Egg yolks, wild-caught fish and seafood, liver, grassfed butter, and oysters – these are
the foods that represent nutrient-dense solutions for couples who are struggling to
conceive, planning to conceive and for mothers who wish to nourish her child in the
womb. Prior to the advent of industrial agriculture and the processing of food, these
foods for fertility held a sacred place in the human diet. Populations went to great
lengths to secure nutrient-dense foods like liver and roe and butter prepared from cows
grazing on rapidly growing green pastures. In the absence of these foods which offered
an abundance of antioxidants, fat-soluble vitamins, trace minerals and wholesome fats,
our nation has suffered an epidemic rise in infertility and in birth defects. Folate, zinc,
DHA, EPA, preformed vitamin A and vitamin D all play crucial roles in the
reproductive health of men and women as well as the health of babies developing in the
These suggestions are based on the traditional practices of healthy native peoples across
the globe and are particularly dense in vitamins, minerals and healthy fats known to
play an essential role in fertility, reproductive health and fetal development.
1. Pastured Egg Yolks
Egg yolks from pastured hens, much like fish roe, are deeply nutrient-dense – rich in
fertility boosting omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and E, as well as choline. Choline is of
particular importance to the preconception and pregnancy diet as requirements for the
developing nervous system. Most pregnant and lactating women are not consuming
adequate choline for their developing babies and researchers are calling for increased
consumption of choline-rich foods among pregnant and lactating women8, 15. Choline is
particularly critical in tooth development9 as well as brain development10, 11. Indeed, a
mother’s intake of choline during pregnancy may improve the capability for memory in
her child11, 12, 13. Beyond an essential role in brain development and the capacity for
memory, promising studies found that maternal intake of choline might significantly
decrease cognitive dysfunction seen in Downs Syndrome, at least in mice14.
Recommendation: I recommend consuming two or more eggs, plus additional yolks
Serve this Fertility Food: Eggs can be fried, scrambled, soft boiled, served with greens
or in fresh herb frittatas or frittatas brimming with vegetables. Alternatively, consider
mixing raw yolks into homemade soups or broths, or in Superfood Smoothies.
2. Oysters, Clams & Mussels
Shellfish, particularly oysters, are a rich source of vitamins D and B12, as well as the
minerals zinc, copper, selenium and iron. Just six medium oysters provide two-thirds of
the daily value for vitamin D and nearly three times the daily value for vitamin B12.
For pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant, vitamin D is of
particular importance as it helps to mitigate glucose regulation, develop healthy bones
and it even helps to tone the uterus – helping the uterus to contract properly during
labor16. For women suffering from polycystic ovarian disease, vitamin D is particularly
promising as it offers beneficial effects on insulin resistance19. A low-glycemic diet rich
in these critical nutrients is also essential to improving fertility16. Low maternal vitamin
D levels are implicated in infertility, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and an increased
risk of c-section17, 18, making foods rich in vitamin D like shellfish as well as fermented
cod liver oil and pasture-raised lard of critical importance to women of childbearing
Oysters, clams, mussels and other shellfish are also a potent source of the mineral zinc –
a nutrient that’s particularly essential for the reproductive health of men and, like many
other nutrients, is best absorbed from animal food sources. Poor intake of zinc and poor
concentration of zinc are implicated in male infertility19. Similarly, men suffering from
low blood serum levels of copper are also at greater risk of suffering from infertility20.
Shellfish are particularly rich in copper as well as zinc. Consumption of the mineral
zinc alone as well as in combination with antioxidants like vitamins C and E shows
promising results for men suffering from infertility. Zinc on its own or in combination
with vitamins C and E improves sperm quality in infertile men21.
For women too, zinc is essential to reproductive health and to the health of infants
developing in their wombs. In a study of pregnant Canadian women, those with the
highest overall intake of zinc were the least likely to suffer from symptoms of
depression22. And while zinc may help pregnant women to better moderate stress thus
reducing depressive symptoms, her intake of zinc also affects her developing baby.
Low maternal intake of zinc is associated with asthmatic symptoms in children23.
Maternal zinc deficiency is also implicated in birth defects, low birth weight,
intrauterine growth retardation, a tendency toward high blood pressure, behavioral
problems, impaired immune function and fetal death24.
Recommendation: I recommend consuming wild-caught seafoods, including shellfish,
two to four times a week.
Serve this Fertility Food: Serve oysters raw. Try making homemade seafood soup with
a variety of shellfish and fish.
3. Butter, Ghee & Full-fat Dairy
Butter/Ghee and cream produced from cows grazing on rapidly growing green grasses
were considered a fertility booster among traditional societies and held sacred. While
modern diet gurus encourage women to eschew these nutrient-dense foods in favor of
margarines, vegetable oils and dairy substitutes, butter and cream are potent sources of
fat soluble vitamins A and K2. Preformed vitamin A, also found in abundance in liver
and fermented cod liver oil, helps to improve reproductive health and reduce risk of
birth defects. Vitamin K2, a nutrient critical to reproductive health and growing babies,
is of particular importance and those suffering from gluten-intolerance are more likely
to suffer from inadequate levels of this vitamin as well as many other micronutrients
critical for fertility. Indeed, inadequate vitamin levels adversely effect the fertility of
celiac sprue sufferers28. A recent study of over 18,000 women found that consumption
of low-fat and skim milk products resulted in decreased fertility while consumption of
full-fat dairy products saw increased fertility29.
Recommendation: I recommend consuming plenty of grassfed butter and/or ghee, and
if well-tolerated, drinking one quart of whole, raw, grassfed milk daily. You can also
make homemade yogurt or sour cream from raw, grassfed milk.
Serve this Fertility Food: Butter and/or ghee are perfect fats to use when cooking. They
can also enhance everything from vegetables to tea!
Maca is a root-like vegetable shaped like a turnip. It grows at 12,000 feet above sea level
and is only found in the high Andes of Peru and Ecuador. Maca is a nourishing food for
the entire endocrine system and works wonders for fertility. Maca aids both the
pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands, all of which are involved in optimal hormonal
balance. Maca has the ability to affect key hormones in both women and men without
containing hormones itself.
Its main action is to stimulate and nourish the pituitary gland, acting as a tonic for the
hormone system. When the pituitary gland functions optimally, the entire endocrine
system becomes balanced, because the pituitary gland controls the hormone output of
the other three glands.
In women, maca works by controlling estrogen in the body. Estrogen levels that are high
or low at the wrong time can keep a woman from becoming pregnant or keep her from
carrying to term. Excess estrogen levels also cause progesterone levels to become too
low. Taking maca may help to increase the progesterone levels which are essential to
carrying a healthy pregnancy.
Estrogen in men produces erectile dysfunction or lack of libido, low sperm count, and
lowered production of seminal fluid. Men who use maca have been seen to have an
increased libido and healthy sperm.
Maca may help:
•Balance hormonal levels in women.
•Increase libido in both men and women.
•Increase egg health.
•Increase seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculation, and sperm motility.
Recommendation: General suggested usage is 2000-3000 mg a day. To obtain desired
results, maca needs to be taken regularly. There have been no side effects found from
Serve this Fertility Food: Maca is available in powder, capsule, pills or liquid forms. I
love to use the powder of the root in my fertility smoothies and take the capsules when
I do not have a smoothie, so I can make sure I am getting maca in my diet daily. I also
like to combine raw cacao powder, warm coconut milk and maca in a hot cocoa-like
5. Fish Roe & Wild-Caught Oily Fish
Fish roe is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, vitamins D and B12, as well as
trace minerals. Traditionally heralded as a sacred food for pregnancy and lactation, fish
roe is a powerfully rich superfood, teeming with nutrients. It’s high ratio of omega-3 to
omega-6 fatty acids favors fertility in both men and women. Salmon roe was
particularly prized among the arctic peoples1 studied by Weston A Price, a nutritional
researcher who traveled the world examining the effects of modern versus traditional
diets on native populations. Price also found that landlocked peoples still adhering to
their traditional diets went to great lengths to obtain fish roe for women of childbearing
age as an insurance that they might bear healthy babies.
Indeed low omega-3 levels are implicated in male infertility, as men suffering from
infertility suffer significantly lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their sperm than
men of normal fertility2. In laboratory studies, supplementation with DHA (a fatty acid
prevalent in fish roe and cod liver oil) restored fertility to infertile mice3. Fish roe and
caviar typically offer an omega-3:6 ratio of approximately 10 to 1, and regular
consumption of this sacred food could certainly improve omega-3 levels among both
men and women.
Recommendation: I recommend consuming wild-caught seafoods, including roe, two
to four times a week.
Serve this Fertility Food: Salmon roe, or ikura, can be ordered in any good quality sushi
bar and is widely available from online sources. Serve roe on its own, paired with
cucumbers, served with homemade crackers and freshly cultured sour cream.
6. Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Fermented cod liver oil, much like fish roe, is potently rich in DHA, EPA and vitamin D;
however, it is also rich in preformed vitamin A. Just a half teaspoon of fermented cod
liver oil, used as a supplement, contains 90% of the daily value for vitamin A and 230%
of the daily value for vitamin D. Supplementation with both omega-3 fatty acids and
antioxidants, as provided by fermented cod liver oil, offers promising results in the
treatment of women suffering from infertility4. Similarly, supplementation by foods
rich in omega-3 fatty acids may be particularly important in the treatment of polycystic
ovarian syndrome – the most common cause of infertility affecting women5.
Fermented cod liver oil, and many other fertility foods, is potently rich in fat-soluble
vitamin A. Poor maternal intake of vitamin A is implicated in malformation of the
palate1 particularly around the time of conception6 as well as throughout pregnancy
while high intake of vitamin A is not associated with similar risks7.
Recommendation: We recommend consuming cod liver oil to supply 20,000 IU vitamin
A and 2,000 IU vitamin D.
Serve this Fertility Food: Fermented cod liver oil is potently rich in nutrients, and, as
such, it should be used as a whole food dietary supplement. You can find fermented
cod liver oil available online, emulsified cod liver oil, as well as high vitamin butter
oil / fermented cod liver oils. I prefer the combined fermented cod liver with high
vitamin butter oil because it’s exceptionally rich in vitamin K2, vitamin E and coenzyme
Liver, that much loathed food, is, perhaps, one of the most nutrient-dense and valuable
additions for couples who are planning to conceive and who wish to optimize their
children’s nutrition in the womb. Liver is a rich source of folate, vitamin B12,
pantothenic acid, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin A. Preformed vitamin A or retinol
which is only found in animal food sources is particularly important, as is folate.
Insufficient intake of either vitamin A or folate is implicated in birth defects including
malformation of the palate and neural tube defects. Prior to the advent of modern
agriculture, modern food processing and the industrialization of our food supply, the
human diet was rich in both these nutrients and foods naturally dense in both folate
and retinol were particularly prized among native peoples1. As the human food supply
evolved away from whole foods and nutrient-dense organ meats to processed foods, the
diet of those in industrialized societies began to lack these critical nutrients giving rise
to epidemic proportions of birth defects and neural tube defects in particular. The
federal government eventually mandated fortification of certain cereal products with
folic acid; however liver still represents the single best food source of folate. A single
100-gram portion of pan-fried chicken livers contains three times as much folate as an
equivalent serving of raw spinach – a food heralded for its folate content.
Despite concrete evidence implicating low maternal intake of folate with neural tube
defects in their developing babies, the role of folate is more varied and complex.
Indeed, low folate intake is implicated in both male25 and female infertility16 while
supplementation with antioxidants that include folate reveals improved outcomes for
infertile men26 and women. Women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome, suffer
from particularly low levels of folate and B vitamins, and supplementation with folate is
shown to improve their condition27. The inclusion of foods rich in food folate – like liver
– may be of particular importance to these women.
Recommendation: We recommend eating three- to four-ounces of clean, organic liver
once or twice a week.
Serve this Fertility Food: Among the most appetizing ways to serve liver is in a chicken
liver pâté; alternatively, try homemade fried chicken livers or mix ground liver with
ground meat at a ratio of 1:4 in dishes like classic meatloaf.
1.Price, DDS. Nutrition & Physical Degeneration. 2. Safarinejad, et al. Relationship of
omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids with semen characteristics, and anti-oxidant status
of seminal plasma: a comparison between fertile and infertile men. Clinical Nutrition.
February 2010. 3. Roqueta-Rivera, et al. Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation fully
restores fertility and spermatogenesis in male delta-6 desaturase-null mice. Journal of
Lipid Research. February 2010. 4. Mehendale, et al. Oxidative stress-mediated
essential polyunsaturated fatty acid alterations in female infertility. March 2009. 5.
Llepa, et al. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and other androgen excess-related
conditions: can changes in dietary intake make a difference? Nutrition in Clinical
Practice. February 2008. 6. Boyles, et al. Oral facial clefts and gene polymorphisms in
metabolism of folate/one-carbon and vitamin A: a pathway-wide association study.
Genetic Epidemiology. April 2009. 7. Johansen, et al. Maternal dietary intake of
vitamin A and risk of orofacial clefts: a population-based case-control study in
Norway. American Journal of Epidemiology. May 2008. 8. Caudill. Pre- and postnatal
health: evidence of increased choline needs. Journal of the American Dietetic
Association. August 2010. 9. Nandasena, et al. Archives of Oral Biology. August 2010.
10. Mehedint, et al. Maternal dietary choline deficiency alters angiogenesis in fetal
mouse hippocampus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. July 2010. 11.
Zeisel, et al. Perinatal choline influences brain structure and function. Nutrition
Reviews. April 2006. 12. Zeisel. The fetal origins of memory: the role of dietary choline
in optimal brain development. Journal of Pediatrics. November 2006. 13. Zeisel.
Choline: needed for normal development of memory. Journal of the American College
of Nutrition. October 2000. 14. Moon, et al. Perinatal choline supplementation
improves cognitive functioning and emotion regulation in the Ts65Dn mouse model of
Down syndrome. Behavioral Neuroscience. June 2010. 15. Zeisel. Choline: an essential
nutrient for public health. Nutrition Reviews. November 2009. 16. Barger. Maternal
nutrition and perinatal outcomes. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health.
November 2010. 17. Barrett, et al. Vitamin D and pregnancy: An old problem
revisited. Best Practices & Research, Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. August
2010. 18. Lewis, et al. Vitamin D deficiency and pregnancy: from preconception to
birth. Molecular Nutrition & Research. August 2010. 19. Selimoglu, et al. The effect of
vitamin D replacement therapy on insulin resistance and androgen levels in women
with polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of Endocrinological Investigation. April
2010. 19. Colager, et al. Zinc levels in seminal plasma are associated with sperm
quality in fertile and infertile men. Nutrition Research. February 2009. 20. Yuyan, et al.
Are serum zinc and copper levels related to semen quality? Fertility & Sterility. April
2008.21. Omu, et al. Indications of the mechanisms involved in improved sperm
parameters by zinc therapy. Medical Principles & Practice. 2008. 22. Roy, et al. Higher
zinc intake buffers the impact of stress on depressive symptoms in pregnancy.
Nutrition Research. October 2010. 23. De Luca, et al. Fetal and early postnatal life roots
of asthma. Journal of maternal-fetal neonatal medicine. October 2010. 24. Urlu-Adams,
et al. Zinc and reproduction: effects of zinc deficiency on prenatal and early postnatal
development. Birth Defects Research. August 2010. 25. Mendiola, et al. A low intake of
antioxidant nutrients is associated with poor semen quality in patients attending
fertility clinics. Fertility & Sterility. March 2010. 26. Ross, et al. A systematic review of
the effect of oral antioxidants on male infertility. Reproductive Biomedicine Online.
June 2010. 27. Kazerooni, et al. Effect of folic acid in women with and without insulin
resistance who have hyperhomocysteinemic polycystic ovary syndrome. International
Journal of Gynaecology & Obstetrics. May 2008. 28. Stazi, et al. A risk factor for female
fertility and pregnancy: celiac disease. Gynecological Endocrinology. December 2000.
29. Stazi, et al. Chavarro, et al. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and
anovulatory infertility. May 2007.
Head over to my website to sign up and receive my free report on the Nine Tips to Improve Fertility, Have Easier Periods, and Supercharge Your Sex Drive.
Sarah Jane Sandy, CNT, founder of Janey Appleseed Nutrition, is a functional and integrative women’s health expert.
She provides excellent instruction, guidance and support using the principles of holistic nutrition therapy, a system of healing based on the belief that food, as nature intended, provides the medicine we need to obtain and maintain a state of health.
Sarah is a Master’s graduate of the Nutrition Therapy Institute in Denver, CO and is a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals. Her dedication to nutrition and health stem from personal experience and observation of the incredible healing properties of quality food combined with physical movement and emotional balance.
Let's get social: