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Heidi Montag (yes, from “The Hills“) was recently seen out and about in Los Angeles snacking on something rather unusual: a raw bison heart. No, Montag didn’t just suddenly develop an affinity for uncooked meat. She’s actually experimenting with the “carnivore diet” to help with fertility issues, People reports, while she and husband Spencer Pratt try to conceive their second child.
“I have been trying to get pregnant for over a year and a half, I’m willing to try different things,” Montag explains. “It’s a great source of nutrients! I have felt incredible on this diet. A lot more energy, clarity, increased libido, and overall improvement on chronic pain I have had.”
People struggling with infertility are often open-minded about trying new strategies, but major shifts in diet are always worth an extra evaluation. Can eating raw meat or starting a meat-based diet actually improve fertility? POPSUGAR consulted two fertility dietitians to find out.
Can Raw Meat Help With Infertility?
“Organ meat does contain valuable nutrients for fertility,” says Lizzy Swick, a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, but there is a high “toxicity burden” when it comes to consuming the meat raw. Fertility dietitian Brooke Boskovich, MS, RD, LDN, agrees. “There is a food safety concern with eating raw animal organs,” she tells POPSUGAR. “I would not advise doing this.”
That’s because there are safer ways to access the nutrients available in organ meats. “Organ meats are highly nutrient-dense with many micronutrients that play crucial roles in egg and sperm quality, as well as babies’ development during pregnancy and moms’ recovery postpartum,” Boskovich explains. However, you don’t necessarily need to go straight for raw meat. “There are a plethora of more healthful sources of those nutrients,” Swick says, “namely, from both cooked animal protein (especially oysters and mussels) as well as a diversity of plant foods.”
Should You Eat Raw Meat For Infertility?
Swick says she would “never” recommend a client eat raw meat to help with infertility. “There is no science to support the safety or efficacy of this,” she explains. “While it is totally understandable [that] a dietary ‘hack’ would be appealing, there is simply no shortcut to health, balanced hormones, gut integrity, microbiome health and diversity, and ultimately, fertility. Fertility is a journey that involves so much more than nutrition.”
Yes, it’s true that organ meats are a source of nutrients that “support fertility and a healthy pregnancy,” Boskovich says, including iron, folate, B12 and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Meat and organ meats in general “are very nutrient dense and can help fill in many nutrient gaps,” she says. However, you don’t need to eat them raw to get those nutrients. Boskovich recommends cooking the meat to decrease the risk of food-borne illness.
Both experts also caution against taking an approach like the carnivore diet that cuts out entire food groups. (In its most extreme form, the carnivore diet consists of nothing but meat, salt, and sparkling water.) “I don’t recommend cutting out fruits and vegetables,” Boskovich says, noting that these foods include fiber for gut health and blood-sugar balance, antioxidants for fertility support, and “many other micronutrients we can’t get in animal products alone.”
Overall, it’s likely not necessary to pursue an all-or-nothing approach to fertility, Boskovich explains. “Incorporating a variety of foods isn’t only more enjoyable, it’s easier to meet our nutrient needs for health and fertility.” The body needs to feel “safe enough” to support reproduction, she adds. “Many women I work with thrive on eating carbs, fat, and protein rather than cutting out food groups.”
There’s nothing wrong with examining and, with help from a doctor, tweaking your diet when trying to conceive. But at the same time, you don’t want to get too far away from some basic truths. “A balanced diet that is 70 percent plant rich (or more) and 20-30 percent quality animal protein is what has been shown in the literature to be the optimal diet for fertility,” Swick says.
So while it’s worth giving your food a second look if you’re struggling with infertility, you don’t want to jump straight into a drastic all-meat diet (or start consuming raw animal meat) without at least talking to your doctor first. “Trust that your body wants to be in balance and there are so many ways to create the hormonal milieu necessary for conception,” Swick explains. “Anything that seems ‘too easy’ is not going to serve you in the long run.”