The Truth About Fertility Superfoods

What's So Special About Walnuts, Pomegranates, and Other Fertility Superfoods

Test tube holder with different vegetables and fruits, studio shot
Superfoods may help you have a healthier life, but they are not magical.. Thomas Northcut / Getty Images

Look anywhere online, and you'll find lists of fertility superfoods. (In fact, we've got a list of 15 fertility superfoods ourselves!) There are lists of superfoods for almost every health condition. 

You might get the impression that these foods can heal diseases. Maybe they can help you lose weight without even trying.

If you're looking at fertility superfoods, you're likely hoping they'll help you get pregnant!

The truth is that if you called a superfood a “health food” instead you’d be just as accurate.

Superfoods can’t “cure” illnesses. They can't cure infertility, and they can't magically get you pregnant.

As far as I know, they also can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound nor travel faster than a speeding bullet. (Unless you put them in a gun or cannon of some sort, then I suppose they could... but they’d likely splat all over the place on landing, and that wouldn’t be very super of them.)

So if superfoods can’t be identified by their flapping red capes, how do they earn their label?

It’s not a scientific or medical label. There’s really no universally accepted definition for superfood, though you can read general definition here.

Here's how many fertility superfoods get their labels.

Fertility-Focused “Food as Medicine” Research

A very select few get their label from fertility research.

In other words, studies that actually test what happens to reproductive health when you add a food, spice, or herb into the diet.

A good example is walnuts.

In a study published in Biology of Reproduction, researchers recruited a group 117 healthy men, ages 21 to 35. These men tended to eat what’s consider a standard Western diet. (In other words, not so healthy.)

Researchers randomized them into two groups. One was told to keep eating their regular diet but to avoid eating any tree nuts.

The other was told to add to their regular diet a serving of 75 grams of walnuts every day.

To help with compliance and consistency, the walnut eaters were given easy to use pre-weighted packages of walnuts.

All participants had blood work and semen analysis done at the start of the study and 12 weeks later.

Researchers found that the walnut eaters had measurable improvements in their semen health.

The walnut eaters’ sperm had better vitality, motility (movement), and morphology (shape.)

The theory is that this is from the increased levels of omega-6 and omega-3 received from the walnuts.

Now, does that mean that men with male infertility can solve their problems by eating walnuts?

No. It's highly unlikely.

Could eating walnuts make a man more fertile, thereby making it easier to get pregnant with their partner?

Again, this study doesn’t really show that either.

But the research was enough for us common folk to start calling walnuts fertility superfoods.

Foods High in Fertility-Friendly Nutrients

Being nutrient-rich is the most common way for a food to get labeled a superfood.

If a food is high in nutrients that are known or suspected to be important to fertility, then they are deemed fertility superheroes.

Nutrients known or suspected to be important to fertility include... 

So, for example, oysters are commonly labeled a fertility superfood. This is because they are the best food source for zinc, a fertility essential nutrient.

Oysters are also rich in iron, selenium, and vitamin B-12.

Historically, oysters have also been thought to be aphrodisiacs, an extra bonus.

Foods That Are Part of Fertility-Friendly Diets

The connection between overall diet and fertility is a hot research topic. Some studies have looked at how a population’s overall diet correlates with overall fertility rates.

For example, people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet tend to have fewer problems getting pregnant. (At least, according to some studies.)

Olive oil is commonly a part of Mediterranean dishes. Therefore, olive oil gets labeled as a fertility superfood.

Foods That Boost Fertility... in Animals

Pomegranate received its fertility superfood label because of a study done in rats.

In the study, researchers separated rats into four groups. Each group was given slightly different ratios of a water-pomegranate solution to drink.

The rats who drank higher concentrations of pomegranate juice had higher levels of vitamin C. They also had healthier sperm, including better sperm concentrations and sperm motility.

Researchers also found lower levels of abnormal sperm in these rats.

Does that mean pomegranate juice will do the same for human sperm?

No one knows.

An extremely small pilot study looked into whether pomegranate juice could help men with erectile dysfunction. 

While those who drank the juice were slightly more likely to have improvements, the findings were not statistically significant.

A Word of Caution: Superfoods Aren’t Necessarily Harmless

Adding superfoods to your meals are a great way to get more nutrition and variety in your diet. And, just possibly, they may boost your fertility.

But not all superfoods are harmless.

For example, Brazil nuts are frequently touted as a fertility superfood because they are very high in selenium.

However, they are so high in selenium that eating just one ounce – or 6 to 8 nuts – will give you 544 mcg of selenium.

This is seven times the recommended daily intake of selenium. Way over what’s considered to be the tolerable upper intake limit.

If you eat Brazil nuts regularly, you could actually overdose on selenium.

If you also take a supplement that includes selenium (and many multivitamins and fertility-specific supplements do), your levels can become even more dangerously high.

Symptoms of selenium overdose may include metallic tastes and garlic odored breath, hair and nail brittleness and loss, skin lesions, severe digestive upset, fatigue, and serious neurological symptoms.

In rare cases (usually caused by a supplement overdose), kidney failure, cardiac failure, and even death can occur. 

Pomegranate juice, which seems like a fairly innocent superfood, may interact with some blood clotting medications and statins.

Just about every diet and exercise programs includes a disclaimer, telling the reader to “speak to their doctor first” before starting.

Probably 99% of people skip this step, but you really shouldn’t.

Talk to your doctor about what you’re doing to improve your fertility and health, even if you’re “only” adding in some intriguing superfoods.

More on improving health and fertility:


Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Selenium. Health Professional. Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health. Accessed December 20, 2013.

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zinc. Quick Facts. Health Professional. Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health. Accessed December 20, 2013.

Forest CP, Padma-Nathan H, Liker HR. “Efficacy and safety of pomegranate juice on improvement of erectile dysfunction in male patients with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study.” Int J Impot Res. 2007 Nov-Dec;19(6):564-7. Epub 2007 Jun 14.

Integrative Medicine: Pomegranate. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Accessed December 20, 2013.

Türk G, Sönmez M, Aydin M, Yüce A, Gür S, Yüksel M, Aksu EH, Aksoy H. “Effects of pomegranate juice consumption on sperm quality, spermatogenic cell density, antioxidant activity and testosterone level in male rats.” Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;27(2):289-96. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2007.12.006. Epub 2008 Jan 28.

Robbins WA, Xun L, FitzGerald LZ, Esguerra S, Henning SM, Carpenter CL. “Walnuts improve semen quality in men consuming a Western-style diet: randomized control dietary intervention trial.” Biol Reprod. 2012 Oct 25;87(4):101. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.112.101634. Print 2012 Oct.

Rosenwaks, Zev and Goldstein, Marc. (2010). A Baby at Last. United States of America: Fireside.

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