Welcome to this 3-part series for new parents! Whether you’re planning to conceive, are 4 weeks in, holding your newborn baby, or chasing a toddler, we’re going to cover healthy eating practices from pre-conception to early childhood. Is there anything more exciting and frightening at the same time?
Part 1: Fertility
Let’s begin at Part 1: Fertility. Today, 1 in 8 couples face infertility, according to Resolve, the National Infertility Association. While genetics and hereditary factors are difficult to control, we can 100% control what we put in our mouths and how we care for ourselves. A healthy diet and lifestyle can boost fertility by up to 69%. Here are a few foods to consider adding to your diet plus a few you may want to kick to the curb.
Raw Fruits & Vegetables
One of the main supportive arguments for raw foodies is that raw food boosts fertility. It regulates blood sugar and allows for better absorption of B vitamins, folate, vitamin C, and phytochemicals. All incredibly important to ovulation. “Watermelon and asparagus, in addition to other raw fruits and vegetables, give the body a rich supply of glutathione, which is important for egg quality,” says Alisa Vitti, integrative nutritionist and author of WomanCode: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive, and Become a Power Source.
Whole fruits and vegetables are digested more slowly, due to their high-fiber content, which regulates blood sugar. When your blood sugar is too high, the pancreas secretes insulin to help lower sugar levels in the blood. We want to avoid foods high in sugar which cause this because high insulin in the blood leads to anovulation, or lack of ovulation.
Two easy ways you can get your whole, rawesome foods in are through salads and juices. Try to consume fresh (mostly) vegetable juices with a few fruits like goji berries – which contain lots of hormone-regulating phytochemicals.
If you struggle with digestion and a weakened gut, you can try lightly steaming your vegetables and/or pureeing them. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you should reduce your consumption of goitrogenic foods, such as raw broccoli or cauliflower, which can inhibit thyroid function and decrease fertility.
In a study by George Chavarro, M.D., and his colleagues, they found “consuming 5% of energy as vegetable protein as opposed to animal protein was associated with a more than 50% lower risk of ovulatory infertility.” Chavarro concluded that “replacing animal sources of protein, in particular chicken and red meats, with vegetable sources of protein may reduce the risk of infertility due to anovulation.”
Lentils, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds are all excellent sources of plant-based proteins. Raw nuts and seeds are incredibly high in zinc and arginine, which support sperm formation and motility. Turn them into snacks and coat them with raw cacao for an extra nutritional punch that supports hormonal balance and DNA integrity of eggs and sperm.
Replacing animal fats with plant-based fats improves fertility, cardiovascular function, and energy levels. Trans fats and animal fats are shown to negatively impact the fertilization process. Healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats balance hormones and improve insulin signaling – important for ovulation.
“Studies have shown that consuming a certain quantity of monounsaturated fats in the form of avocados during the IVF (in vitro fertilization) cycle increased the success rate by three and a half times, as opposed to women who don’t eat good plant-based fats during that period,” Vitti says.
So, consume lots of healthy fats. This may beg the question about coconut oil. Though coconut oil is a saturated fat, it contains incredibly beneficial medium chain fatty acids that promote gut healing, thyroid health, and strengthens hormones by helping them travel through the body. Coconut oil also directly benefits fertility by maintaining a pH that promotes vaginal health.
Whole Food Supplements
Prenatal Vitamins, Royal Jelly and He Shu Wu are three supplements to consider adding to your diet when trying to conceive. Taking these supplements in addition to eating a wholesome diet can not only improve your chances but bring you into a state of optimum health.
Prenatal vitamins will restore depleted levels of folic acid, iron, vitamin D, and calcium in the body. Royal Jelly has become an increasingly popular supplement to fertility in recent years. It’s a milky, gelatinous substance used by bees to nurture the queen bee (interesting!). It contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that support and strengthen reproductive cells. It also assists male reproductive health by supporting DNA integrity, motility, maturity, and sperm count.
He Shu Wu, which translates to “black haired Mr. He,” is a powerful kidney/liver and yin tonic used in Chinese Medicine. It’s a classified adaptogen that has been traditionally used for men who have low libido, low sperm count, erectile dysfunction, and poor sperm motility.
Foods to Avoid
There are certain foods to be weary of that may be best to avoid all together. These mainly include soy, dairy, GMO’s, and animal foods.
Michael Gregor, M.D. from nutritionfacts.org discussed that higher dairy protein intake was associated with lower antral follicle counts among women in fertility treatment. In addition, he explained one study that found dairy protein actually ages ovarian eggs. The contributing factors could be steroids and hormones (eg. estrogen, progesterone, and placental hormones) found in commercial milks.
Soy contains lots of phytoestrogens, which at high levels can interfere with hormone production. The female reproductive system relies heavily on the production and distribution of estrogen. And while it’s not soy in particular that’s disruptive, rather, the high levels of phytoestrogens within it. If you do consume soy, be mindful of the amount and opt for fermented versions such as miso or tempeh.
In the case of GMO’s, keep an eye out for the dirty dozen, opt for organic, and grow as much as you can at home. GMO’s disrupt hormone balances and nutrient absorption, so these are best to be avoided when trying to conceive.
Lastly, a healthy diet supports mental health and reduces the impact of stressors. Stressors can negatively affect semen quality and ovulation. Practicing daily meditation, yoga, and walks in nature can help regulate stress and combat depressive symptoms. Nurture your mind and spirit equally as much as your body.
We are in this together. Diet and lifestyle mean so much at this time, and it’s something you’ll want to keep up with as you move forward in parenthood. It’s such an exciting time. Please reach out for support if you ever need. We are here to help you if you ever have any questions or simply need a great recipe.
blog post by Jordyn David
The information shared in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your healthcare professional. Pachavega assumes no liability for adverse health reactions upon following suggestions in this article.
You should not use the information on this site to diagnosis or treat of any health problem or as a substitute for medication or other treatment prescribed by your healthcare practitioner. You should consult a healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, fast, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication or nutritional supplement, or if you suspect you might have a health problem.
Each person is different, and the way you react to a particular food or product may be significantly different from the way other people react to such product or food. You should consult your healthcare practitioner and furthermore, do more research regarding any potential adverse interactions between medication you are currently taking and food based nutritional supplements.