Which Nuts Are Best For Fertility? Options Beyond Brazil Nuts for Your Fertility

Written by: Carly Fenimore, MS, RD, LDN

Edited by: Dr. Will Haas, MD, MBA

Last updated: May 20th, 2021

Variety of different nuts nuts for fertility spread out

Nuts! 

Simple, yet incredible little options when it comes to boosting your fertility with food.

There are many varieties to consider and studies reveal that they have measurable benefits for the reproductive health of you and your partner.

Why Nuts Are Important

Various different nuts have been shown to provide nutritional benefits for your fertility diet. Not only are nuts a good source of plant-based proteins, but they contain important fertility-boosting nutrients such as omega-3s, selenium, vitamin E, and magnesium just to name a few.

Plant-Based Protein

As a plant source of protein, raw nuts are easy and super versatile to incorporate into your everyday diet. A simple tablespoon serving can be added to just about any dish from those delicious smoothies to a quick-and-easy stir-fry.

The best part about these simple additions? Including a serving of plant-based protein may help protect against ovulatory infertility. They certainly make for a better option than red meat when you’re trying to conceive. Don’t believe us, check out our post on proteins and fertility!

From a practical standpoint, nuts are shelf-stable, requiring little to no prep when compared to other plant proteins like lentils or quinoa. They are also easy to tote around! Having a trail mix blend on hand is a simple way to get in your fertility-boosting nutrients while enjoying an afternoon pick-me-up snack.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid, which is found in nuts, has shown notable benefits for reproductive health. 

ALA is transformed in the body to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is an essential nutrient for optimal brain development in infants. Additionally, it aids in decreasing inflammation. 

Deficiencies in nutrients like DHA may also lead to undesirable outcomes in pregnancy. Medically reviewed data from a secondary analysis of a randomized trial published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology noted that inadequate levels of DHA in early pregnancy were associated with an increased risk of preterm birth. The American Pregnancy Association recommends 300mg of DHA per day.

Obtaining omega-3 fatty acids from nuts can help women obtain this important nutrient and have a positive impact on the development of their children and improve the health of their pregnancy. Alternative food sources to get your omega-3s from include salmon, flaxseed, and olive oil.

Selenium

Selenium is an antioxidant known for its impacts on sperm health… But, did you know it can have lasting benefits for female fertility as well? 

A 2014 study showed increased levels of selenium were found in mature ovarian follicles possibly indicating the antioxidant benefits of the nutrient on the preparation of the follicle for a healthy pregnancy. Deficiencies in this nutrient have been correlated with miscarriage, preeclampsia, small birth weight, preterm labor, and gestational diabetes. An observational study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed significantly low levels of selenium in women who had miscarried compared to those who had not. 

The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends a daily dose of 60-70 mcg of selenium for pregnant and lactating women. However, too much of a good thing is not always beneficial. Intake of selenium greater than 900 mcg per day can be toxic and it’s not recommended to exceed 400 mcg per day. Selenium can be obtained in the diet from other sources including seafood.

Vitamin E

No surprise here… nuts – and seeds for that matter – are among one of our highest dietary sources of vitamin E. As a potent antioxidant, it protects our cells against damage, which makes it another great piece in the fertility nutrient equation. 

Found in many foods, vitamin E deficiency is unlikely unless you are experiencing issues with nutrient absorption. Lower than ideal levels may result in poor vision, muscle weakness, and decreased immune function.

A study conducted on over 400 women revealed additional vitamin E was beneficial to women with unexplained infertility and correlated with a shorter time to pregnancy especially in women over the age of 35 — great news for women of advanced maternal age! 

Impacts of increased consumption of vitamin E are also seen during pregnancy as noted in a 2006 study where higher intake correlated with a significant decrease in preeclampsia and miscarriage cases compared to women who did not consume additional vitamin E.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a nutrient with a variety of different functions within the body. Most notably as it relates to your fertility, magnesium is required for energy production, DNA synthesis, and blood sugar control. It also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium into your cells. 

Seems like a pretty important nutrient, right? 

Interestingly, when we look at magnesium levels after in-vitro fertilization (IVF), successful IVF procedures were found to be associated with higher levels of magnesium at the start of treatment. Thus, optimization of magnesium prior to undergoing fertility treatments may aid in more positive outcomes. Additionally, a 2017 study of 180 women found intake of magnesium during pregnancy was associated with decreased risk of adverse outcomes such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and low birth weight.

Nuts Help Male Fertility Too

As you’ve just seen, antioxidant-rich nuts have been shown to have a positive impact on fertility, pregnancy, and birth outcomes for women. But what about for men?

Taking a further look at nuts and male fertility, a study on 119 men published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found including 60 grams of nuts per day (about 2 handfuls) in their diet was shown to significantly increase multiple parameters of sperm quality including sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm shape. The nut mixture of almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts was also found to reduce DNA fragmentation. 

Further research on walnuts and male fertility suggests that just 75 grams per day over 12 weeks can improve sperm vitality, motility, and morphology.

The Top 5 Nuts for Fertility

The top 5 nuts for fertility are known for their multi-beneficial properties. These little superstar nuggets are walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts.

Walnuts

Walnuts are nutrient powerhouses. Packed with a good source of omega-3s and antioxidants, these nuts have been seen in studies to have many positive impacts including those highlighted in this article. In addition to helping your fertility, walnuts have been shown to help produce healthy sperm for your man too. Give them a try in your trail mix or favorite salad recipe!

Brazil Nuts

Allowing you to meet your entire daily selenium needs with just 1 per day (68-91 mcg of selenium), Brazil nuts are the easiest to consume to fulfill your daily allotment of selenium and the largest nut on our list. Just a few of these a week may aid in improving fertility along with thyroid function, decreasing inflammation, and boosting your mood.

Almonds

The seemingly most versatile nut with flavors for everyone from cayenne to cocoa, almonds are an enticing option to meet your nutritional needs. As the leading producer of almonds, the United States has almond everything — milk, flour, and even butter! 

High in antioxidants, almonds can protect against free radical damage and oxidative stress, a precursor for inflammation and fertility issues in both men and women. With a serving size of just 23 almonds, these are easy to snack on or add as a topping to your favorite salad.

Cashews

These kidney-shaped legumes are a rich source of magnesium and selenium as well as a host of other nutrients. High in unsaturated fat, cashews are also a heart-healthy food! 

Studies have correlated intake with improved magnesium and an increased likelihood of pregnancy. One serving, about 18 cashews, contains five grams of protein as well as vitamin C and folate, the latter of which is tremendously important for preventing neural tube birth defects during pregnancy.  That makes these nutritional gems great if you don’t love veggies.  

Hazelnuts

This great-tasting nut is yet another example of a multitude of beneficial nutrients all found in one place. They are, like many other nuts, a good source of selenium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and vitamin E. Containing antioxidants, known to protect sperm from free radical damage, nutrients within nuts may also aid in hormone regulation by stabilizing blood sugar levels, a vital part of healthy fertility.

 List of the top 5 nuts to promote fertility

How to Get the Best Benefit From Nuts

Ways to incorporate nuts into the diet abound and keeping them on hand for on-the-go outings or storing them in bulk can be convenient. 

If harvesting your own raw nuts or buying in the shell, after removing from the shell allow the nuts to air-dry for several days then place them in the freezer for 48 hours to kill bugs or eggs that may be present, then proceed with your desired mode of storage. When storing nuts, avoid putting them next to high-odor foods such as onions as they will absorb odors around them. 

With the ability to be kept at room temperature for up to 3 months, the longevity of nuts can be increased by placing them in the refrigerator, whether in or out of their shell, for up to 6 months or in the freezer for a year or more! Be sure to date your nuts so you know which ones to use first. 

To bring stale nuts back to life, roast in the oven for 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Roasting adds flavor and variety. If you decide to go this route, be mindful that higher temperatures may denature some of the essential fatty acids present within the nuts. 

Generally, any way you desire to add nuts to your menu is a great way! The biggest takeaway is to consume them daily for the most impact.

Nutty Recipe Inspiration

There are many incredible ways to enjoy nuts in your diet. 

You can keep things simple with a basic trail mix or you can get fancy. If you find yourself up for the challenge, you can make natural, homemade almond butter. It’s a healthy alternative to many of the store-bought kinds that sneak in added sugar. 

Homemade Almond Butter:

Almond butter made in a blender to eat as part of a fertility diet

Ingredients: 

3 cup raw, whole almonds

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Instructions: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the almonds across a large, rimmed baking sheet and toast the almonds for 10 minutes, stirring halfway.

Let the almonds cool until they’re just warm (not hot), about 10 minutes. Transfer the almonds along with the sea salt to a high-speed blender or food processor. Blend until creamy, pausing to scrape down the sides as necessary.

Let the almond butter cool to room temperature, then transfer the mixture to a mason jar and screw on the lid. Store in the refrigerator and mix any separated oil as needed.

Final Thoughts

With so many beneficial properties, it’s easy to see why many dietitians consider nuts a fertility superfood! They allow you to easily obtain many essential vitamins and minerals that are valuable not only for your overall health but for your reproductive health as well. 

Best of all, they are a good, whole foods option for both men and women.  The addition of these plant-based proteins — especially walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, and hazelnut nuts — can contribute to significant improvements in egg and sperm health as well as preventing negative outcomes once you become pregnant too. 

So simple and so beneficial! 

What’s not to love?

With Love & Empowerment,
Carly Fenimore, MS, RD, LDN

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