Your Diet & Your Fertility
You are what you eat…
This phrase is vital to fertility and conception. Everything you eat provides you with nutrients, whether they are the staples like calcium, fibre and vitamin C, or phytonutrients like quercetin and bioflavanoids.
Every part of your body relies on this incoming nutrition. This incoming nutrition plays a massive part on fertility rates in both males and females. Your diet can have a significant impact on the quality of your sperm, the maturation of your egg and possibly every known cause of infertility has a dietary tip associated with it. We can see how important diet is in an eight year study with over 18,000 women. The landmark Nurses’ Health Study outlines many dietary changes that can improve female fertility.
Fat, fat, fat! Would all of our weight loss problems be solved if we just eliminated fat from our diets? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We actually need fats — we can’t live without them, in fact.
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet. They provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, and are a great source of energising fuel. They are also crucial to our fertility. But it’s easy to get confused about good fats vs. bad fats, how much fat we should eat, how to avoid artery-clogging trans fats, and the roles that Omega 3 fatty acids plays in overall health.
A walk down the supermarket aisle will confirm our obsession with low-fat foods. We’re bombarded with supposedly guilt-free options: baked potato chips, fat-free ice cream, low-fat sweets, cookies, and cakes. But while our low-fat options have exploded, so have obesity rates. Clearly, low-fat foods and diets haven’t delivered on their trim, healthy promises.
Despite what you may have been told, fat isn’t always the bad guy in the waistline wars.
Bad fats, such as saturated fats and trans fats, are guilty of the unhealthy things all fats have been blamed for—weight gain, clogged arteries, and so forth. But good fats such as the monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and Omega 3s have the opposite effect.
As a matter of fact, healthy fats play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight. They are essential to our hormonal make-up and the structure of the egg and sperm.
The answer isn’t cutting out the fat—it’s learning to make healthy choices and to replace bad fats with good ones that promote health and well-being. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health. Saturated fats and trans fats are known as the “bad fats” because they increase your risk of disease and elevate cholesterol.
Appearance-wise, saturated fats and trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature (think of butter or traditional stick margarine), while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to be liquid (think of olive or corn oil).
Choosing the right fats
With so many different sources of dietary fat—some good and some bad—the choices can get confusing. But the bottom line is simple: don’t go no-fat, go good fat. If you are concerned about your weight or heart health, rather than avoiding fat in your diet, try replacing saturated fats and trans fats with good fats. This might mean replacing some of the meat you eat with beans and legumes, or using olive oil rather than butter.
- Try to eliminate trans fats from your diet. Check food labels for trans fats. Avoiding commercially-baked goods goes a long way. Also limit fast food.
- Limit your intake of saturated fats by cutting back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods. Try replacing red meat with beans, nuts, poultry, and fish whenever possible, and switching from whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods to lower fat versions.
- Eat Omega 3 fats every day. Good sources include fish, walnuts, ground flax seeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.
The Bad Guys
Trans-fats are used to extend the shelf life of processed foods, typically cookies, cakes, fries and donuts. Any item that contains “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil” likely contains trans fats. Hydrogenation is the chemical process that changes liquid oils into solid fats. The tide is turning against trans fats. Since January 2006, all food manufacturers are required to list trans fat content on food labels.
We strongly recommend reducing or avoiding these fats. They can have a metabolic imbalance on our bodies and can play havoc with the biochemical pathways where we should be using omega 3. For example, if trans-fats replace DHA in the sperm, the sperm’s head cannot penetrate the egg. If the trans fat is in the egg, then the sperm cannot penetrate it.
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are two types of unsaturated fatty acids. They are derived from vegetables and plants.
Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature but begin to solidify at cold temperatures. This type of fat is preferable to other types of fat and can be found in olives, olive oil, nuts, peanut oil, canola oil and avocados. Some studies have shown that these kinds of fats can actually lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and maintain HDL (good) cholesterol.
Polyunsaturated fats are also liquid at room temperature. These are found in safflower, sesame, corn, cotton seed and soybean oils. This type of fat has also been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, but too much can also lower your HDL cholesterol.
Omega-3 fatty acids include an “essential” fatty acid, which means it’s critical for our health but cannot be manufactured by our bodies. Good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish, flax seed, soy, and walnuts. These fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and also boost our immune systems.
Choose good carbs, not no carbs. Wholegrains are your best bet. Don’t be misled by fad diets that make blanket pronouncements on the dangers of carbohydrates. We cannot stress this clearly enough. Your body runs on carbohydrates. They provide the body with the fuel it needs for physical activity and for proper organ function, and they are an important part of a healthy diet. But some kinds of carbohydrates are far better than others. The best sources of carbohydrates, whole-grains (the less processed, the better), vegetables, fruits and beans—promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fibre, and a host of important phytonutrients.
For your fertility, we recommend eating portions of wholegrain carbohydrates and we make an exception for fruit. Whole-grains contain B vitamins, Zinc, Selenium and a host of other nutrients and your daily fibre as well. Fibre is actually very important for your fertility goals. Fibre helps remove toxins and can clear out the xenoestrogens we mentioned earlier.
Easily digested refined carbohydrates from white bread, white rice and other refined grains, pastries, sugared sodas, and other highly processed foods may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease. Be clear on the difference.
Pay attention to the protein package. Fish, poultry, and beans are your best bets. Animal protein and vegetable protein probably have the same effects on health. It’s the protein package that’s likely to make a difference.
A 6-ounce grilled steak is a great source of protein—about 40 grams worth. But it also delivers about 38 grams of fat, 14 of them saturated. That’s more than 60 percent of the recommended daily intake for saturated fat.
The same amount of salmon gives you 34 grams of protein and just 18 grams of fat, with only 4 of them saturated. A cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein, but under 1 gram of fat. So when choosing protein-rich foods, pay attention to what comes along with the protein.
Vegetable sources of protein, such as beans, nuts, and whole grains, are excellent choices, and they offer healthy fibre, vitamins and minerals. The best animal protein choices are fish and poultry. If you are partial to red meat, stick with the leanest cuts, choose moderate portion sizes, and make it only an occasional part of your diet.
The source of the protein in your diet might impact your fertility. A study published in the February 2008 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that women who consumed most of their protein from animal sources faced an increased risk of ovulatory infertility. In contrast, women who ate protein from vegetable sources instead of carbohydrates or protein from animal sources faced a substantially lower risk of ovulatory fertility.
Proper hydration of the body is critical. Most of us walk around in a state of dehydration. Our body is over two-thirds water. All functions in our body, cardiovascular, fertility, mental, endocrine all work better in a hydrated state, especially our hormones. Water provides the means for transporting nutrients to our organs and also facilitates in the removal of internal and external bodily wastes.
Alcohol can have a massive bearing on fertility statistics. Some studies have shown that consuming even small amounts of alcohol can reduce fertility by half, in both men and women!! As amazing as it might sound, we recommend coming away from all alcohol for about three months before trying to conceive.
One study showed that women who drank less than five units of alcohol a week (equal to five glasses of wine) were twice as likely to get pregnant within six months, compared with those who drank more. Research has also shown that drinking alcohol causes a decrease in sperm count, an increase in abnormal sperm and a lower proportion of motile sperm. Alcohol also inhibits the body’s absorption of nutrients such as zinc, which is one of the most important minerals for male fertility
Xenoestrogens are basically oestrogen-like environmental chemicals. These chemicals are naturally man-made and are found commonly in plastic containers and pesticides. These Xenoestrogens can play a big part in mimicking oestrogen in your body and can disrupt your hormonal cycle.
It is extremely important to avoid anything that might cause an imbalance, and one of the main culprits is the xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are also found in our drinking water. Without trying to sound unrealistic, there are also very high amounts of oestrogen in meats and drinking water.
In our water, the oestrogen comes from HRT and Pill medicines as it cannot be filtered by our water purifying plants. The oestrogens in meat come from growth hormone injected into our livestock for a fuller, larger animal. Also, since most cows are pregnant most of the year round, you can expect a significant amount of oestrogen like material in dairy products.
Smoking has definitely been linked with infertility in women. It can even bring on an early menopause, which is a particularly important consideration for older women who may be trying to beat the clock. Smoking can decrease sperm count in men, making the sperm more sluggish, and it can increase the number of abnormal sperm. With men, the effects on fertility are increased with the number of cigarettes.