What are the most essential micronutrients when trying to conceive (TTC)?
What are Micronutrients?
This term refers to vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are vital for energy production, immune function, blood clotting and other functions. Minerals assist growth, bone health, fluid balance and other processes. Fibre and water also form part of this category.
Vitamins. A vitamin is an essential micronutrient that cannot be synthesised in the body and must be obtained through the diet. Some vitamins dissolved in water (water-soluble) and carried through the bloodstream, and some in fat (fat-soluble). The vitamins that are not used will be secreted through the urine; ever noticed why your pee is aluminous after taking a multivitamin? There are recommended daily allowances for each vitamin. Some vitamins might cause damage if they exceeded the daily intake over a prolonged period, equally, if there is a lack of specific vitamins. Each vitamin has a different role and is vital in keeping our bodily functions in an optimal state.
Minerals. Help your body grow, develop, and stay healthy minerals. They are essential for normal enzyme and cellular activity and play vital roles in the composition and function of body tissues and body fluids, including bone, blood and skin.
What Micronutrients are essential when TTC?
Before deciding to take supplements, it’s worth seeing a nutritional therapist who will analyse your diet and check if you need any specific supplements to boost your nutritional intake. You can also have a blood test to check your levels for any deficiencies.
All micronutrients have a role to play in fertility health. However, there are some that, if deficient, could affect conception. Following is a breakdown of a few essential vitamins and minerals that will aid in conception, improve health and sperm health and help manage other conditions associated with fertility such as; endometriosis, PCOS and menstruation symptoms.
Vitamin B is a water-soluble vitamin that is best taken together, called the B complex. B vitamins together support the nervous system in times of stress, release energy from foods, and maintain sex hormones. The most important is B9, Folate (Folic Acid is the synthetic form); the primary function is to prevent neural tube defects in babies. Vitamin B9 works well with B12, where both vitamins are essential for cell replication and building DNA and RNA, therefore producing healthy sperm and eggs.
Stress and a bad diet can deplete vitamin B. Therefore, it is crucial to keep stress to a minimum and stock up on foods like; leafy greens, broccoli, mushrooms, eggs, chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, wholegrain, brewers yeast and seaweed.
Vitamin A, C, D and E are all antioxidants and are fat-soluble. All these vitamins have slightly different roles. However, they are all protectors of DNA, and the antioxidant properties increase the health of eggs and sperm. Antioxidants assist with a healthy immune system and having the ability to fight off free radicals from oxidative stress.
Vitamin A foods; Sweet potatoes, red peppers, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, papaya, mango and cantaloupe melon.
Vitamin C foods; Kiwi, berries, oranges, papaya, asparagus and kale.
Vitamin D foods; Your body struggles to get vitamin D from diet alone, such sources like; salmon and egg yolks. The primary source is sunlight that is absorbed through our eyes and skin. It can be tricky to get adequate vitamin D during the winter months; therefore, a supplement (oil-based) is recommended.
Vitamin E foods; Sweet potatoes, leafy greens, alfalfa, nuts, seeds and olive oil.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) comes in two types: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. It is a powerful antioxidant; therefore, it will protect cells from oxidative stress and ageing. It’s found in the mitochondria of your cells and can also be found in the ovary follicles. CoQ10 works well with ALA and other antioxidants.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is found in the mitochondria of cells, particularly the main organs such as; the heart, liver, and kidneys; therefore, a good food source is organ meats from animals and the meat itself. Also fatty fish like; trout, herring or mackerel, soybeans, lentils, vegetables like; spinach, cauliflower and broccoli; fruits; oranges and strawberries, nuts and seeds.
Magnesium is a mineral that most are deficient in and is extremely important for optimal fertility. It is involved in thousands of enzymatic actions within your body and the role of reproduction.
Magnesium can be taken as a supplement and found in leafy greens, alfalfa, apples, avocados, bananas, cantaloupe melon, brewers yeast, whole grains, nuts, parsley, cocoa and garlic.
Zinc is found in all tissue and is essential for growth, repair and sexual maturation. Zinc is vital for maintaining reproductive hormones and for the manufacture of sperm. It is also a key component in DNA and RNA. Without zinc at the time of conception, cell division will struggle to occur. It also helps absorb folic acid.
Zinc can be taken as a supplement and can be found in red meat, shellfish, eggs, carrots, brewers yeast, leafy greens and alfalfa.
Selenium is an antioxidant and protects cell structures against oxidative stress damage; therefore strengthens egg and sperms cell health.
Selenium can be taken as a supplement or found in Brazil nuts, eggs, meat, fish, alfalfa, avocados, brewers yeast, broccoli, parsley, seeds and whole grains.
Calcium is required for the formation and maintenance of bones and teeth, also blood clotting and nerve function. It helps balance oestrogen and progesterone. It is suitable for easing menstruation symptoms.
Calcium as a supplement isn’t absorbed well and is best from natural sources such as; milk, cheese, yoghurt, leafy greens, cereals, nuts (almonds), seeds, alfalfa, broccoli, cabbage, maca, brewers yeast and parsley.
Iron is an essential component of many enzymes and helps form red blood cells and transport oxygen around the body. Lacking iron can lead to anaemia; it also guards against miscarriage.
Iron should be taken with vitamin C as it helps absorb iron, and tea should be avoided when consuming iron, as the tannin in tea inhibits the absorption of iron. Food sources of iron; alfalfa, beetroot, brewers yeast, leafy greens, red meat, dried fruit, nuts, whole grain, parsley, peaches, prunes and pears.
All micronutrients should be obtained firstly from your diet and then supplements if required. You may be lacking essential vitamins or minerals, which can be picked up on a deficiency test. A nutritionist can analyse your diet and prepare a personalised plan according to your requirements.
For more information, the following websites are great dietary resources: