Top foods to support fertility,
pregnancy and breastfeeding
What are the top foods to support the body as we prepare for conception, as we go through pregnancy and as we nurse our babies?
Of course, we each have unique nutritional needs, and some of us have allergies or intolerances. Nonetheless, this post covers some of the top foods for fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
There is an overlap between the top foods that support pre-conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding. This is because all three of these stages of life involve building. Building fertility, building a baby and building milk. The foods I recommend in this post focus on building. If you hate any of them, or if you’re sensitive to them, they are not the right building foods for you! Don’t let that discourage you, though. There are lots of other sources of nutrients to build a healthy baby!
Building fertility: not just “woman’s work”
Nutrition during the preconception period deserves special attention in both women and men. Nutrient-dense foods support the health of sperm as well as eggs, male hormones as well as female hormones. We need more fat-soluble vitamins, more antioxidants and extra choline, as well as the raw material to build bones and connective tissue.
Also, as you and your partner prepare for conception, it’s important for both of you to identify high-risk habits, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and the use of recreational drugs. These can decrease fertility, increase the risk of miscarriage and cause low birth weight.
Fresh, organic, pasture-raised, wild-caught and local: sourcing matters
Industrial agricultural products and practices deplete nutrients from foods and add toxic substances such as pesticides and herbicides which can decrease fertility and harm the developing fetus. To the greatest extent possible, your foods should be fresh, local and organic. Additionally, meat, eggs, dairy and poultry should come from pasture-raised or grass-fed animals, or straight from the woods, if you are hunting for boar, pheasant or venison.
Fish should be wild-caught from clean waters. Choose low-mercury fish such as wild Alaskan salmon. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can damage the developing fetus.
The fat from oily fish such as salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for fetal development and brain and nervous system health. Salmon eggs (roe) are very nutrient-dense and a great fertility and pregnancy food to eat on occasion.
Read more about food sourcing here.
Egg yolks contain cholesterol, important for the production of sex hormones and for healthy brain development. They are also one of the best sources of choline, a nutrient that helps the baby’s brain and nervous system develop normally. You certainly can eat whole eggs during preconception and pregnancy, but don’t reach for the packaged stand-alone egg whites!
Homemade mayonnaise is a great way to enjoy egg yolks. When I make it, I use fresh egg yolks from my chickens, and make a small batch, using one egg yolk per person. It doesn’t last long, but you can always whip up a new batch!
Have you ever tasted a duck or quail egg? It’s a great idea to rotate through different types of eggs. Each has a slightly different flavor and nutrition profile. Also, if you tend to develop food allergies, rotating through different types of eggs is a good way to reduce the chance of developing an allergy to chicken eggs.
Probiotic foods, such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and kvass, support digestive and immune function. Most are very easy to make, and vegetable ferments don’t require a starter. Beet kvass is a fermented beet beverage which helps decrease morning sickness, so it’s a great food during pre-conception and pregnancy!
Liver is a superfood! It’s rich in fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamin A, in B vitamins that protect us against stress and in minerals such a magnesium, to name just a few. Try chopping it up and add it to ground meat in hamburger, taco and meatloaf recipes or make a liver paté.
You may or may have grown up eating liver. I did, and have always enjoyed it. However, for some people it does have a strong taste. Learn more about why and how to eat liver, and some tips on introducing it gently to squeamish taste buds, here.
Fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits
Vegetables and fruit supply antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Eating a variety of fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits helps ensure variety in your nutrition.
If you have your own garden, that’s really an unbeatable source of fresh seasonal vegetables. Your local farmer’s market and community supported agriculture (CSA) veggie box is another great option. Find a CSA near you and ensure a steady supply of seasonal veggies or a combination of veggies and fruit. CSA boxes are a great way to try new vegetables, because we tend to buy the same things over and over again at the store!
Eating a variety of vegetables in many colors is a great starting point. Aim to eat some combination of cooked, raw and fermented/cultured vegetables.
You should eat plenty of vegetables if you digest them well, but eat fruit in moderation. The over-consumption of sugars, even from fruit, can cause imbalances in blood sugar regulation. Pomegranates, as well as blueberries and other berries, are packed with antioxidants. Enjoy fresh seasonal berries in a bowl of yogurt or crème fraiche!
Properly prepared broth made from meat, bones and connective tissue is a great source of minerals and amino acids. It is an ideal base for vegetable soups and grain and legume dishes. It doesn’t just add nutrients and flavor to your dishes. Additionally, it provides the raw materials to help build baby’s bones, joints and connective tissues. At the same time, it helps restore mom’s body as she prepares for conception and builds a new baby. Find my recipes and serving suggestions here.
Need more information or personalized guidance?
I offer both a self-paced program and individualized consultations to individuals and couples preparing for conception. Learn more here. Feel free to contact me at sara@buildnurturerestore with any questions or to schedule an appointment.