The Fertility Diet In Chinese Medicine


When you’re trying to get pregnant, it can feel like everyone’s an expert. Whether it’s positions, supplements, diets, or time frames, there’s seemingly no end of suggestions, tips and tricks to help you along the way. And with so much advice to sift through, it’s hard to know what to try and – most importantly – what will work best for you.

To help you out a little, we’re going to take a look at the fertility diet in Chinese medicine, and how it might be able to help you on your journey to parenthood.

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (often abbreviated to TCM), is one of the world’s oldest medicinal traditions, with more than 2000 years of history behind it. In TCM, the body’s life force is known as “qi”, and it flows through our bodies via invisible channels called meridians. There are 12 major meridians, each linked to one of 12 major organs in the body. Treating an ailment using TCM involves working through those meridians to adjust the qi of the body and bring everything back into balance.

The goal of a TCM practitioner is to maintain and restore balance in the body, creating harmony by balancing out the opposing forces of yin (the passive) and yang (the active).

Common modern-day applications of Traditional Chinese Medicine include massage, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and, as we’ll see, fertility diets.

How does TCM work when it comes to food?

In TCM, “jing”, or essence, is what fuels our growth, development, resistance to illness, and ability to reproduce. We’re born with some, passed on from our parents, and we’re able to acquire more through caring for our body with a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Jing naturally decreases as we age, so it’s important to keep it topped up, and one of the ways we can do that is through our diet.

While Traditional Chinese Medicine does have its variations on vitamins, minerals, calorie counting and the like, it tends to concern itself more with the impact food has on our overall wellbeing. The goal of food, as seen through the lens of TCM, is about creating a balanced and nourished environment, so qi can flow smoothly through us, and our levels of jing remain high.

What does this mean for fertility?

Well, it all comes back to jing. As mentioned earlier, jing is integral to our reproductive capabilities and our sexual function. This includes puberty, fertility, and, for women, the eventual transition into menopause. This means that eating foods that keep that jing reserve nice and full is going to be beneficial throughout your fertility journey.

Given that jing is also inherited from our parents, it’s also helpful for the baby too – if you’re taking care of yourself and eating well, you’re setting your newborn (and their own personal jing) up for success.

So, where do you begin?

We’ll take a look at some of the recommended foods for fertility shortly, but first let’s explore the kind of diet you should be building if you’re interested in seeing how TCM can help you on your journey to parenthood.

Remember yin and yang? Those opposing forces that we need to keep in balance? They’re very much in play here, with “yang” represented by “warming” foods, and “yin” represented by “cooling” foods. Examples of warm foods include cooked food, spices, red meat and some nuts; whereas cool foods include raw vegetables, dairy, sugar rich foods like chocolate and cold drinks.

The ideal diet will include a balance of these, but when it comes to fertility, Traditional Chinese Medicine advises leaning towards those with a “warming” energy. Excessive cooling foods and cold environments are believed to have a negative impact on the menstrual cycle, causing painful cramps, fatigue, mood swings. On the other hand, warm foods and spaces can help increase blood circulation, and balance out the negative side effects of cold energy. If you’re the kind of person who can’t live without a heating pad or a hot water bottle during your period, you’ll likely understand exactly what they’re getting at!

While it’s easy to get caught up in the terminology, TCM’s approach really is just about eating well and eating in balance – and that’s just solid advice all round!

What should you be eating?

Let’s take a quick look at some of the foods you might want to include in your diet to increase fertility – as well as a few you might need to cut back on.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are a great source of fat, protein, iron, and fibre. Nuts and seeds are believed to be particularly strong because they’re an integral part of a plant’s reproductive cycle.

Walnuts in particular are a great option, as they’re also rich in magnesium which helps manage progesterone, and alpha-linoleic acid or ALA, which helps produce another important fatty acid used in fetal brain development. They’re a good source of Omega 3 too, which can aid in avoiding premature birth, and reduce symptoms of perinatal depression. An Omega 3 diet is also beneficial for men too, as it’s been linked to healthier sperm and higher quantities – remember that fertility diets aren’t just for would-be mums!

You could also try flaxseed –delicious in smoothies or sprinkled over a salad – or sesame seeds, which are rich in calcium, protein, and iron. Iron levels are often a concern for women, so sesame seeds are a great place to start.


Like nuts and seeds, eggs are incredibly important in their associated animal’s reproductive cycle. They contain everything needed to support a life, which can benefit our fertility too. They’re rich in cholesterol, a key building block of life, used in the creation of new cells. They also contain lutein, which supports eye health, and choline, which can aid in brain development.

They’re also versatile and accessible food, making them easy to incorporate into any meal.

Veggies – and lots of them!

Vegetables are a key part of any balanced diet, so it’s probably no surprise that Traditional Chinese Medicine also encourages you to eat your greens! Sweet potatoes, artichokes, red cabbage, peas, and beets are just a few examples of what you might like to load up on your plate. Remember that we want warming foods, so lean towards cooked vegetables as much as possible.

Oily Fish

This one comes down to Omega 3 again. Fatty fish like salmon, trout and sardines are a great source of this useful acid.

A good rule to follow is to aim for four different colours of vegetables a day – this will help you cover a lot of different vitamins, minerals, and benefits!

Avoid: Alcohol

We all know this one, but it always bears repeating, as there are plenty of health risks associated with alcohol consumption – whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not.

Alcohol primarily affects the liver, which has strong links to our hormones. This can disturb the careful balances in place there, affecting both men and women. In women, this can manifest as irregular ovulation, while men might see a decrease in sperm health and production.

Avoid: Coffee

If you drink a lot of coffee, this one is probably going to hurt. Coffee is a stimulant, and it hits our adrenal glands and nervous system pretty hard. That energy boost you feel can actually prohibit other part of our body from functioning properly, including some of those connected to female hormones. This can have a negative impact on our fertility.

Some studies have also shown that caffeine in general can increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight, as well as make it take longer to get pregnant in the first place.

Limiting caffeine intake to a maximum of 200mg per day – that’s roughly two cups of coffee – can help manage this, without losing that much-needed energy boost.

What else can you try?

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Other suggestions include cutting back on junk food and other processed foods and introducing more legumes, whole grains, and plant-based proteins into your diet. Drinking plenty of water is also important, as is leaning towards cooked foods, rather than raw, which ties into the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of warming and cooling foods. When you eat, as much as what you eat can also be helpful, and we’ve got a great guide to the Chinese Medicine Clock right here.

Taking the time to prepare a meal is also key, as this can help with mindfulness and purpose, and means you’ll make more thoughtful choices. For some people, it can also be a great way to de-stress and calm yourself, which is another way you can help balance your qi.

The point is that there’s plenty for you to try along the way, and to figure out what works for you, especially if you have other dietary needs to take into consideration. Fertility, after all, isn’t one size fits all, and it could be beneficial for you to reach out to an expert for advice.

Other suggestions

Remember that Traditional Chinese Medicine is a holistic approach, meaning there’s more to it than just food. Other recommendations might include finding ways to manage your stress levels, going for a massage or an acupuncture session, or looking into herbal remedies.

Whatever route you choose to go down, this is an important and exciting time for you, and it’s vital that you get the best advice possible. Speak with some TCM practitioners and remember to consult your own healthcare professional doctor before making any big lifestyle changes.