Good nutrition in men and women can be an essential foundation for a healthy pregnancy and baby. Eggs and sperm take up to three months to mature, so both of you should be thinking about what goes in to your body well before you try for a baby. Here’s the most important nutrients you should be getting into your diet right now.
Folic acid (for her)
Folic acid is known to assist in the development of the baby's neural tube which forms into the spine and brain. A lack of the vitamin is linked to spina bifida, a condition where the baby's spine fails to form properly. So it’s important to get plenty in your diet before and during pregnancy.
Found in: dark green leafy vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and bok choy. Lentils are also an excellent source.
Zinc (for him and her)
In females, zinc helps eggs to mature and regulates hormones during the menstrual cycle. Increasing zinc levels in men has been shown to boost the level, quality and function of sperm.
Found in: beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, asparagus, lentils, quinoa.
Selenium (for him and her)
An antioxidant which helps mop up free radicals that may cause chromosome breakage. It is also essential for sperm formation.
Found in: Brazil nuts, salmon, asparagus, turkey, chicken, eggs.
Omega 3 fatty acids (for her)
It helps to balance hormones, increase cervical mucus and improve the quality of the uterus by improving blood flow.
Found in: walnuts, chia seeds, salmon, sardines, mackerel.
Vitamin E (for him and her)
Another antioxidant which has been shown to help increase female fertility and enhance sperm health.
Found in: Sunflower seeds, spinach, asparagus, almonds, broccoli, kale, avocado.
Vitamin C (for him)
Another antioxidant which improves sperm quality and ejaculate volume.
Found in: Papaya, peppers, broccoli, strawberries, pineapple, kale, cauliflower, cabbage.
Beta-carotene (for him and her)
This natural pigment gives some fruit and vegetables their bright colouring. It was widely (but wrongly) credited with helping spitfighter pilots to see in the dark during the second world war. While its qualities are not quite that impressive, it is an antioxidant and a precursor to vitamin A - both boost fertility in men and women.
Found in: sweet potato, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, squash, red peppers.
L-Arginine (for him)
An essential amino acid that is a precursor to nitric oxide (NO), which helps improve blood flow to the penis to maintain erections.
Found in: Turkey, pork, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, chickpeas, lentils.
L-Carnitine (for him)
Another amino acid which boosts testosterone levels and is linked to sperm mobility and health.
Found in: Beef, pork, cod, chicken, asparagus, avocado.
Everyone's different - for advice on intake or a tailored plan for you and your partner, contact one of our Nutritional Therapists in a location near you.
Last updated Wednesday 13 February 2019
First published on Tuesday 5 April 2016