Which Vitamins and Minerals Are Important for Optimal Fertility?
No worries, ladies. I'm not going to try to sell you a new "wonder" supplement. Not my shtik. However, I will arm you with the sound nutrition information you can use to change your eating habits and boost your fertility. Totally my shtik.
If you're anything like many of the patients I see most days, you may have this question floating around your brain, "Can't I just take a pill, a multivitamin, to get what I need? Do I really have to eat healthy?"
The answer: No, a vitamin and mineral supplement is not enough. Yes, you need to eat plenty of healthful, minimally processed foods too. Your best bet is to do both; take a multivitamin AND (more importantly) eat a healthy diet. Do it now. Thank me later.
Now that that's settled, let's get in there! What kind of supplements should you take for improved fertility? Simple, a prenatal vitamin or a multivitamin. Nope, you don't need a bunch of different supplements (unless prescribed or advised by your doctor, nurse practitioner, midwife, or registered dietitian to correct a specific deficiency.) A good multivitamin or prenatal vitamin includes a number of vitamins and minerals in amounts your body can actually use. Megadosing offers no benefits (again, unless it is to correct a specific deficiency) and can even be harmful. When it comes to supplements, more is rarely better.
When it comes to which foods to eat for improved fertility, variety and minimal processing are key. Eating fruits and vegetables in a rainbow colors, lean protein rich foods (especially plant based sources like beans,) whole grains, and calcium rich foods are the base of any healthy eating pattern. While all nutrients are important to a healthy body and fertility, science has discovered certain ones are especially important for a healthy pregnancy and enhanced fertility. Want to know exactly which ones? Read on my friend, read on.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency amongst women. Getting enough, and from the right sources, is super important to our health and our fertility. So what are the best foods to get your iron from? Plant based sources seem to have a leg up on the animal sources we usually think of, at least for improved fertility. Women who meet their iron needs from non-heme iron sources (fancy for non animal iron sources) have lower rates of ovulatory infertility.
Plant Based Sources of Iron
- Beans and lentils
- Dried Apricots and peaches
Folic Acid and folate are probably the first vitamin that comes to mind when we think of nutrition and a healthy pregnancy. It is not only important for preventing neural tube defects but also seems to play a role in how likely we are to conceive in the first place. Many grain based products are fortified with folic acid (the manmade form), but you can also find naturally occurring folate in a number of foods.
Food Sources of Folate
- Beans, Peas, and Lentils
Remember when vitamin D deficiency was the vitamin deficiency du jour? Everyone was talking about how low, as a nation, our levels were. It seemed like vitamin D deficiency was thought to be, at least in part, behind every disease known to man: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, you name it. Well, low D likely plays a role in infertility too. It is notoriously difficult to get enough of it from sun exposure and food alone. Check with your healthcare provider to find out if you should take a vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin D Sources
- Sunshine and your own vitamin D factory, i.e. your body!
- Light Tuna
This list is by no means exhaustive; there are a lot of other nutrients we need to optimize our fertility. I'll make sure to cover them in the coming months! Stay tuned!