We all know it’s important to have a healthy diet, especially if we are trying to conceive. It is best to eat a range of whole, organic foods: plenty of vegetables and fruit, healthy carbs in the form of legumes, root vegetables and whole grains, and proteins such as organic, grass-fed animal protein, fish, and vegetable proteins (legumes). But there is another group of incredibly important foods that often get overlooked, especially when it comes to our health and fertility: fats.
Fats are essential in building estrogen, progesterone, and other fertility hormones which are necessary to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy. Our grocery stores are inundated with non-fat and low fat foods, but really we’re doing our bodies a disservice when we purchase them. And guess what… eating dietary fat does not lead to an increase in body fat. Sugar and refined carbs are the real culprits. Fats can be our friends if we choose them wisely.
A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who ate two or more low-fat dairy products a day experienced difficulty conceiving at a rate double that of those women who ate one or less servings of low-fat dairy foods. While no definitive cause was found, one possible explanation is that the low fat dairy products are missing the fat necessary for the production of female reproductive hormones.
Fat comes in different forms: unsaturated fat (including mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats, both categories of which are liquid at room temperature and from vegetable sources), and saturated fats (which are solid at room temperature and generally from animal origin). For many years the prevailing thought was that the consumption of saturated fats was a major cause of heart disease, but actually, the consumption of trans-fats was what was causing illness. Trans-fats are produced by a chemical process called hydrogenation, which turns a veggie-based unsaturated fat into a solid at room temperature. Examples of trans-fat items are Crisco, margarine, and many pre-packaged and processed foods. In addition to being a cause of heart disease, trans-fats can increase insulin resistance which can wreak metabolic havoc in anyone and can be especially problematic for ovulation in women. Avoid anything where trans-fats are listed in nutritional contents and anything with hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening as ingredients.
Whether you are trying to conceive, already pregnant, or just wanting a healthier diet in general, here are some things you can do to make sure you are getting the healthy fats your body needs:
- Oils: If you haven't already, ditch the vegetable oil and replace it with virgin or extra-virgin olive oil, sesame, avocado, or any natural, organic, cold pressed oil suitable to your tastes. Note: Oils cook at different heat levels, so look into this for what you're cooking. Otherwise you'll get a rank taste in your food, which is not fun.
- Hello Avocado: A lot of us have read that avocado is a source of good fat. It's true. They are also abundant and easy to incorporate into your diet. Pass the guac!
- Go Nuts: Nuts and seeds are great snacks that contain Vitamin E and essential fatty acids. I particularly recommend almonds, walnuts, black sesame seed, flax and chia seed. They are also an awesome way to add textural diversity and flavor to a dish.
- Fatty vs. Lean: If you are a fish and/or meat eater, they should only make up a quarter or less of your diet. But when you are having them for lunch or dinner, go for a fatter cut, or for fish, a more oil rich variety like salmon, herring, or sardine. These in particular, are also cold water fish so they have extremely low levels of mercury. With leaner cuts of meat, you're getting the protein, but not necessarily the good fat. Again, make sure it's organic, as local as you can get, and hormone free. Also, if you're doing poultry, give it a roast with the skin on. Yum.
- The Skinny on Dairy: If you do dairy (which doesn't agree with everyone), nix the skim or low fat. Whole milk and whole fat yogurt and cheeses are the way to go. Keep it minimal, but again, this is going to be where some of your good fat comes from. Skim milk is not going to make you lose weight, although, a healthy diet and exercise will.
- More Eggs Please: And yes, this means the yolk, too. I can't say enough about eggs. They are rich in nutrients, protein, and healthy fats and are especially beneficial for women trying to conceive. Did I mention delicious and versatile? If you can get farm fresh eggs, even better! You will notice a vast difference in color and flavor. You might be tempted to only eat the whites, but don't. Eggs are pretty much the perfect food as they are.
Everyone's body makeup is different. Some people need more or less of one thing in their diet than the next person to remain healthy and in harmony. In Chinese Medicine, these can be broken down into a 5 element theory approach. Sarah Johnson L. Ac. combines this wisdom with current nutritional facts to give you the most holistic health benefits.
If you would like a complete dietary analysis for your specific dietary needs book a consultation today.