I’m combining 2 of my biggest interests for this (and subsequent) posts; food and pregnancy. Much to my surprise I managed to conceive Archie very easily last year (I battled with PCOS for a long time), however I don’t know what will happen next time round and feel conscious that I want my body to be in the best shape possible. It’s taken a bit of blow, emotionally and physically, and I’m using this time to focus on getting everything back in working order. I know people get pregnant every day, without taking folic acid, omega 3, vitamin C etc, but being conscious of it and actively trying is a whole different ball game, and eating healthily can only be a good thing right? So I’ve been doing some research and come up with a fertility foods hit list (below) and will be blogging some fertility friendly recipes.
There has been extensive research to suggest that full fat milk (and cream and yoghurt!) is not only better for you when trying to conceive, but can aid conception and that skimmed milk and skimmed milk products can actually hinder it/ promote infertility. So ditch the low fat yoghurts and have a scoop of ice cream whenever you like, and when drinking milk make sure it is organic. Here is a link outlining the 8 year Harvard study and for more in depth explanation check out this great blog, however I will be sticking to whole organic milk, I can’t quite face raw milk.
ALL VEG BUT ESPECIALLY…
As a huge lover of all gourds, I’m over the moon that butternut squash is such a fertility star food. It is rich in selenium, zinc, calcium, iron, vitamin A and C, folic acid and just about any other fertility-super-nutrient you can think of. I’ll be posting some squash recipes later on.
As far as I (and a million others I am sure) are concerned, greens are always the answer. With years of vegetarianism and anaemia behind me, I had to battle my iron deficiency as best I could with leafy greens and pulses. Juice, salad, stew, soup, curry? Shove some spinach in it. Spinach is iron rich, which is crucial when trying to get pregnant, studies show that women who got their iron from non-meat sources increased their chances of becoming pregnant. This goes for other leafy greens too such as kale, cabbage, chard. These wondrous vegetables are also rich in folic acid and contain a compound, found in broccoli too, that help the body get rid of excess oestrogen. My favourite tip is always keep a bag of frozen spinach in the freezer, it really can be put in almost anything and is much cheaper and handier than buying it fresh.
Amongst the highest in Vitamin C, cauliflower is also high in iron fibre, potassium and calcium. All key nutrients to get your fertility to its peak.
Omega-3 rich fish such as wild salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring have huge fertility boosting benefits (as well as making you more clever!). They are said to help regulate reproductive hormones and increase blood flow to reproductive organs. Also they can help relieve stress, which is potentially a big issue when trying to conceive.
BEANS AND PULSES
In the same Harvard research linked in the ‘milk’ category above, the researchers also found that infertility was 39% more likely in women with the highest intake of animal protein. Where as those who a lot of plant protein where significantly less likely to have trouble conceiving. So ditch the red meat and add some chickpeas, beans and lentils into your life.
Pasta, bread, rice… Don’t avoid carbs! It really upsets me that everyone hates carbs so much, as if carbohydrates are the root of all evil. We need carbs, carbs are good for us but go easy on them and opt for complex carbohydrates over refined ones, as they take longer to digest, keeping blood sugar and insulin levels stable. What has this got to do with conception? Well an increase in insulin levels can disrupt reproductive hormones. A Dutch study found that when women had high blood sugar levels they were only half as likely to have gotten pregnant. So switch your rice for brown, pasta to wholewheat, and same with bread.
NUTS AND SEEDS
Nuts and seeds are great sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Not all fats are bad, in fact having unsaturated fats in your diet can help conception as they aid insulin sensitivity (see ‘carbs’ for more details). Good nuts to go for are brazil, almonds, walnuts and pecans. Pumpkin seeds are great as they are high in non-heme iron (the type of iron found in certain plant food and iron-fortified foods). One study found that women who took iron supplements (which is non-heme iron) were 40% less likely to have trouble getting pregnant. Try snacking on an omega 4 seed mix, containing pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax seed, or sprinkle into your cereal/ muesli/ porridge or even try adding to smoothies. You can also get a wide range of seed and nut butters now, which are fantastic (make sure they have no added ingredients, just the seed or nut in question). I’m a big fan of pumpkin seed butter which I use as a spread, but have also tried in smoothies – it works fantastically.
I love cinnamon and will put ground cinnamon in almost anything. Porridge? Winner. Smoothies, cakes, stews… all good. It has been long suggested to diabetics to eat cinnamon as it can help improve insulin resistance in the body, which is great when try to conceive as it keeps hormones and blood sugar levels in check.
AND THE REST…
Then it’s all the obvious stuff, that we all know and have heard before – be at a healthy weight (BMI 18.5 – 25), don’t smoke, don’t do drugs or drink (although personally I need the odd glass of wine at the moment). Eat home cooked foods, use olive oil instead of butter, cut out (or down at least) refined sugars, don’t drink fizzy drinks and eat your 5/7/10-a-day, but mainly from veg as fruit is high in sugar too.