Conversations on the topic of fertility tend to spark different reactions among people, probably because it may have different meanings to each individual. Throughout history, Gods from a number of different religions were dedicated to the importance and relevance of fertility and its meaning in society e.g. ‘Isis’ the Egyptian Goddess of fertility and women (you may have seen the statue on a walk through Hyde Park, London), who cast her spell on all those who desired her help.
Fast forward to today – there may be various reasons behind the interest in fertility: perhaps you are a women in your 30s/40s thinking about starting a family; maybe you’re in your 20s suffering from painful and irregular periods which is a common issue among young women nowadays; or it could be due to an experience such as miscarriage(s), an ordeal that touches a lot of our lives either directly or indirectly. The former is my reason and it’s where my journey into eating for fertility and health began. Whatever your reason, following a fertility friendly eating plan is something everyone could try including the man in your life! After all it takes two.
So how does food play a role in fertility?
Food gets broken down into a number of different things including micro and macro nutrients. We must note that some food/drinks can trigger or inhibit inflammation in the body. So a fertility friendly diet is about creating balance within the body, nourishing the body, balancing hormones, and providing the body with the nutrients necessary to do its job. The gut and bowel are king when it comes to fertility – it is here that the necessary nutrients are broken down and absorbed so taking care of these is priority whatever your fertility goals may be. Certain nutrients play an important role in creating healthy eggs and sperm which then go on to form a healthy baby. So surely it makes sense for us to eat well and give our body a helping hand whatever your fertility goal may be?
Do I have to give up all the foods I enjoy?
Each Nutritionist will offer different advice. My philosophy is that by eating well the majority of the time and having the odd naughty treat is a simple clear rule to follow. It’s all about balance, not about adding unnecessary stress to a client. Sticking to the treat is a treat rule stops most people eating these types of food every day. Otherwise it’s not really a treat is it?! And I believe a nice glass of red wine or a little dark chocolate now and again keeps stress levels at bay. Wouldn’t you agree?
What sort of foods should I avoid?
Foods that create inflammation, spike blood sugar, disrupt gut bacteria or disrupt hormones are what is best to avoid:
- Excessive alcohol
- Excessive red meat
- Processed foods – fresh is always best when possible
- Excessive mercury rich fish, such as tuna and sword fish
- Excessive sugary food and drinks which can disrupt blood sugar
- Trans fats found in pastry, pies, and fried foods
What sort of foods do I need to be eating?
There are so many foods that can help fertility but these are my top 10 fertility foods. My fertility journey has changed direction after having my 2 children but these are foods I still add to my diet daily:
- Sesame seeds, packed full of antioxidants, are known to have anti-oestrogenic properties. Sprinkle them on everything to liven up a meal.
Cooks tip: Toast for 1 -2 minutes in a dry pan, then add to veggies, salad and rice to add delicious texture and taste to a meal.
- Flaxseeds, high in omega 3 & 6, B vitamins and magnesium which are known as nature’s tranquilliser. These also help balance hormones.
Cooks tip: Grind up for better absorption. Sprinkle on your porridge and add some raspberries for a yummy fertility powerhouse brekkie.
- Quinoa, a good source of veggie protein and quality protein which is super important for a developing embryo. My children love this and it’s a great alternative to rice and pasta.
Cooks tip: Scramble an egg, then add your cooked quinoa and spring onions to make a healthier tastier version of fried rice.
- Swiss Chard is a great addition to your diet for its alkalising effect on the body. It is particularly helpful for cervical mucous (sperm favours alkaline conditions so helpful for conception). A yummy side to any meal.
Cooks tip: Cook in a little coconut oil and sprinkle with some toasted sesame or pumpkin seeds.
- Avocados, which contain folate, Vit E and essential fatty acids, are a tasty fertile powerhouse of goodness and essential nutrients.
Cooks tip: Pop the seed out and add an organic egg, chives, parsley, sea salt and pepper. Bake until egg is cooked about 15 minutes.
- Pomegranates, high in vit C, K and folic acid have been known to be a symbol of fertility in some countries.. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects (NTDs). Supplements are recommended for women prior to getting pregnant.
Cooks tip: Adding the seeds to a salad of quinoa, mint, and walnuts or a twist on a traditional salad.
- Beetroot, a source of the antioxidant resveratrol, and nitrates. These have been known to help with age related infertility and improve blood flow to the uterus helping someone with painful periods or implantation.
Cooks tip: Roast some beetroot and add to a salad of alfalfa, orange, pomegranate and walnuts for a delicious salad.
- Butternut squash, one of my favourite veggies to cook with for the whole family. Healthy and delicious, it is packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and digestible fibre. A healthy bowel is essential in getting rid of excess circulating hormones which may be disrupting our hormones. It’s also rich in beta-carotene, which is known to help boost production of the hormone progesterone.
Cooks tip: Roast to bring out that wonderful flavour. Then take out seeds and replace with a little goats cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds for a wonderful side to a meal.
- Organic chicken, a great source of protein, zinc, iron, all important building blocks for a healthy pregnancy. Organic is best aiming to keep the body clear of any excess hormones and antibiotics. And who doesn’t love a good roast chuck…
Cooks tip: Make your own chicken broth by keeping the carcass of the chicken. Add some celery and carrots, herbs such as bay leaves and thyme, cover with water bringing to the boil. Simmer for a few hours and serve up for some tasty home-made chicken broth.
- Eggs, a fantastic source of protein are also a great blood tonic. Packed full of vitamins and good fats all of which are needed to create a healthy baby.
Cooks tip: I love to make egg muffins for the whole family. Using a muffin tray add some veggies and herbs such as dill to the bottom of each case. Pour some the whisked eggs over and bake until eggs are cooked. About 15 minutes.
Michelle Walsh, Nutritionist/Personal Trainer