well as containing a vast array of fertility promoting vitamins and minerals such as vitamins B12, B6 and vitamin D, selenium, zinc and iron, eggs are also a source of high quality protein, containing all of the amino acids we require for growth and development.
3. Green vegetable frittata
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and asparagus are an excellent source of vitamin B9, also known as folate. Boosting your dietary intake of folate alongside your prenatal folate or folic acid supplement is advised in order to reduce the risk of deficiency. As well as protecting against neural tube defects, vitamin B9 plays a role in promoting egg quality, maturation and implantation as well as overall reproductive health (9). These vegetables are also rich in antioxidants and are a source of fibre, pairing these with eggs in a frittata provides a vast array of fertility promoting nutrients.
4. Whole grain granola with full fat Greek yoghurt
Whether homemade or shop bought, granola made from a mix of wholegrain oats, quinoa, barley or wheat is a great way to reap the benefits of wholegrain. Choosing a granola with no or low amounts of added sugar will keep the glycaemic index of this breakfast low which can protect fertility (10). Additionally in a study of women who underwent IVF, higher whole grain intake was associated with higher probability of implantation and live birth (11). Wholegrain granolas are also loaded with nuts and seeds both of which are key components of the Mediterranean diet and are packed with fertility supporting nutrients, for example zinc which is fundamental for reproductive health (12), antioxidants such as selenium as well as healthy fats. Teaming your granola with full fat rather than low fat Greek yoghurt can also protect fertility (13).
5. Black beans and avocado on whole grain toast
Black beans are one of the best sources of vegetarian protein. A large study suggested that consumption of plant protein rather than animal protein is associated with improved fertility (14). They are also a source of fibre and contain folate meaning this breakfast can boost your intake of both of these two essential fertility diet components. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated healthy fats, a large study found that intake of these healthy fats as opposed to saturated fats can help to improve a woman’s fertility (15). This breakfast is packed with nutrients which will be of benefit for overall health as well as promoting fertility.
As you can see, there is not one best fertility breakfast, having variety day to day will enable you to consume as many fertility optimising nutrients as possible as well as keeping your breakfast interesting. A few small changes to your daily routine can play a major role in enhancing reproductive health.
A few extra tips:
- If you enjoy a tea or coffee in the morning try not to drink these at the same time as you eat breakfast as the polyphenols in these drinks, while very good for you, can inhibit the absorption of iron
- Small additions to your meals can make a big difference e.g., nuts and seeds, a side of extra veg or an extra piece of fruit
- Eat the rainbow by switching up the fruit and vegetables you buy each week
- In a rush? Don’t forget about the humble breakfast cereal – some cereals can provide up to 15% of your daily recommended intake of folic acid and if you choose whole grain it’s a win win!
- If opting for plant based drinks as a dairy alternative be sure to choose fortified versions
- Selecting wholegrain or seeded bread options boosts both fibre and antioxidant intake
- Panth N, Gavarkovs A, Tamez M, Mattei J. The Influence of Diet on Fertility and the Implications for Public Health Nutrition in the United States. Front Public Heal [Internet]. 2018 Jul 31 [cited 2020 Sep 27];6:211. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC6079277/?report=abstract
- Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner B, Willett WC. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility. Hum Reprod [Internet]. 2007 [cited 2020 Jun 17];22(5):1340–7. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17329264/
- Willis SK, Wise LA, Wesselink AK, Rothman KJ, Mikkelsen EM, Tucker KL, et al. Glycemic load, dietary fiber, and added sugar and fecundability in 2 preconception cohorts. Orig Res Commun [Internet]. [cited 2020 Jun 19]; Available from: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/ajcn/nqz312/5696748
- Nehra D, Le HD, Fallon EM, Carlson SJ, Woods D, White YA, et al. Prolonging the female reproductive lifespan and improving egg quality with dietary omega-3 fatty acids. Aging Cell [Internet]. 2012 Dec [cited 2020 Jul 10];11(6):1046–54. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC5624332/?report=abstract
- Mumford SL, Browne RW, Schliep KC, Schmelzer J, Plowden TC, Michels KA, et al. Serum Antioxidants Are Associated with Serum Reproductive Hormones and Ovulation among Healthy Women. J Nutr [Internet]. 2016 Jan 1 [cited 2020 Jun 23];146(1):98–106. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC4700980/?report=abstract
- Ruder EH, Hartman TJ, Reindollar RH, Goldman MB. Female dietary antioxidant intake and time to pregnancy among couples treated for unexplained infertility. Fertil Steril. 2014 Mar;101(3):759–66.
- Bell CC, Aujla J. Prenatal Vitamins Deficient in Recommended Choline Intake for Preg-nant Women. J Fam Med Dis Prev [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2020 Jun 24];2:48. Available from: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nu-
- Zeisel SH. The supply of choline is important for fetal progenitor cells [Internet]. Vol. 22, Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology. Elsevier Ltd; 2011 [cited 2020 Jun 24]. p. 624–8. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC3188336/?report=abstract
- Ebisch IMW, Thomas CMG, Peters WHM, Braat DDM, Steegers-Theunissen RPM. The importance of folate, zinc and antioxidants in the pathogenesis and prevention of subfertility [Internet]. Vol. 13, Human Reproduction Update. 2007 [cited 2020 Jul 23]. p. 163–74. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17099205/
- Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. A prospective study of dietary carbohydrate quantity and quality in relation to risk of ovulatory infertility. Eur J Clin Nutr [Internet]. 2009 [cited 2020 Sep 28];63(1):78–86. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC3066074/?report=abstract
- Gaskins AJ, Chiu YH, Williams PL, Keller MG, Toth TL, Hauser R, et al. Maternal whole grain intake and outcomes of in vitro fertilization. Fertil Steril [Internet]. 2016 Jun 1 [cited 2020 Sep 21];105(6):1503-1510.e4. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC4894002/?report=abstract
- Tian X, Anthony K, Neuberger T, Diaz FJ. Preconception Zinc Deficiency Disrupts Postimplantation Fetal and Placental Development in Mice1. Biol Reprod [Internet]. 2014 Apr 1 [cited 2020 Jun 23];90(4). Available from: https://academic.oup.com/biolreprod/article-lookup/doi/10.1095/biolreprod.113.113910
- Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner B, Willett WC. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility. Hum Reprod [Internet]. 2007 [cited 2020 Sep 15];22(5):1340–7. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17329264/
- Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. Protein intake and ovulatory infertility. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008;198(2):210.e1-210.e7.
- Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. Dietary fatty acid intakes and the risk of ovulatory infertility. Am J Clin Nutr [Internet]. 2007 [cited 2020 Jun 17];85(1):231–7. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17209201/
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