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Vitamin “Sea” for Fertility: A Primer

Sea vegetables are nutrient powerhouses, especially for fertility.  These humble ocean plants (well, technically they’re algae which is neither plant nor animal – but that may be T.M.I.) are full of antioxidant vitamins like carotenoids (A), and C, the B-vitamin folate and minerals that are essential for reproduction like iron, calcium and iodine.   Iodine is particularly important for fertility, since iodine is a key component the thyroid hormones T3 and T4.  Thyroid hormones play a role in almost every body function, from metabolism and weight management to the proper function of our reproductive system .  Many foods in our diet (like soy , caffeine, raw peanuts) can suppress thyroid function so having a good source of dietary iodine on the plate is a good idea.   Sea veggies also contain lignins, which are a fave food of the beneficial bacteria that live in our gut and support digestion and immunity.

Admittedly there can be a bit of a “fear factor” that comes into play when we first begin to explore sea vegetables.  For that reason we suggest baby steps.  Here are two ways to “dip your toe into sea veggies:”

1.  Make dashi.  Dashi is a flavorful broth that can be sipped alone or used as a base for clear or thicker soups.    This recipe from Whole Foods Market will help you get started.  Please note that this recipe includes bonito flakes.  Because bonito is a type of tuna we investigated the mercury content of bonito and were pleased to learn that this quick growing fish is not a high mercury risk.   Some other ways to use dashi:

  • Season with fresh ginger and mirin and pour over cooked brown rice for a more hearty soup
  • Add cooked protein (chicken, free-range beef strips, shrimp or fish) and some lightly steamed veggies and you’ve got a great one-bowl meal

2.  Try nori (flat sheets of pressed sea vegetable that you’ve probably seen on the outside of sushi rolls) as a condiment.  Toast it over the flame of your gas range until it turns from emerald green to blackish green (but not burnt) and then cut into strips or crush into flakes.  This will add crunch and savory flavor to salads, grains and casseroles.

As with anything related to fertility nutrition, do not overdo.  Several servings of sea vegetables per week is a great start.  Regardless of whether you’re adding sea veggies to your diet, if you’re trying to conceive and not sure about your thyroid function (women can have both overactive and underactive thyroid) you should speak to your doctor about having it tested.

Be Present, Be Positive…Be Adventurous in the Kitchen, Paige

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