Fertility foods: 21 of the best foods for getting pregnant, according to a nutritionist

Making sure your diet is packed full of fertility food can help to improve your chances of getting pregnant.

Fertility diet
(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

Fertility food and diet are an important part of your journey to pregnancy. Here we speak to experts about the best foods that increase fertility in females. 

Trying to conceive can be an exciting time and there are lots of things you can do to  improve your chances of getting pregnant. From using an ovulation calculator (opens in new tab), to making sure you get enough exercise, there are many ways to increase your fertility (opens in new tab). But one of the most important is thinking about your diet and ensuring that there is plenty of fertility food in your daily meal plans.

According to researchers (opens in new tab) from the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy: “Reproductive performance is definitely influenced by foods and type of nutrition.”  There are lots of foods that increase fertility in females, from dark leafy vegetables which are rich in folate to kidney beans which are packed with iron.

Registered nutritionist Charlotte Grand, who is the founder and author of The Fertility Kitchen (opens in new tab), says: “Everything your body does requires nutrients which you get from food. Diet has a huge impact on all body systems that affect fertility, including hormones, immune system, detoxification, blood-sugar regulation and digestion. Building a baby is a nutrient-intense process, so a nutrient-rich diet is important.” 

So if you’re just starting out on your pregnancy journey, or you’re struggling to conceive (opens in new tab), taking a close look at your diet could really help.

1. Oily fish

Oily fish is a really important fertility food to include in your diet when trying to get pregnant. Not only is it the richest dietary source of the essential omega-3 fat DHA, it also includes nutrients such as vitamin B12 and iodine.

DHA is vital for foetal brain development, as well as lowering inflammation.

Registered nutritionist Charlotte Grand says: “Oily fish ticks a lot of important fertility nutrient boxes, including vitamin B12, choline, iodine, iron, selenium and zinc.

“Choose fish species with high levels of DHA and low levels of heavy metals (such as mercury) and contaminants. Good choices include Atlantic mackerel, herring, rainbow trout, sardines and wild Alaskan or sockeye salmon. Include oily fish in your fertility diet two to three times a week and mix things up by trying different varieties.”

Omega-3 has also been found to improve the chances of conceiving. In this study (opens in new tab) of 900 women trying to get pregnant, researchers found that women taking omega-3 supplements had 1.51 times the probability of conceiving compared to women not taking them.

Registered nutritionist Emma Thornton (opens in new tab) adds: “Oily fish is a fantastic source of both omega-3 and vitamin D. Healthy fats such as omega-3 are anti-inflammatory and help to slow the release of sugars in our diet, therefore helping to sustain better energy levels. Adequate vitamin D is important for hormone balance, which is often an important consideration whilst trying to conceive.”

2. Flaxseeds

Research (opens in new tab) has shown that one of the most important hormones when trying to conceive is oestrogen. So finding fertility foods which boost this hormone is a great place to start.

Registered nutritionist Emma Thornton says: “Flaxseeds are gently oestrogenic and we need sufficient oestrogen in the first half of our menstrual cycle to successfully trigger ovulation.

“Flaxseeds are also fibre-rich and a good source of omega-3, meaning they are wonderfully anti-inflammatory and energy sustaining.”

An easy way to add flaxseed into your diet is to stir some into your breakfast cereal or a smoothie. Or alternatively, add some to an avocado and pasta salad (opens in new tab) for lunch.

3. Brazil nuts

The hormone progesterone plays a number of different roles in conception and pregnancy. Researchers (opens in new tab) have found that it is required for the successful implantation of a fertilised egg into the lining of the uterus.

As a result, registered nutritionist Emma Thornton suggests adding Brazil nuts to your list of foods that increase fertility in females. She says: “Brazil nuts are high in essential nutrients, including magnesium and zinc. Interestingly, these key nutrients are particularly important for the production of the sex hormone progesterone. Progesterone is important for maintaining the lining of the womb in the second half of our menstrual cycle, making it suitable to receive a fertilised egg.”

You don’t actually need to eat a lot of Brazil nuts to reap their benefits. It’s usually recommended to eat 1-3 a day.

4. Eggs

Eggs are a great fertility food and are really easy to include in your diet as they can be eaten in so many ways.

Registered nutritionist Charlotte Grand says: “Eggs are a rich source of complete protein, healthy fats and cholesterol. The yolks contain an abundance of important fertility nutrients and are the richest source of choline for many.”

Researchers (opens in new tab) agree that choline is extremely important during pregnancy for things like foetal brain development and placenta formation.

A great fertility-boosting meal is baked eggs with spinach (opens in new tab) or try this poached egg and buckwheat pancake (opens in new tab) recipe.

5. Liver

Although liver is not very popular these days, it is actually one of the best foods for increasing fertility in females

Registered nutritionist Charlotte Grand explains: “Liver scores highly in the fertility nutrition stakes. That’s because gram for gram, it contains more nutrients than any other food. It contains significant amounts of vital fertility nutrients, including vitamins A, B6 and B12, choline, copper, folate, iron, vitamin K2, selenium and zinc.”

Researchers in this study (opens in new tab) found that vitamin A “is essential for reproduction in both the male and female, as well as for many events in the developing embryo.”

If you haven’t eaten liver before, it may feel daunting. However, there are simple ways to incorporate this fertility food into your diet.

Charlotte suggests: “Start including it once a week and choose organic chicken liver, which has the mildest flavour. Hide small amounts in your favourite recipes by puréeing it or freezing, grating and adding it to the pot for the last minute or two of cooking time. Liver is suited to recipes like bolognese and chilli.”

This chicken liver salad (opens in new tab) is an easy lunch option, or pan-fried chicken livers with sherry and spinach (opens in new tab) is a great dinner party recipe.

6. Asparagus

An important factor to consider on your fertility journey is the quality of your eggs.

Asparagus is a fertility food which can support this. That is because, as well as being packed full of important nutrients for those trying to conceive, including folic acid and vitamin K, it also includes the antioxidant glutathione.

Studies (opens in new tab) have shown that glutathione shields eggs from damage and therefore improves their quality.

Asparagus is a really easy ingredient to incorporate into everyday meals. For some fertility boosting recipes, try grilled asparagus, sweet potato and poached egg (opens in new tab) or asparagus and pea risotto (opens in new tab).

7. Spinach

Medical professionals recommend that all women who are trying to conceive take a supplement of folic acid. This is because it is extremely important for the development of your baby during early pregnancy.

The NHS (opens in new tab) recommends 400 micrograms of folic acid every day from before you’re pregnant until you are 12 weeks pregnant.

In addition, you can also boost your levels with the natural form of folate, known as vitamin B9, through a fertility food such as spinach.

Registered nutritionist Emma Thornton explains: “Folate is important for the early stages of development in pregnancy. For this reason, it’s recommended we stock up on food sources of folate, or the synthetic form, folic acid, from supplements, for a few months prior to trying to conceive.”

This study of 161 couples undergoing IVF treatment found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet (opens in new tab) had higher levels of red blood cell folate and an increased probability of becoming pregnant.

If you’re wondering how to cook spinach (opens in new tab), it can be prepared in many different ways, from steaming to roasting. Plus, it can also be eaten raw in salads.

8. Citrus fruit

Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits are a great source of vitamin C, which has been shown to boost fertility.

In this study (opens in new tab) 100 men were given 1,000mg of vitamin C every other day as a supplement for six months. The results showed that consuming vitamin C significantly improves sperm concentration and mobility.

Oranges make an easy snack or can be juiced and lemon can be added as an ingredient when cooking.

However, if you are taking any kind of medication you should check that it is safe for you to eat grapefruit, as it can interfere with some treatments.

9. Seaweed

The mineral iodine is important when trying to conceive, as it is taken up by the ovaries and the endometrium (the lining of the uterus).

Researchers (opens in new tab) in New Zealand explained that: “Iodine deficiency is associated with reduced fertility” and have hypothesised that iodine could have a role as a potential therapy for unexplained infertility.

If you’re looking for a fertility food high in iodine, seaweed is the best option. You can sprinkle it on salad and soups, or roast it for a healthy snack.

Registered nutritionist Rachael Anderson (opens in new tab) says: “If you are planning a pregnancy, including iodine rich foods such as seaweed, fish, milk and dairy products is a good idea.”

10. Avocado

When considering foods that increase fertility in females, it is also worth thinking about those which increase the risk of infertility.

Studies (opens in new tab) have shown that trans unsaturated fats, found in items like fried fast food and bakery products, may increase the risk of ovulatory infertility.

Instead these unhealthy options should be swapped for a fertility food which contains healthy fats, such as avocado.

Registered nutritionist Rachael Anderson says: "Choose healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, such as avocados, over less healthy trans fats, which are found in biscuits, cakes and fried food."

11. Kidney beans

Iron is extremely important during pregnancy and can help to boost your energy levels as you try to conceive.

Kidney beans are a great source of both iron and protein and are particularly important if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet (opens in new tab).

Research (opens in new tab) has shown that preconception anaemia (where the body does not produce enough red blood cells because the level of iron in the blood is too low) can adversely affect pregnancy outcomes. So it is important to keep your iron levels high when trying to conceive.

Registered nutritionist Emma Thornton says: “During pregnancy our iron requirements go up, so it can be nice to stock up in advance. Iron and protein are also essential for energy processes, something that can take a hit during pregnancy since there are many more demands on your body.”

For an easy way to add kidney beans into your diet, try something like Fearne Cotton’s vegan stew (opens in new tab).

12. Berries

Berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries contain natural antioxidants. While these are important for our day to day health, research has also shown that they are beneficial for fertility.

In this study (opens in new tab) researchers found that antioxidant supplements can effectively improve semen parameters in infertile men. Plus, this research (opens in new tab) found that women with a high fruit intake had a reduced chance of infertility.

It’s really easy to incorporate berries into your daily diet. Sprinkle them onto your breakfast for a morning boost or grab a handful as a healthy snack.

13. Bone broth

Bone broth (opens in new tab) is known for its cold-fighting nutrients, but it is also a super fertility food.

Registered nutritionist Charlotte Grand explains: “Homemade bone broth (stock) offers a source of nutrients that can otherwise be lacking in our diets. The bones, skin and connective tissue are rich in protein, gelatine, collagen, glycine and minerals.

“Bones contain more minerals per gram than any other body tissue and broth made from bones is full of these minerals as they leach into the liquid as it simmers. Collagen and gelatine are rich sources of glycine, which is essential to obtain from the diet during pregnancy. Glycine is a structural amino acid required for foetal DNA and collagen synthesis. The most reliable sources include bone broth, slow-cooked meat and skin-on, bone-in poultry. You can also add pure gelatine or collagen powders to other foods.”

Studies (opens in new tab) have shown that glycine is extremely important during the later stages of pregnancy. So it is definitely worth adding bone broth into your diet if you are able to.

14. Butternut squash

Research (opens in new tab) has proved that calcium is a vital nutrient for women, both prior to conceiving and during the development of the foetus.

While many people receive their calcium from dairy products, it is also possible to get the nutrient from plant products. This is particularly important if you follow a vegan diet.

Registered nutritionist Emma Thornton explains: “Butternut squash is rich in calcium, which is a nutrient requirement that jumps up if we are to fall pregnant. This is because it helps to support the growth of the foetus.

“It’s a common misconception that we need to get calcium from dairy sources. However, actually plant based sources often also contain other vital nutrients such as magnesium. These are important for hormone balance and blood sugar regulation, and therefore energy.”

If you’re wondering how to cook butternut squash (opens in new tab) we would suggest roasting it, mashing it, or even blending it to make something like this tasty carrot and butternut squash soup (opens in new tab).

15. Tofu

While protein is very important in a diet when trying to get pregnant, health experts suggest you should opt for plant-based proteins, such as tofu, rather than animal sources.

This study (opens in new tab) followed 18,555 women over an eight year period as they tried to conceive. After assessing their diets, researchers concluded that replacing animal sources of protein with vegetable sources of protein may reduce ovulatory infertility risk.

Registered nutritionist Rachael Anderson says: “Opt for plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh, lentils, pulses and beans, over animal proteins. Evidence suggests this may help improve ovulatory infertility.”

If you’re not used to cooking with tofu, why not try something like Joe Wicks’ miso tofu with stir-fried ginger greens (opens in new tab).

16. Nuts and seeds

While it is important that women who are trying to conceive ensure they have a good fertility diet, the same goes for their partners.

Nuts and seeds are a good source of monosaturated fatty acids, which are known to be helpful for women who are trying to increase their fertility. Plus, they are also important for men too.

Rachael says: “For men, diets rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve sperm health, quality and motility.”

This meta-analysis (opens in new tab) of studies looking at the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on male infertility, found that supplementing infertile men with omega-3 fatty acids resulted in a significant improvement in sperm movement.

Good sources of omega-2 fatty acids include walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds.

17. Greek yoghurt

Greek yoghurt is a great fertility food as it contains important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

Research has also shown that in order to increase their fertility chances, couples should stick to high-fat dairy options, rather than low-fat.

This study (opens in new tab) of 18,555 women who were followed over a period of eight years as they tried to conceive found that a high intake of low-fat dairy foods may increase the risk of anovulatory infertility (when an egg is not released by the female). However, eating high-fat dairy foods may decrease this risk.

18. Leafy greens

We know that leafy greens, like spinach, are important sources of folate, but they also provide so many more nutrients.

Registered nutritionist Charlotte Grand says: “Leafy green vegetables are especially beneficial for fertility because they are crammed with essential nutrients such as calcium, folate, iron and vitamin K1, as well as fibre.

“They also contain carotenoids, which are particularly concentrated in the ovaries where they protect against oxidative stress.”

These foods are also important for men, as studies (opens in new tab) have shown that a calcium deficiency can be associated with reduced fertilisation rate and male infertility.

Charlotte suggests: “Choose from chard (all varieties), collard greens, kale, rocket, spinach and watercress, and eat a variety.

“Aim to eat one portion, a one cup measure, tightly packed, with every meal. If it seems strange to eat greens at breakfast, add them to a smoothie or serve with eggs.”

19. Wholegrains

When shopping for fertility food it is always better to opt for wholegrains, rather than refined grains. This is because they are less processed and contain more nutrients.

Registered nutritionist Rachael Anderson says: “Try high fibre, low glycemic index foods, such as wholegrains, to improve fertility chances.”

In this large study (opens in new tab) researchers assessed the diets of women who were trying to get pregnant. Their results showed: “The amount and quality of carbohydrate in diet may be important determinants of ovulation and fertility in healthy women.”

It’s easy to include healthier carbohydrates into your diet by including wholegrains such as brown rice, wholewheat pasta and oats.

20. Olive oil

Swapping your usual cooking oil for olive oil is an easy way to improve your diet when trying to conceive.

Olive oil is high in healthy fat and research has shown that it can help to improve pregnancy outcomes.

In this study (opens in new tab) of 111 couples going through IVF, 55 couples received a 6-week intervention of a daily supplement drink enriched with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, plus additional olive oil and olive oil-based spread. The results showed that it altered the rate of embryo cleavage (a series of cell divisions). Researchers now want to consider whether this translates into improved clinical outcomes.

21. Vitamin D supplement

As well as stocking up on fertility food, it is important that you have enough vitamin D in your diet.

Although you can get small amounts of vitamin D from foods such as oily fish, eggs and red meat, many people do not get enough. This is especially the case during autumn and winter, as much of the vitamin D we receive comes from the sun.

The NHS (opens in new tab) recommends that people get 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day. It also suggests that pregnant women consider taking a supplement of this amount between September and March.

Studies have also shown that vitamin D can have an effect on fertility. In this review (opens in new tab) of clinical data about the role of vitamin D in fertility and pregnancy, researchers state that: “Observational studies show that vitamin D deficiency is a risk marker for reduced fertility.”

Registered nutritionist Rachael Anderson says: “Research also suggests that taking a 10 micrograms (mcg) supplement of Vitamin D has favourable effects on fertility.”

Fertility-boosting nutrients

When you're trying to conceive it can also be a good idea to up your intake of vitamins and minerals, to make sure you're getting just the right amount of nutrients. Use the table below to work out what you could be getting a bit more of here and there, and the best foods to try, too.

Vitamin Benefits Daily doseFoods to eat
ZincAll-round essential for fertility
Zinc ensures the production of good-quality sperm
Can reduce the chance of miscarriage
30mgOysters
cashew nuts
pumpkin seeds
Crab meat
B6Helps to balance hormones50mgSunflower seeds
Tinned salmon
Bananas
Lentils
B12Needed for cellular reproduction
Can increase sperm count
50mcgClams
Sardines
Lamb
Egg yolk
Cheddar cheese
SeleniumAn antioxidant that can increase male fertility
Prevents chromosome breakage, which can cause miscarriage
100mcgBrazil nuts
Sunflower seeds Raisins
Vitamin CIncreases sperm count
Stops sperm from sticking together
Improves mobility
Prevents abnormal sperm
1000mgStrawberries
Kiwi fruit
Oranges
Tomatoes
Vitamin EIncreases sperm mobility and ability to penetrate the egg
Can reduce age-related ovulation decline
270mgSunflower oil
Sunflower seeds
Hazelnuts
Almonds
Avocados
Essential Fatty AcidsCan prevent poor sperm mobility, low count or abnormal sperm.
EFAs have also been shown to reduce fibroids and endometriosis
Eat oily fish 3 times a weeka
Eat nuts and seeds daily
Sardines
Pilchards
Flaxseed oil
Nuts and seeds