Fertility

Foods to Improve Egg Quality & Health

Eloise Edington  |   28 May 2021


Today on Fertility Help Hub, we turn to expert fertility nutritionist, Milena from Root and Leaf Nutrition, to find out if there is a way to improve egg quality and health through the foods we put in our body. This is a question we get asked repeatedly and here are the facts.

Words by Milena Mastroianni

www.rootandleafnutrition.com | @rootandleaf.nutrition

I am sure we all had a sigh of relief reading the recent reports on the 2021 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)1 arguing that fertility doesn’t fall off a cliff at the age of 35. Instead, the age number 35, when it comes to women’s fertility, had been pretty arbitrary.

Despite the JAMA’s study concluding that women’s reproductive abilities can in fact be optimal up until the age of 37.1 (which is still a significant improvement), trying to conceive or falling pregnant past the age of 35 is still met with worrying looks by medical professionals.

This is because it is thought that prolonged exposure to toxins, as well as changes in metabolism, on top of unfortunately pretty hectic lifestyles, may have a detrimental impact on our hormones and our fertility, more specifically on the health of our ovarian eggs.

Egg Reserve

Yes, a woman’s egg reserve does decline with age, but there are lots of things that can be done to slow down the ticking of that biological clock, and dare I say, even reverse the chronological age of our ovarian eggs by optimising what we put in our body, with diet and lifestyle strategies when trying to conceive.

Read on for my tips on what you can change and be doing right now to improve your egg quality and health.

Ditch the Processed Foods

Processed foods are not just fast foods and takeaways. It’s the foods that often come packaged, with a number of unpronounceable ingredients on the back. Not to mention the fact these are often very high in sugar, which can have a detrimental effect on both our waistline and fertility.

The first step towards optimising our fertility is clearing out our cupboards and fridges of all or most of these foods. By crowding them out with more natural options, often found in the fruit and vegetable aisles, we can make sure we are nourishing our cells in the best possible ways. After all, the quality of our eggs reflects the quality of our general cells.

Related Article – Are my Eggs Diminishing in Number as I Approach 35?

Reconnect with Real Food

It’s time to get cooking and use ingredients that come as they are in nature. Simple foods like fruit and vegetables (ideally in season), meat, fish, seafood, nuts and seeds, wholegrains and good quality fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and oily fish can be used in a variety of ways to make delicious recipes and it doesn’t have to take ages or require chef training. Soups and salads don’t take very long to make, and batch cooking can often help on those evenings when things are a little hectic and all you need to do is re-heat something you had stocked up your fridge/freezer with.

Eat the Rainbow

A quick guide to help you make your food more visually appealing as well as nutritious is taking a look at your plate and asking yourselves if you have eaten all the colours of the rainbow today.

This can happen in the course of a meal or a day. We now know that eating the rainbow not only helps to make sure we are not deficient in any minerals and vitamins but also feeds all the different good bacteria in our gut, known as our gut microbiome.

Science shows diversity of gut bacteria is fundamental to our own good health because it promotes nutrient absorption, as well as immune and hormonal balance, amongst many other things. And of course, what we absorb from all the colourful vegetables and fruits are all the lovely anti-oxidants that are wonderful at combating oxidative stress and DNA damage affecting our egg quality, fertilisation and ultimately embryo quality too.

Related Article – Gut Health – Why is the Mediterranean Diet So Good For Fertility?

CoQ10 and Gluthathione (2 Powerful Antioxidants) from Food

Continuing on the topic of anti-oxidants that have been shown to have an impact on egg health, CoQ10 and glutathione often feature as super stars that can really supercharge the quality of ovarian eggs. They are mostly made in our bodies but we can also acquire their raw ingredients from our diet, so our body can make them.

For CoQ10, the dietary sources that have the highest content are animal foods like organ meats (if you don’t mind them), but also venison, chicken and oily fish like mackerel, sardines and trout. The next best source includes nuts like pistachios and even extra virgin olive oil.

When it comes to glutathione, whose levels can also decline with age, it’s the raw ingredients that our body needs to make it or spare it that we can find in food. Firstly, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale etc are effective at increasing levels of glutathione for their high sulphur content. Secondly, Vitamin C rich foods like citrus fruits but also the fresh fruit and vegetables that we mentioned above can help the body maintain its glutathione stores by “attacking” the oxidative stress first. The same applies to selenium, found in foods such as fish and brazil nuts, can help maintain or increase the body’s stores of glutathione. When it comes to supplementing these nutrients, be mindful there is a sweet spot. Too much does not mean better. In fact, 2 Brazil nuts a day can provide enough of the recommended intake for selenium.

Related Article – Five Essential Functional Medicine Tests for Fertility

Avoid Toxins when Trying to Conceive

Living in modern societies makes it increasingly hard to avoid being exposed to environmental toxins. Most of us are aware that exposure to these toxins can harm fertility, for example, exposure to plastics has been touted as a potential reason for the decline in fertility and sperm counts in men2. Plastics are also endocrine disruptors and can mimic hormones in women’s bodies creating hormonal imbalances.

Toxins can unfortunately come from many places in our environment, in the form of pesticides on fruit and vegetables, chemicals in toiletries and cleaning products, the containers and cookware we use to cook and store our food and drinks in. Whilst it’s impossible to avoid all of the environmental toxins we are exposed to, assessing where most of your exposure comes from in your home and starting to reduce these toxins, with one small step at a time e.g. choosing organic vegetables and using glass food containers, can make a huge difference in the long run.

Vitamin D – Get in the Sun

The Vitamin Sunshine, which is what Vitamin D is often dubbed as, is key to improving egg quality. The easiest way to get enough Vitamin D is to have 40-50% of your body exposed to sunlight for 15-20 minutes every day. A small amount of vitamin D can also be obtained from diet such as egg yolk and oily fish like wild salmon, herring, sardines (with skin on) but it will never equate to what the sun can do. So, when there is not much sunshine around (hello British summer), the only way to make sure you have adequate amounts of Vitamin D is to get tested and supplement according to the desired optimal levels.

As a final note, yes this is an article on egg health but most, if not all, of the suggestions above apply to both women and men. Changing diet and lifestyle even just over a 3 month period, can have a great impact on the health of both ovarian eggs and sperm. In fact, we now know that most of the chromosomal (DNA) changes that determine the health and the viability of a woman’s eggs occur during the 90 days prior to ovulation. Similarly, male’s sperm is completely renewed in the course of 70-80 days.

Related Article – 5 Nutrient-Dense Foods for Pre-Conception

Milena is a UK-based BANT Registered Nutritional Therapist working with women and couples on their fertility journey. As she also started her family way past the age of 35, her mission is to help her clients move away from worrying about the clock ticking and rediscover the healing, nurturing and regenerative power that real food has on fertility. She is passionate about supporting natural fertility and empowering her clients with the tools they need to best nourish themselves, whether they are trying to conceive naturally or using the assisted reproduction route.

Milena uses a Functional Medicine approach and advanced testing to address the root causes for imbalances and to improve the nutritional status of both partners, so that solid foundations can be laid down for better egg and sperm health.

Besides offering 1:1 consultation packages for personalised diet and lifestyle advice, Milena is soon launching her first online course about how to improve your fertility and your period. To be the first to hear about her new online course, be sure to register to her masterclass “Refuel your fertility.”

Fertility Help Hub readers can speak to Milena for personalised advice here. Claim a 10% discount on all her services, including the new course – using code FHH.

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