More and more women and men are choosing to eat better in hopes of healing their infertility. Many have switched to a Natural Fertility Diet. Some are just trying to eat healthier and live a healthier lifestyle. Many of those women and men are making Fertility Smoothies everyday, but there are some that have posed the question, “Does Cold Food and Drink Contribute to Infertility? My Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner says I should only eat warming foods because they support overall fertility, so should I continue the smoothies and eat a big salad every day? Aren’t the smoothies and raw vegetables a cooling or a dampening food?” The answer is not so simple because it is yes and no. The answer is also based on the individual.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views each person as unique and the body as whole, this is a holistic, natural approach to healing. Some TCM practitioners suggest only eating warming food and drink when trying to conceive because they believe that some foods interfere with your chances of conceiving, but really it is all about balance. If you have been eating cooling or cold food and drink according to TCM, you will want to balance those foods with warming ones.
Yin and Yang
According to TCM, foods are considered one of the following: cold, cooling, neutral, warming or hot. All of these foods fall under either yin or yang. For people experiencing fertility issues, there is considered to be kidney yang. Now keep in mind that this is a generalization and that it is important to remember that because each person is unique, it would be best to have a diet plan based given to you by a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. Yin and Yang are the endless creation of opposites. Fertility issues in general are a sign of kidney yin qi (inadequate kidney function). Qi, also called chi, is the underlying energy in all life, our life force. Yin is the passive, negative, slow-moving, cool, relaxed representation. Yang on the other hand is active, fiery, hot, expanding and fast-moving representation. The moon is yin and the sun is yang. So why is yang important for fertility? Yang is considered a time when the energy is rising, blossoming, and fertile. Yin, is damp, slow-moving, cool and not considered ideal for conception or overall fertility. So, when eating for fertility according to TCM, you will want to nourish your body with foods that are warming or yang. Kidney yang deficiency happens when there is lack of exercise, poor diet high in fat, sodium, and sugar, and a diet that is low in fiber.
Warming Foods According to TCM to Increase Kidney Yang
- Leafy green vegetables; collards, kale, chard, mustard greens, broccoli, cabbage, lightly cooked, not raw
- Seaweed in small amounts, (2 Tablespoons a day, max, only 4-5 times a week). Wakame, kombu, arame, nori
- Barley, Quinoa
- Beans, especially black beans
- Chicken, trout, salmon
- Garlic, onion, chives, scallions and leeks
- Cherry, peach, raspberry, cooked
- Spices include: clove, ginger dried, fenugreek seed, fennel seed, anise seed, black peppercorn, cinnamon (some women like to add this to Fertility Smoothies for balance)
- Burdock root, cooked
- Carrot, turnip, parsnip, rutabaga, cooked (eat no more than 2 x’s a week)
- Black sesame seeds
Please keep in mind that all of this is a generalization and only touches on some foods, not all of them. So we come back to the question, “Does Cold Food and Drink Contribute to Infertility?” As I said before the key may be balance. Yang deficiency that may affect fertility may happen when we eat too many cooling foods. This can be balanced by eating more warming foods to increase yang qi.
We feel that making smoothies with raw fruits, veggies and small amounts of dairy (preferably organic and cultured) is very beneficial to healing infertility for a variety of reasons, but mainly for the antioxidants, enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients; all which are negatively affected or destroyed by heat.
- Zinc is an essential nutrient for both male and female fertility, but is very heat sensitive and can be destroyed up to 50% in cooked foods. This may be the reason zinc is one of the most deficient minerals in our diets.
- Another example is antioxidants. These nutrients are a must for helping to promote egg health, repair and protect DNA (which may help to prevent miscarriages and mutated sperm), and protect the body from the effects that modern stress plays on our lives. Antioxidants are extremely sensitive to heat and are destroyed when they are cooked or heated.
- Another nutrient, enzymes which are only found in raw whole foods, are important for digesting and utilizing the nutrients that are available in your food. Without enzymes, the body is not able to repair itself as quickly or breakdown the foods you are eating.
Because in today’s modern life (very different from the ancient days in China), our dietary and exercise habits, as well as our nutritional intake is often considered poor, so that smoothies and salads are a great way to boost nutritional intake each day, and in turn, improve egg health, endocrine function, overall fertility, and complete health. I personally would rather focus on eating a nutrient-dense diet for my fertility first and then, if I decided I would like to seek out the help of a TCM practitioner, have them make up a diet plan according to TCM for my personal fertility issues. But personally, the benefits I receive from eating an enzyme, antioxidant rich smoothie, or fiber and mineral rich salad, outweighs the benefits of cooking the food.
It all comes down to the answer that there is no “one way”. TCM works great, as do natural fertility techniques and nutrient, antioxidant, and enzyme-rich, raw whole foods. We find that the Fertility Diet works great for couples who are wanting to support healthy fertility. Everything you eat does not have to be raw, but we find it is crucial to get in the important 5 in a day, and the rest of your meals can be cooked. You can learn about the important 5 by joining the 21-Day Fertility Diet Challenge, or through our 21-Day Fertility Diet Challenge Recipe eBook. This holistic approach may be the most balanced way to approach eating for your fertility. Most importantly, listen to your body and it will tell you what is best for you.
- Fertile Ground Health Group. (n.d.). Warming foods in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.fertileground.com.au/journal/warming-foods-traditional-chinese-medicine/
- Texas Center for Reproductive Acupuncture. (n.d.). Fertility Foodie Cheat Sheet. Retrieved from: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/57e00a346a49637fdb08b975/t/57eebbff9de4bbba789f0567/1475263487911/Fertility_Foodie_Updated.pdf
- Monte, T. (1997). The complete guide to natural healing. New York: Berkley Pub. Group.