Our internal environment needs to be healthy to create new life. The human body is a delicate ecosystem performing millions of chemical reactions to make new cells, hormones and enzymes every minute.
The food that we choose to eat does more than just fill the gnawing hole in our belly, it provides key nutrients for those chemical reactions.
Fluctuations in our diet can dramatically impact our internal environment.
Here are my top five nutrition tips to optimise fertility:
1. Reduce your glycemic load
Research from the Nurses' Health Study that included over 18,000 women, found that those in the group who ate the greatest amount of high glycemic index (GI) foods were 92 per cent more likely to have problems with fertility than those who ate a diet rich in low GI carbohydrates. Wholegrain, low GI carbohydrates have been shown to improve fertility by reducing insulin levels, so look for ways to reduce the GI of your diet such as replacing white bread with wholegrain, and sugary breakfast cereals with porridge.
2. Optimise protein intake
Your body needs protein on a daily basis to make new hormones. However, the type of protein foods consumed is important. Research suggests that swapping just 25 grams of animal protein with 25 grams of vegetable protein such as that from nuts, seeds or legumes each day can improve fertility by up to 50 per cent. Therefore limiting fatty meats such as bacon or chorizo and including a couple of vegetarian days each week can be beneficial.
Dairy foods are also a great source of protein. As well as being relatively low in kilojoules, dairy foods are rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin B12. It is recommended that you consume at least two serves of dairy foods each day to meet nutritional requirements. Put milk on your breakfast cereal, have a tub of yoghurt for a snack, add cottage cheese to a salad or snack on vegie sticks with a tzatziki dip.
3. Improve your fat profile
Good fats, known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help to decrease inflammation, which has been found to increase fertility. In contrast, 'bad' trans and saturated fats found in fatty meats, takeaway and processed foods such as biscuits, snack bars and chips can increase inflammation, therefore decreasing fertility. Good fats help to reduce inflammation and optimise the health of your eggs. Fresh avocado, which is rich in good fats, and slices of juicy tomato on wholegrain toast is a much more nutritious way to start the day than the typical butter and vegemite/jam/peanut butter.
4. Ensure that you're consuming adequate folate
Without doubt, the most important nutrient for a healthy conception is folate. The best dietary source of folate is green leafy vegetables. Over ninety per cent of Australians don't meet their vegetable requirements, so increasing your greens is something you can do to significantly improve your fertility. To increase your intake of vegetables, don't just save them for dinner; eat vegie sticks and vegetable soup as between meal snacks, and bulk your lunch up with more vegetables too. However, even with an increased intake of green, leafy veg, it's also wise to take a folate supplement. Speak to your health care professional about the right dose of folate supplements for your personal needs.
5. Get your vitamin D levels checked
Vitamin D deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency in Australia. Amongst other roles, vitamin D is involved in switching on certain genes, and as a result a deficiency is believed to play a key role in increasing your baby's risk of diabetes, multiple sclerosis and colon cancer to name just a few. In fact, a recent systematic review found that women with vitamin D levels greater than 50nmol/L were more likely to conceive than women with a vitamin D deficiency. However, it's important to note that vitamin D supplements were found to be of no benefit for women with already healthy vitamin D levels.
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