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The Fertility Diet: What Is It And Does Eating Organic Really Improve Fertility Naturally?



"The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but will rather cure and prevent disease with nutrition". - Thomas Edison


What is the“Fertility Diet”?


In short, it is a Mediterranean-inspired diet, filled with ample vegetables, plant-and-fish based protein sources, whole grains, nuts, seeds and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil.


How does it naturally boost fertility?

A healthy diet can help control inflammation, balance hormone levels, stabilize body fat at an optimal level for fertility, and ensure we are properly nourished.


Inflammation

Inflammation means the body's process of fighting against things that harm it - like infections, injuries, and toxins - to try to heal itself.


When something damages our cells, our bodies releases chemicals that trigger a response from the immune system.


This is a totally natural response.


However, prolonged inflammatory states can lead to insulin resistance and studies suggest it is linked to many conditions that may affect fertility, like endometriosis, PCOS, implantation failure and recurrent miscarriage.


Researchers have identified certain foods that can help control inflammation, with many of them found in the so-called Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fish, vegetables and olive oil, among other whole food staples.


To counteract prolonged inflammation, something to focus on is to stabilize blood sugar levels.


Blood sugar and hormone levels

Elevated blood sugar levels can interfere with ovulation and can be caused by:

  • Foods with a high glycemic load (GL).

  • Eating a lot of processed foods, fast foods, and sugar.

Our hormones all communicate with each other.


So when the hormones that are involved in blood sugar modulation are constantly engaged and the system becomes worn out, the knock-on effects can include weight gain and disruption of reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone - essential for optimal fertility.


Avoiding excess sugars, carbohydrates and stress helps avoid a situation where the body becomes resistant to insulin.


Body fat and fertility

When it comes to body weight/body fat, scientists have found a 'Goldilocks' middle ground for optimal fertility.


People who are heavier than a body mass index (BMI) of 25 have been documented to have more fertility issues.


By heavier, doctors usually use the terms “overweight” (classified as a BMI of 25–29.9) and “obese” (BMI of 30 and above.)


There are plenty of free online BMI measurement tools that can help see if you fall into a fertility-friendly bodyweight but here is a quick equation below.


Meanwhile, people with a BMI under 20 are also more likely to have an ovulatory disorder, a higher risk of miscarriage, ovarian dysfunction and pregnancy issues such as preterm birth.


The Mediterranean diet (low in processed and sugary foods, high in lean protein and fresh vegetables) can help people balance body fat and hit that sweet spot in the middle.


You can read about this in more detail here.


Nutritional deficiencies

Some studies suggest that many people - even well fed people in developed countries - aren’t getting all the right nutrients from their diets alone and could benefit from dietary supplementation.


Gaps in our diets are surprisingly common even amongst well fed people living in developed nations - in particular Vitamin D and 'good' Omega 3 fats which are central to reproductive health.


The Mediterranean diet naturally contains a broad range of macro and micro nutrients, which helps protect against deficiencies.


Does eating organic matter for fertility?


The available research also suggests eating organic as much as you can afford to can be beneficial for fertility.


Here's why:


  • Almost no food is 100% free of pesticides.

  • When you choose organic produce, you are limiting your exposure to the hormone-disrupting chemicals that are found in pesticides.

  • Data shows that organic produce may also have more nutrients and antioxidants.

  • Organic, pasture raised meat and dairy have a healthier balance of fats, higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and won’t expose you to added hormones and antibiotics.


Why are pesticides bad for fertility?


Pesticides are included in classes of chemicals known as “endocrine disruptors.”


That means they can interfere with hormones or imitate hormones in our bodies produced by the endocrine system, and they have been linked to reproductive disorders and birth defects.


One study showed that women with the highest pesticide intake had a 26% lower chance of having a live birth and children whose mothers were exposed to high levels of pesticides have been found to have lower IQs compared to children with the lowest levels of pesticide exposure.


Pesticides linked to hormone disruption:

  • Herbicides – Glyphosate (which is used in the production of the weed-killer Roundup) is one type of herbicide that may be used on conventional (non-organic) crops. This common herbicide has been linked to cancer and hormone disruption.

  • Insecticides – Chlorpyrifos is one commonly used insecticide that has been associated with damaging the developing brains of children.


What if I can’t afford to buy organic food?

Firstly, check out the freezer section in a local or online store!


Often you can find frozen organic fruits and vegetables at far lower prices than in the fresh produce department.


Secondly, if that doesn’t work for you, consider favoring fruits and vegetables on the Clean 15 list and make sure you thoroughly wash the skins before consuming.


How can I wash fruits and vegetables to remove pesticides?



Washing produce thoroughly is important to prevent foodborne illness that can impact fertility and pregnancy, as well as substantially reducing your exposure to pesticides.


Scientists have found that washing produce with running water reduced the amount of pesticide residue for 9 of the 12 tested pesticides.


But if you want to get really squeaky clean, several liquids have been shown to be more effective than plain water.


These include: salt water, vinegar water, or baking soda water.


For instance, you can soak vegetables in a solution of 4-parts water to 1-part vinegar for about 20 minutes before rinsing.


Vinegar can also remove many types of bacteria that may be found on food as well.


The benefits of organic food stretch far beyond your fertility, so finding a way to fit a move towards organic into your lifestyle and budget is a smart move.



How can we avoid produce that contains the most pesticides?


We love the EWG’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists.


They show which fruits and veggies have the highest levels of pesticides (i.e. don’t buy, or buy organic) and which have the lowest levels of pesticides (i.e. okay to buy conventional, not organic).


Use this list to guide your food shopping choices:



The Environmental Working Group’s Pesticide Analysis


The Dirty Dozen (most contaminated produce):

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Kale, Collards, and Mustard Greens

  4. Nectarines

  5. Grapes

  6. Cherries

  7. Peaches

  8. Pears

  9. Bell and Hot Peppers

  10. Tomatoes

The Clean 15 (least contaminated produce):

  1. Sweet corn*

  2. Pineapples

  3. Onions

  4. Papayas*

  5. Sweet peas frozen

  6. Eggplants

  7. Asparagus

  8. Broccoli

  9. Cabbages

  10. Kiwis

  11. Cauliflower

  12. Honeydew Melons

  13. Cantaloupes

* A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce.




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