Connect with us

Food & Drink

The Fertility, Health, and Beauty Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Published

on

There’s something about the Mediterranean that just screams tranquillity, wellness, and fertility. Maybe it’s the pristine coastlines or all that lush greenery. Or perhaps it’s the world-renowned Mediterranean diet, the quintessential health promoting and protecting diet that’s big on flavour and nutrients.

Boasting ample amounts of fibre, phytonutrients, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and flavour, the Mediterranean diet is one of the best eating patterns to follow for optimal fertility, health, and beauty.

Fertility

Tonia Buxton, UK author and TV host, is not shy about singing the praises of her healthy Greek diet and lifestyle. She believes it’s the reason she has stayed fertile well into her 40s. Science seems to support her praise for the Mediterranean way of eating and living.

In a 2011 study researchers found a preconception Mediterranean diet had a positive effect on fertility. Women who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet had a lower chance of experiencing difficulty getting pregnant when compared to women who had a lower adherence to the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet also seems to positively affect IVF success. In 2010 researchers interviewed 161 couples receiving IVF treatment. The couples who followed a Mediterranean diet were more likely to conceive.

Health

In 2014 researchers published an article that reviewed the results of 37 Mediterranean diet and health studies. Overall, the studies found those who closely followed a Mediterranean diet, had a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease, or cardio diabesity, a word coined to describe the connection between all four.

With the ability to stave off obesity, diabetes, and heart disease while improving fertility, the Mediterranean diet is worthy of much applause. Add in the beauty-enhancing benefits and frankly, it deserves a standing ovation.

Beauty

What we choose to eat has the potential to greatly affect the health and appearance of our skin. The Mediterranean diet is thought to beautify and protect our skin. One study has found a connection between acne and the Mediterranean diet. In the study patients whose diets were full of the seafood and plant-based linchpins of the Mediterranean diet, while being low in red meat and dairy, were less likely to develop acne.

Besides warding off acne, it might also provide sun protection; and we all know how important sun protection is for preventing premature ageing, wrinkling, and hyperpigmentation. It’s believed the omega 3s, monounsaturated fatty acids, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals from the large amounts of fish, fruit, olive oil, whole grains, and vegetables in the diet, are partially behind the relatively low number of melanoma cases in Mediterranean countries.

Mediterranean Eating Pattern

After reading these benefits you’re probably ready to book the first flight you can find to one of the many countries along the Mediterranean sea so you can nosh with the natives on some authentic meals. The good news is, you don’t have to use all your frequent flyer miles and vacation time to reap the benefits of this healthy diet. Just head to your nearest grocery store (or cupboard) and follow the guide below.

Daily

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole Grains
  • Beans, peas, lentils
  • Nuts
  • Herbs and Spices
  • Olives/ Olive Oil

These foods make up the base of the Mediterranean diet. Make sure to include all or some of them at every snack and meal, every day.

Weekly

  • Fish and Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Poultry

Unlike many diets which centre around animal protein, the Mediterranean diet includes these foods regularly, but not necessarily daily. The foods below are eaten 2-5 times per week.

Occasionally

  • Red Meat

Beef, pork, and lamb are served and eaten at most once a week and usually less often than that. Rather than being the star of the meal, red meat is usually added in small amounts to vegetable, bean, grain, and lentil dishes.

Rarely/ Sparingly

  • Processed Foods and snacks
  • Sweets/ desserts

Processed foods are limited, making up only a tiny percentage of the diet. Small portions of desserts, which are a far cry from highly processed sweets, may be eaten more frequently.

Desserts in the Mediterranean are typically made of fresh fruit and nuts. Honey is the sweetener of choice.

Optional

  • Alcohol

Moderate amounts of alcohol are regularly enjoyed, usually in the form of wine. This is optional and pretty controversial.

If you don’t currently drink or shouldn’t drink, it’s not recommended you start. For men, the limit is no more than 2 drinks, for women no more than 1 drink per day. Anything more than that and the risks begins to outweigh the benefits.

Additional Lifestyle Factors

Another important part of a Mediterranean meal, which is likely just as important as what is eaten, is enjoying it with family and friends. Eating is a time to unwind and catch up with other people. Good company and conversation go hand in hand with good food.

Physical activity, which we all know works in conjunction with healthy eating, is woven into daily living. Bike rides, walking, swimming, dancing, and playing with younger members of the family are fun ways to stay fit without heading to the gym.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Comments

Food & Drink

Can A Vegan Diet Improve Your Chances Of Trying to Conceive?

Published

on

Trying to conceive
Trying To Conceive With A Plan Based Diet

There has been a recent surge of people adopting veganism as the #cleaneating movement sweeps social media. Juliet Gellately, nutritional therapist and founder of vegan charity Viva! Health explains why a plant-based diet could hold the key to trying to conceive.

Fertility problems affect one in seven couples in the UK. There are many causes – certainly not diet alone, but its effect is often underplayed. How we eat particularly impacts on the baby in the womb but a calorie intake that is too low or too high, along with vitamin deficiencies, can be a root cause of infertility. Lifestyle choices such as alcohol and drug use may also have an impact. Tobacco smokers are 60% more likely to be infertile than non-smokers.

Diet and lifestyle choices are important for men and women who want to make a baby, and one route to consider is a plant-based, vegan diet. Ideally, a highly nutritious vegan diet that maximises the ideal intake of complex carbohydrates, fibre, protein, omega 3 and 6 ‘good’ fats, vitamins and minerals.

A balanced vegetarian, or better still, a vegan diet is packed with disease-busting, body and brain nurturing nutrients and is ideal for boosting fertility and for a healthy pregnancy. Just as importantly, a vegan diet particularly lacks the nasties you need to avoid – saturated animal fats, cholesterol, concentrated pesticides, cancer promoters, dioxins and mercury. The latter two are in practically all fish.

And few people realise that cows’ milk contains 35 hormones and 11 growth factors, including those linked to breast and prostate cancers.

The secret of healthy eating for men and women before and during pregnancy is variety but focusing on whole grains (three servings daily), pulses (peas, beans and lentils) of all types plus unsalted mixed nuts if not from an allergy-prone family and seeds (two to three portions daily), and fresh fruit and vegetables (seven to 10 servings daily), as well as some healthy essential fats and vitamin B12 fortified foods. Viva!’s new colourful laminated wallchart, What I Need Each Day (£2) is a friendly food reminder and will help maximise your fertility.

Can you conceive by switching to vegan diet?

Trying to conceive

As two-thirds of Brits are overweight or obese, diet has become a central issue for fertility babies’ health. The biggest study of European vegans to date compared over 1,000 of them to tens of thousands of meat eaters and vegetarians. The meat eaters, on average, were significantly heavier than the vegans. Even allowing for differences in exercise, smoking and other lifestyle factors, vegans came out slimmer in every age group and are usually their ideal healthy weight, or close to it. Less than 2% of vegans are obese, in stark contrast to the rest of the population.

Recent research has shown that mums who eat a high fat and/or high sugar diet during pregnancy can have babies who are predisposed to obesity and when children, to having metabolic syndrome (the precursor to type 2 diabetes).

It’s equally important not to undereat. Many studies show that mums who do so increase their child’s risk of developing obesity and related diseases (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, cancer). It is believed that the baby in the womb makes adaptations to the ‘famine’ to prepare him or herself for life after birth. Far from being protective, these changes make the child more vulnerable to obesity and disease.

Count down
Men who are obese are three times more likely to have a low sperm count than men of the same background and age who are of a healthy weight. Obese men are also more likely to have sperm that has problems swimming and are misshaped. This can reduce fertility or cause infertility. What’s more, obese men have lower levels of the male sex hormone, testosterone, and higher levels of the female hormone oestrogen. This is because fat cells make oestrogen in men and women and is why overweight men often develop breasts.

If a man is obese, the amount of oestrogen subsequently produced may reduce his sperm production. Obese men also tend to have more erectile problems and impotence and may have a lower sex drive. New research has also shown that red meat slows sperm. Meat is not so macho after all, it seems!

Weight is an important issue for women too. A study on almost 50,000 couples in 2007 showed that obese women have almost an 80% greater risk of being subfertile than normal-weight women. For those in need of some dietary guidance, Viva!Health’s V Plan Diet helps men and women regain their mojo by giving tips on a healthy, sustained weight loss.

Vegan diet,  and Fertility foods

All nutrients play a vital part in fertility, so it is important to know which foods are rich sources of the vitamins and minerals you need.

Zinc probably plays the biggest role in reproduction. A deficiency in a man reduces the volume of semen and so fertilisation may be compromised. In a woman, zinc is needed for the right hormone balance, development of the egg, successful fertilisation and for the enzymes of egg implantation. In pregnant women, zinc deficiency increases the chances of miscarriage, low birth weight, labour and delivery problems.

(Rich sources of zinc include avocados, blackberries, raspberries, asparagus French beans, Brussel sprouts, pulses, wholegrains (eg brown rice, wholegrain bread, oats, rye), green leafy veg, nuts (e.g. peanuts), seeds (especially pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds used to make hummus), basil, thyme.)

Folic acid is vital for the prevention of spina bifida and other neural tube defects in babies and is needed in the first 28 days of pregnancy – so should be taken from preconception. It also supports the placenta. Folic acid deficiency can also lead to miscarriage.

(Rich sources of folic acid include berries, mangoes, pineapples, avocados, green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, asparagus, parsnips, pulses (e.g. peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, black eyed peas, edamame and soya products such as tofu, lentils), brown rice, seeds (e.g. sunflower seeds.)

For Him

Ground flax seed or flax seed oil bursting with omega-3, the good fat that is vital for sperm health and for making male sex hormones.

Pumpkin seeds
A great source of zinc, which is needed to make the outer layer and tail of the sperm and to make testosterone.

Garlic
This is a great source of selenium, an antioxidant which helps maintain strong and healthy sperm. It is also high in the B vitamins needed for sex hormones and helps protect blood vessels and heart – both needed for a good blood supply to you know where!

Mangoes
Rich in folic acid to boost sperm health. Low levels of folate increase the risk of sperm that contain too little or too many chromosomes, which may result in birth defects or increase the risk of miscarriage.

Avocados
Fabulous source of vitamin E, which improves sperm quality; good fats crucial for sex hormones; and vitamin C which protects sperm from free radicals, helps improve sperm quality in smokers and helps stop sperm clumping together.

For Her

Mixed unsalted nuts and seeds rich in good fats, which are crucial for healthy ovulation; protein which is needed for egg production and to make sex hormones. Inadequate protein intake can decrease the frequency of periods and may also contribute to early miscarriage.

Prunes, figs and apricots Brimming with iron, essential for normal ovulation, as well as carrying oxygen to your reproductive parts (and everywhere else!) – and to your baby when pregnant. One third of pregnant women in the UK have mild anaemia.

Oats
Wholegrains such as oats, brown rice and whole wheat contain complex carbohydrates to give you energy for baby-making. They’re also brimming with B vitamins, vital for making sex hormones and healthy eggs.

Broccoli
Superfood packed with folic acid, essential to stop spina bifida in your future baby; beta carotene, which is crucial for the enzymes needed for implantation of your fertilised egg but also helps produce female sex hormones, important for ovulation; and vitamin C, which also improves fertility.

Raspberries
Contain zinc needed for sex hormones, healthy eggs and egg implantation; manganese which helps make energy and metabolise good fats essential for fertility and are full of antioxidants, which promote general as well as reproductive health.

For more information you can contact Juliet Gellately who is a Nutritional Therapist and founder of vegan charity Viva! Health.

Continue Reading

Food & Drink

What You Need to Know About Tea and Your Fertility

Published

on

Cup of tea for fertility

Tea has a long, storied history. It has been used medicinally, as a part of ceremonies, and as a simple way to slow down and enjoy the day. As the second most consumed beverage in the world, there’s a pretty good chance a cuppa regularly graces your lips.

If you’re trying to conceive, you’ve no doubt heard conflicting information about whether or not you should continue sipping tea. Some say tea should be avoided altogether, others say it can actually play a key role in boosting your fertility. Who’s right?

Once and for all, I hope to answer the often asked question, “does tea help or harm my fertility?” Read on for the information you need to know about tea and your fertility.

What is tea?

Typically when we refer to tea, we’re talking about any beverage made by infusing water with any number of leaves, flowers, stems, seeds, or roots. But technically, only Camellia sinensis and beverages made from its leaves are true teas. All other botanical infusions are just that, infusions or if you’re feeling especially fancy, tisanes.

What does the research say about tea and conception?

Not surprisingly, the research literature is full of conflicting information.

A 2012 prospective study of over 3600 women not taking any fertility drugs or birth control found time to pregnancy was shorter for the women who drank two or more cups of tea a day, while soda increased the time it took for women to become pregnant. There’s a chance there were other lifestyle habits the tea drinkers had that improved their fertility[1].

In 1998 researchers set out to determine how different caffeine-containing drinks affect women’s fertility. They found women who reported drinking at least 1/2 cup of tea a day were more likely to become pregnant than other women in the cohort[2].

One study found coffee and tea (the study results clumped coffee and tea together) only negatively affected fertility rates of women who were also smokers [3].

Conversely, a 2015 study of women undergoing fertility treatment found women who drank tea had a lower of conceiving compared to women who didn’t. However, the information about the study subjects diet was collected prior to the initiation of fertility treatments. There’s no way of knowing whether the study participant started or stopped drinking tea during treatment[4].

Another study, published in 2004, suggested tea can negatively impact how long it takes to get pregnant, but only when cups of tea exceeded 6 cups per day. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to really determine tea’s true effect of tea on fertility since coffee and tea were lumped together, once again, in the analysis[5].

Overall the data suggests tea, in moderate amounts doesn’t lower fertility (and may even positively influence it.) Stick with less than 300 mg of caffeine, about … cups of black tea, … cups of white tea, and … cups of green tea.

  • Fertility and Health Benefits of Tea
  • Antioxidants
  • Stress Reduction
  • Balance Blood Sugar
  • Improve Fertility
  • Which teas and tisanes should I avoid if I’m trying to conceive?
  • Too much tea…

Medicinal herbs if not under the advisement of a healthcare practitioner

How to Sip Tea Safely While Trying to Conceive-Tea takeaways- sipping to boost your wellness and reproductive health.

Tea, the right kind, in the right amounts, can be a valuable ally in your journey to conception.

Continue Reading

Food & Drink

Back to Basics – Simple, Tasty Fertility Boosting Foods You Can Find at Your Local Grocery Store

Published

on

Simple Fertility Boosting Foods

Whether you’re trying to conceive on your own or with the use of assisted reproductive technology, getting back to the basics of healthy eating may increase your chances of conceiving and help you stay energised through the process.

Exotic super foods are all the rage. Trendy foods from far away lands have captured our interest and taste buds. While I love trying fun new foods as much as the next person, I don’t love how difficult they can be to find and the hefty price tag that often accompanies them.

If you’ve searched the internet for fertility friendly recipes and foods, you may be under the impression you need fancy foods from countries you haven’t visited to boost your fertility. Fortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of the familiar foods in you local grocery store are some of the best foods you can eat to optimise your fertility.

They’re easy to find, affordable, and packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to fuel your fertility.

Keep reading for 10 simple foods bursting at the seams with flavor and fertility supporting nutrients.

1. Cinnamon

Cinnamon Fertility Benefits

As if being delicious and readily available weren’t enough, cinnamon also boasts antioxidant properties and the ability to lower blood sugar. It can be especially beneficial for women with PCOS. If you’re looking to reduce inflammation and balance your blood sugar, add cinnamon to your meals.

How to Eat More Cinnamon

• Make an herbal tisane by boiling a cinnamon stick in a cup of hot water for 10-15 minutes
• Make an herbal tisane by boiling a cinnamon stick in a cup of hot water for 10-15 minutes
• Sprinkle cinnamon on your favorite cereals or yogurt
• Add cinnamon to baked beans or curry dishes

2. Wild Caught Salmon

Salmon Fertility Benefits

Salmon is one of the most nourishing foods you can eat. It’s packed with protein, the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin, and omega 3 fatty acids. Bonus, it’s also one of the safest seafood options when you’re trying to conceive or pregnant since it’s low in mercury.

How to Eat More Salmon

• Use canned salmon to make salmon burgers
• Use canned salmon to make salmon burgers
• Opt for a serving of salmon at least once a week (aim to eat at least 2 servings of low-mercury fish per week)
• Top your lunch or dinner salad with a grilled or baked salmon in place of the usual chicken breast

3. Olive Oil

Olive Oil Fertility Benefits

Olive Oil Fertility Benefits

As a major source of monounsaturated fatty acids and a defining feature of the Mediterranean Diet, there are plenty of reasons to make olive oil your oil of choice. One very good reason: research has linked both the Mediterranean Diet and monounsaturated fatty acids to a decreased risk of infertility.

How to Eat More Olive Oil

• Top your toast with olive oil in place of butter
• Make your own salad dressing using a combo of vinegar, olive oil, and your favorite herbs
• Drizzle a bit of olive oil on vegetable side dishes

4. Spearmint Tisane

Spearmint Tisane Fertility Benefits

Spearmint Tisane Fertility Benefits

Spearmint tisane (aka spearmint tea) is tasty, contains no caffeine (for those of you avoiding caffeine right now), and has been shown to reduce androgens. If you have PCOS this is a drink you should rotate into your beverage options.

How to Drink More Spearmint Tisane

• Sip a cup of spearmint tisane in the morning in place of coffee for a caffeine-free pick me up
• Use a cup of brewed spearmint tisane in your morning smoothie in place of plain water
• Enjoy a glass of cold spearmint tea when the weather gets warm

5. Brown Rice

Brown Rice Fertility Benefits

Brown Rice Fertility Benefits

Full of fiber and B vitamins, brown rice is a blood sugar and fertility friendly alternative to processed grains. Since they’re jam-packed with fiber, they’re digested more slowly than white rice, earning them a place among other slow carbs which have been linked to a decreased risk of anovulatory infertility.

How to Eat More Brown Rice

• Choose brown rice when it’s available at your favorite restaurants
• Tired of oats for breakfast? Try brown rice as a hot breakfast cereal. Top it with your favorite sweet or savory toppings and enjoy.
• Add brown rice to your go-to noodle soup recipe in place of noodles

6. Blueberries

Blueberries Fertility Benefits

Blueberries Fertility Benefits

Potent antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients are just a few of the fertility optimizing nutrients these tasty berries boast. As a low sugar fruit, they’re also a great choice for women with PCOS.

How to Eat More Blueberries

• Top full-fat greek yogurt with blueberries for a quick and satisfying breakfast
• Add blueberries to your morning smoothie
• Sprinkle blueberries over a salad for a pop of color and juicy sweetness

7. Chickpeas

Chickpeas Fertility Benefits

Chickpeas Fertility Benefits

Chickpeas are a great source of naturally occurring folate, a very important B vitamin to make sure you’re getting enough of when you’re trying to conceive.

How to Eat More Chickpeas

• Spread hummus on toast or wraps as an alternative to mayonnaise
• Try a chickpea chili recipe
• Snack on roasted chickpeas for a crunchy, savory, and healthy midday snack

8. Garlic

Garlic Fertility Benefits

Garlic Fertility Benefits

One of the best things we can do to support fertility is to support proper detoxification. The good news is you don’t have to go on a juice cleanse or fast to detox. Fortunately, foods like garlic enhance your body’s innate ability to detoxify.

How to Eat More Garlic

• Mince fresh garlic to add to salads, soup, and other savory meals
• Enjoy pesto, packed with garlic and other herbs

9. Full-Fat Greek Yogurt

Greek Yogurt Fertility Benefits

Full Fat Greek Yogurt Fertility Benefits

When it comes to fertility, full-fat dairy is the way to go. Greek yogurt has the added benefit of probiotics for healthier digestion and extra protein to balance blood sugar levels.

How to Eat More Full Fat Greek Yogurt

• Switch out regular reduced fat yogurt in favor of full-fat greek yogurt
• Blend full-fat greek yogurt into your morning smoothie
• Make a yummy fertility boosting parfait by layering greek yogurt, seeds, nuts, cinnamon, and blueberries

10. Watercress

Watercress Fertility Benefits

Watercress Fertility Benefits

This spicy leafy green is a great source of fiber, folate, and phytonutrients. Those phytonutrients are powerful antioxidants that protect our reproductive organs, eggs, and sperm from oxidative damage.

How to Eat More Watercress

• Blend watercress into your pesto
• Use a blend of spinach and watercress for your next salad
• Add watercress to veggie soups

Whether you’re trying to conceive on your own or with the use of assisted reproductive technology, getting back to the basics of healthy eating may increase your chances of conceiving and help you stay energised through the process. Consider adding these 10 foods to your meals and snacks to fuel your fertility simply.

Kendra Tolbert MS, RDN, CDN, CLC is a registered dietitian and certified aromatherapist specializing in women’s health nutrition. You can find more nutrition and wellness fertility information from Kendra at Live Fertile.

Continue Reading

Trending