Not only are oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits one of the best sources for vitamin C, they’re also packed with potassium, calcium and folate—a B vitamin that can help you get pregnant by regulating ovulation and creating a healthy environment for eggs. You should aim for at least one serving of citrus fruit each day (try a medium-size grapefruit, a large orange, three clementines or one kiwi) in addition to another serving of fruits.
Eating dark green veggies like spinach, kale and Swiss chard is one of the best ways to take in essential prenatal nutrients like calcium, iron (especially important when you’re menstruating) and folate, which also protects against birth defects in the brain and spine that can develop in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Since it can take a few weeks to even know you’re pregnant, it’s important to load up on plenty of folate while you’re TTC. Most women don’t get enough from their diet though, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking a daily vitamin with folic acid (the synthetic version of folate) to reach the suggested 400 mcg dose.
Blueberries and raspberries are loaded with natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, which help boost both female and male fertility. Like citrus, they’re high in folate and vitamin C, which can help with fetal development down the road. Berries are also a good source of fiber and can aid weight loss (women at a healthier weight tend to have less trouble conceiving), so aim for at least one cup a day.
Another great way to get your daily dose of folate is through avocados. The green, skinned fruit contains vitamin K, which helps your body effectively absorb nutrients while maintaining hormonal balance. It’s also high in potassium, a key to regulating blood pressure. Okay, avocados aren’t exactly low-cal, but they’re mostly made up of monounsaturated fats (that’s the good kind), so one a day is fine. Typically it’s best to buy organic fruits and vegetables, but you can save a few bucks here since the thick skin makes it hard for pesticides to seep in, says nutritionist Kim Ross. A great way to eat it: Spread one-third of an avocado on multigrain toast and drizzle with olive oil, another known fertility booster. It contains a high concentrate of vitamin E, which is known to stabilize and protect cells from oxidative damage, a plus for women with PCOS or diabetes.
You should aim for at least 50 percent of your daily grain intake to come from whole grains, and this gluten-free carb takes it a step further as a great source of protein, folate and zinc. Plus, it’s high in fiber, which can help with constipation, especially around your period. Swapping animal-based proteins for plant-based ones like quinoa helps increase your odds for conception, says nutrition expert Hillary Wright. Since the complex carbs help stabilize your blood sugar and regulate your cycle, it makes it easier to determine your peak fertile days.
You probably thought sticking to low-fat dairy is the healthier choice, but that’s not the case when you’re trying to boost your fertility. Luckily, it only takes one daily serving of full-fat dairy to improve fertility odds, so grab a container of Greek yogurt for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Not only does it contain more calcium than milk, but it’s packed full of probiotics and two to three times more protein than a cup of regular yogurt. It’s also a good source of vitamin D, which helps the follicles in your ovaries mature, and it strengthens bones and boosts immunity. Not a yogurt fan? Aim for 1,000 mg of calcium daily, whether it’s through a cup of full-fat milk, one ounce of cheese or another source of dairy. Just don’t take this as a cue to eat a bowl of ice cream every night (as tempting as it may be)—too much full-fat dairy will increase your saturated fat intake, and end up hurting your fertility.
Wild salmon is a great protein alternative to meat and poultry. The fatty fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), which is really important for fetal brain and eye development. Overweight and obese women are particularly DHA-deficient, so it’s a good nutrient to load up on before getting pregnant. Just keep in mind, while salmon isn’t a fish with high mercury levels, there can still be trace amounts, so you should limit your intake to 12 ounces per week, Ross says.
The crown jewel to any TTC diet, organic eggs are packed with a high concentrate of vitamins and minerals, along with amino acids like choline, which improves follicle quality. Like folate, it helps prevent neural tube birth defects and aids in brain development. And don’t forget to keep the yolk—that’s where the good stuff is.
All nuts have their benefits, but they’re not all created equal. Walnuts are high in fiber and one of the only vegetarian foods that contain omega-3. Plus, they’re filled with magnesium, which helps produce progesterone and increase blood supply to the uterus, helping with fertility. Magnesium can also ease morning sickness symptoms that women typically face in the first trimester. Like most nuts they’re high in calories, so limit your daily intake to two tablespoons.
These plant-based proteins are high in fiber and B vitamin, and are also a good source of folate and iron. If you choose a canned variety, check that it’s free of BPA, a chemical that can negatively affect your estrogen levels. To get the full benefits, aim for at least two meals per week, Wright says.
Kim Ross, Holistic Fertility Nutritionist, MS, RD, CDN
Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, LDN, Director of Nutritional Counseling at the Domar Center