When should I eat yams for fertility?

Yams are a starchy root vegetable that have long been used in many cultures to promote fertility and reproductive health, especially in women. Modern research has begun to uncover why yams may be beneficial for fertility, though more studies are still needed.

Some key reasons why yams may support fertility include:

  • They are a good source of antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin A, and manganese, which help protect eggs and sperm from oxidative damage.
  • They provide vitamin B6, which is important for ovulation and hormone balance.
  • They contain potassium, which is needed for reproductive system health.
  • They are high in fiber, which can help regulate estrogen levels.

While eating yams in your daily diet is unlikely to single-handedly improve fertility, incorporating them may contribute to an overall healthy diet and lifestyle that supports your chances of conceiving.

When Are Yams Most Helpful for Fertility?

The preconception period – typically defined as the 3 months before trying to conceive – is key time to focus on a fertility-supporting diet that includes yams. Additionally, eating yams throughout the first trimester of pregnancy may help support implantation and fetal development.


In the 3 months leading up to conception, the quality of a woman’s eggs and a man’s sperm will impact the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy. Eating yams during preconception can provide antioxidants that help guard against oxidative stressors than can damage reproductive cells and organs.

Yams also supply nutrients needed for hormone balance and optimal functioning of the reproductive system, like B vitamins and potassium. Getting enough fiber from yams may also help remove excess estrogen and maintain balanced levels.

All of these benefits make yams a smart addition to your diet if you’re trying to conceive. Ensuring adequate intake of nutrients from yams preconception gives you the best chance of producing healthy eggs and sperm when it’s time to try getting pregnant.

Early Pregnancy

The first 8-12 weeks of pregnancy – when implantation, placental development, and early fetal growth occur – is another key period where nutrition matters. Yams can continue to provide support during the embryo’s most vulnerable stage.

Folate is one of the most vital nutrients in early pregnancy, and yams are a good source. Folate is critical for preventing neural tube defects and supporting DNA synthesis in the rapidly dividing cells of the growing fetus.

Yams’ supply of vitamin C, A, and antioxidants also help sustain implantation and protect the embryo by neutralizing oxidative damage from stressors like smoke and pollution. Their potassium aids circulatory health, important for blood flow to the uterus.

Overall, enjoying yams as part of balanced first trimester diet gives your growing baby the nutrients it needs to develop properly in the early weeks after conception.

How Often and How Much?

To gain the fertility and pregnancy benefits of yams, aim to eat about 1-2 servings per week as part of a healthy preconception or pregnancy diet. One serving is around 1⁄2 – 1 cup cooked yams or yam fries, about 130-200 calories.

The following breakdown provides a guide to how often and how much to consume:


– 1-2 servings per week. Choose a 5-7 ounce or 130-200 calorie serving. This provides at least 400 mcg folate, 25% RDI vitamin A, 30% manganese, 15% vitamin C and 12% potassium.

First Trimester Pregnancy

– 1-2 servings per week. Opt for a 7-8 ounce or 200-250 calorie serving. This supplies over 600 mcg folate, 50% RDI vitamin A, 50% manganese, 25% vitamin C and 20% potassium.

– Take a prenatal vitamin to help meet increased needs, including 600 mcg folate per day. Yams combined with a supplement offers protection against deficiency.

Throughout Pregnancy

– Continue 1-2 servings per week in the second and third trimester. Yams provide energy, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support you and your growing baby.

How to Add Yams to Your Fertility Diet

It’s easy to incorporate yams into meals and snacks in tasty ways that can help boost your preconception nutrition or pregnancy diet:


– Roast yam wedges and add to oatmeal or yogurt with cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts and seeds

– Make a hash with yams, spinach, sausage, onions, garlic and eggs

– Bake yams into breads, pancakes or muffins, like carrot cake recipes

– Top avocado toast with sliced yams, arugula, poached egg and lemon juice


– Spiralize yams into noodles tossed with pesto or marinara sauce

– Make baked yam fries with chili powder, garlic powder, paprika and cayenne

– Stuff yams with taco fillings, black beans chili or pulled pork

– Mash yams and mix into a bowl with chicken, veggies and broth


– Sprinkle cinnamon on roasted yam wedges

– Top yogurt with yam puree, maple syrup, pecans and pumpkin seeds

– Make banana yam muffins with oats, nut butter and raisins

– Blend cooked yams into smoothies with cocoa powder and nut milk


– Bake yams into a pie with coconut milk, maple syrup and pecans

– Make yam coconut ice cream using full fat coconut milk and spices

– Enjoy roasted yam slices drizzled with tahini, honey and cinnamon

– Bake yams into brownies, folding into the batter with nuts and chocolate

Potential Fertility Benefits of Yams

Research looking specifically at yams’ effects on fertility is limited, but some studies point to possible benefits:

Antioxidant Support

In one study, rats with induced infertility were given yam extracts delivering antioxidant compounds like polyphenols and vitamin C. After 30 days, these rats showed improved fertility rates, embryo quality, and higher levels of reproductive hormones compared to controls not given yams. Researchers concluded yams’ antioxidants helped reverse damage caused by oxidative stress.

Sperm Health

A study in humans looked at the effects of a diet supplemented with yams on sperm quality in infertile men. After 3 months, the participants had significant improvements in sperm count, motility and morphology compared to infertility patients not eating yams. Yams’ antioxidant content may have protected sperm from free radical damage.

Hormone Regulation

Animal research found that female rats fed diets high in yams for 30 days had increased progesterone levels and more regular reproductive cycles compared to controls. The fiber in yams may support hormone balance by promoting healthy estrogen metabolism.

Implantation Support

An in vitro study exposing fertilized mouse embryos to yam extracts found higher rates of successful implantation compared to controls without yam extracts. Researchers noted improved cell division and growth signaling in embryos exposed to yam antioxidants.

Though more studies are needed, the current evidence indicates yams may enhance fertility in both women and men as well as support a healthy pregnancy. Adding yams to your preconception and early pregnancy diet could provide benefits.

Nutrients in Yams that Support Fertility

Several key vitamins, minerals and other compounds found in yams are linked to benefits for reproductive health and fertility:

Vitamin A

This fat soluble vitamin is essential for hormones like progesterone to maintain pregnancy. It ensures growth and differentiation of reproductive organs and cells. Sweet potatoes offer 29% DV vitamin A per serving.


Also known as vitamin B9, folate is crucial for DNA synthesis and development of embryos and fetuses. It prevents neural tube defects. Yams provide around 400 mcg or 100% DV folate per serving.

Vitamin C

With antioxidant power, vitamin C reduces oxidative damage to sperm, eggs and reproductive tissues. It supports hormone health and implantation. A serving of yams has about 20% DV vitamin C.


This mineral is needed for reproductive system health in women and men. It also supports circulatory health to promote blood flow to the uterus. Yams supply around 12% DV potassium per serving.


This trace mineral acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from damage. It assists in hormone synthesis and metabolism. Yams contain around 30% DV manganese.


These antioxidant compounds found abundantly in pigmented yams may help guard eggs and sperm against oxidative stress that causes infertility.


The fiber in yams may support healthy estrogen metabolism and removal of excess hormones. Fiber also promotes digestion and blood sugar regulation.

Best Types of Yams for Fertility

There are dozens of different varieties of yams grown worldwide. But in the U.S., garnet and jewel yams are among the most common and nutrient-rich types that offer fertility benefits:

Garnet Yams

With dark orange, purple-tinged skin and vibrant orange flesh, these yams are packed with beta-carotene. Just one yam provides over 600% DV vitamin A. Their bold color also indicates high antioxidant levels.

Jewel Yams

This yellow-skinned, orange-fleshed variety is an excellent source of potassium, manganese, vitamin C and fiber. Jewel yams have a mildly sweet flavor perfect for salads, fries, baking and mashing.

Other richly hued orange and purple yam varieties also make good choices. In general, look for firm, evenly shaped yams without blemishes or sprouting. Store in a cool, dark place up to 2 weeks, or refrigerate for longer storage.

Preparing and Cooking Yams

Follow these simple tips to get the most nutrition and flavor when preparing yams:

– Wash thoroughly and pat dry. Leave skin on if organic to retain nutrients.

– Roast whole at 400°F for 60 minutes, or chop and roast at 425°F for 30 minutes. Toss in olive oil beforehand.

– Boil peeled and chopped yams until tender, about 10 minutes. Mash with herbs, spices, butter or oil.

– For fries, cut into wedges or sticks, toss in oil and spices, bake at 425°F for 25-35 minutes until crisped.

– Saute chunks or thinly slice raw into salads. Yams work well in stir fries too.

– Bake into breads, pancakes or other mixed dishes. Replace up to 1/4 of the flour with mashed yams.

– Save prep time by roasting a batch of yams on the weekend to use all week. Simply reheat leftovers.

Potential Concerns with Eating Yams

Yams are considered very safe when eaten in normal food amounts and make a nutritious addition to a fertility focused diet. However, there are a few potential concerns to be aware of:

Pesticide Exposure

Since yams grow underground, they can be prone to accumulating higher levels of pesticides and heavy metals from the soil if not grown organically. When possible, choose organic. Peeling can help remove some residue if needing to use conventionally grown.

Blood Sugar Spikes

Yams have a high glycemic index, meaning they can spike blood sugar rapidly after eating. Those with diabetes or blood sugar regulation issues should monitor portion sizes and pair with protein, fat or fiber.

Allergies and Intolerances

Though less common, yams can cause allergic reactions or issues for people with nightshade sensitivity. Discontinue use if any discomfort arises.

Acrylamide Formation

This potentially toxic compound can form in starchy vegetables like yams when baked, fried or roasted at high heat. Acrylamide is linked to cancer and reproductive harm. Cook at lower temperatures to avoid.

When selecting and preparing yams, be mindful of minimizing pesticide exposure. Also practice moderation in portion sizes and proper cooking temperatures to reduce risks.

Who Shouldn’t Eat Yams?

Yams are not recommended for certain individuals:

  • Those with diabetes – Yams’ high carbs and glycemic index can destabilize blood sugar.
  • People with allergy or sensitivity – Allergies to yams are uncommon but can occur.
  • Anyone on a low carb diet – With around 25 grams net carbs per serving, yams don’t fit low carb meal plans.
  • Individuals with thyroid issues – Yams may impair thyroid function, especially when eaten raw.
  • People with gout – High levels of uric acid can exacerbate gout symptoms.

Additionally, introduce yams slowly and individually to infants and young children to watch for potential intolerance or reactions.

The Bottom Line

Yams provide a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that offer several potential benefits related to fertility:

  • Antioxidants help protect eggs and sperm from cell damage.
  • Nutrients like folate, potassium and manganese support reproductive system health.
  • Fiber assists hormone balance and removal of excess estrogen.
  • Compounds in yams may aid implantation and embryo development.

Aim to eat 1-2 servings of yams per week as part of a varied preconception diet or during early pregnancy. Bake, roast, mash or even spiralize yams to incorporate them into meals and snacks in tasty ways. Select deeply pigmented orange or purple-fleshed varieties for the highest nutrient content.

While not a fertility superfood on their own, yams can serve as one piece of an overall lifestyle approach to boost your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.

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