Good nutrition is vital when it comes to having a healthy body. When the body flourishes so does your reproductive system! The building blocks for hormones are found in the foods we eat. As we age one of the most important things we can do is protect sperm and egg health. Antioxidants are also key to this, and their main job is to protect us from free radicals in our body. It is also important to note that with every nutrient that builds and protects, there are some foods and chemicals added to foods, ‘the anti-nutrients’ that can be harmful to your health and fertility.
So what can you eat to help aid fertility?
1. PROTEIN: Hormones are predominately made of fat and protein, so this one is really important. It's worth getting at least equal grams of protein to your weight in kgs daily, whether this is in meat, fish, eggs or beans.
2. FAT: Fat was a dirty word up until recently and blamed for heart disease in the 1980s and 90s and in its place came highly processed margarine. In the last few years, decent less processed and natural fats are back in a big way, in the form of butter and animal fat and other oils like olive, coconut, nuts, sesame and avocado. Testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone and all steroid hormones are made from cholesterol so make sure you are topping up with fat regularly, and avoiding the commercial fats which are often deodorised and processed. These are often the oils used to ‘fry’ with, so if you heat your oils avoid sunflower oil, Soyabean oil and rapeseed *(canola oil) oils. And if you are using margarine, it's time to swap it out!
3. FIBRE: The liver helps us to digest our food, but if there isn’t enough fibre, this can hamper both the removal of excess oestrogen and testosterone and other hormones and cause it to get reabsorbed. Fibre is also a great source of food for our gut bacteria that not only supports our immune system and can support mood, but they can also control whether oestrogen is retained or eliminated, and work on testosterone in a similar way! Make sure you have a range of fruit, veggies, (a minimum of 7-10 daily) as this will help your gut stay happy.
Aim for 30g fibre per day, just 2 tbsp of chia seeds come with as much as 11g of fibre!
4. ANTIOXIDANTS: Antioxidants is the term given to the component in brightly coloured fruits and veg that help fight free radicals. The best antioxidant foods are blue, purple and red coloured fruit and vegetables such as blueberries, strawberries cherries, grapes and plums. Orange and red denoting beta-carotene in butternut squash and peppers come close behind, as do greens, containing hormone busting phytochemicals such as sulforaphane and indoles (kale, broccoli, cabbage) and beetroots. Make sure you include a good mixture of these daily.
5. FOLATE: Not only is this important for making a baby but is also important as a raw ingredient to help encourage DNA replication. When we eat leafy greens, the folate cannot be absorbed until they are broken down by intestinal enzymes. So make sure you are getting maximum benefits by eating cabbage, lettuce, lentils and legumes, beet, greens and chard.
6. OMEGA 3: Fish supplies important essential fatty acids (omega 3) to our diet. These fatty acids help us to build hormones, reduce inflammation, and help regulate the menstrual cycle. Fish is also a great source of protein which are the building blocks for life. Avoid large, deep water fish such as tuna, and swordfish, as they may contain higher amounts of heavy metals that can be detrimental to fertility. When choosing fish, the oilier the better. Good choices would be Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring and vegan sources of omega 3 include chia, ground flaxseeds and their oils.
FINALLY, WATER: We are 60-70% water, so make sure you are well hydrated. If you aren’t getting at least 1.5-2.0 litres of water a day, many of your organs will become dehydrated. Females produce fertile fluid every month around ovulation, to help project sperm and nourish them as part of the journey, this always needs to be topped up. The DNA material in sperm is only 5%, the rest is a concoction of amino acids, vitamin C and sugars. They also need water to keep mobile, not enough water and this can slow the swimmers down... in short, if you are dehydrated, your sperm and eggs will also be parched to!
By Angela Heap, Nutritional Therapist