We all know that a balanced and nutritious diet is key to supporting our reproductive health and chances of conception. But, with so much information and advice out there, some of it contradictory, it can be hard to know where to begin. We’ve drawn up a list of simple food swaps that can be easily introduced to bring real improvements in your reproductive health by promoting egg and sperm quality.
Swap BREAKFAST CEREAL for EGGS
Far from being the healthy start to the day that the cereal companies suggest, breakfast cereals are mostly composed of refined grains and sugar, even those high fibre ones that appear healthy. These cereals can cause blood sugar levels to spike, leading to high blood glucose and insulin levels. The research tells us that consistent exposure to high blood glucose and insulin levels can have a negative impact on both sperm and egg quality. On the other hand, eggs provide a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and protein to start your day. A protein-rich breakfast will ensure you start the day with stable blood glucose and insulin levels. Eggs contain a number of nutrients that are essential for reproductive health, such as the amino acid cysteine, which the body uses to make the antioxidant glutathione. Antioxidants like glutathione plays a key role in protecting egg and sperm cells from damage, thereby ensuring egg and sperm quality.
Swap COFFEE for SPICED HERBAL TEAS
We’re not saying that you need to cut out coffee completely, but excessive caffeine intake has been linked with some negative outcomes in female reproductive health including miscarriage and low birth weight babies. Too much caffeine can deplete levels of folate, one of the most important nutrients for our reproductive health. Folate plays an essential role in DNA production in our bodies and, therefore, improves the quality of DNA within egg and sperm cells. Try limiting coffee intake to 2 cups a day and why not replace your usual cups of coffee with spiced herbal teas such as turmeric or cinnamon tea. Not only are they caffeine free but the spices in the tea are a great source of antioxidants that help the body produce healthy egg and sperm cells. Eating a diet that is rich in antioxidants one of the most important changes we can make to improve egg and sperm quality.
Swap SOFT DRINKS & DIET SOFT DRINKS for WATER
Fizzy soft drinks are directly damaging to fertility: studies how that women who consumed one soft drink daily had a 25% lower chance of conceiving, while men who drank one soft drink a day had a 33% reduced chance of conceiving. Diet soft drinks might seem like a better choice: they contain negligible calories so seem pretty harmless, and if you’re trying to lose weight to support your chances of conceiving, chances are that you’ve already swapped to diet soft drinks. However, the artificial sweeteners in diet soft drinks have been associated with lower egg and embryo quality in women trying to conceive. Regular consumption of diet soft drinks has been shown to negatively impact the gut microbiome, which we now understand plays a key role in supporting our reproductive health. To replace these drinks you can’t go wrong with filtered water or mineral water from a glass bottle to hydrate the body. If you find plain water boring, why not add slices of citrus fruits, cucumber or even a handful of berries to your water to make it a bit more interesting.
Swap POTATO CRISP for NUTS
When reaching for a snack between meals the choices we make can either tip the balance of our diet in a positive or negative direction. Potato crisps are a carbohydrate based snack that doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrition – so grabbing a bag of potato crisps will give you a substantial calorie hit without any nutrients to show for it – what we call empty calories. Nuts on the other hand are a rich source of trace minerals and vitamins, in fact a number of studies have shown that men consuming a handful of nuts daily (especially hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts) for 14 weeks had improved sperm motility and morphology.
Swap CHOCOLATE BARS for PROPER DARK CHOCOLATE
It may seem strange to suggest that chocolate might be a health food, but proper good quality chocolate has real health benefits. Cocoa is a bean after all, and proper chocolate with at least a 75% cocoa content contains around half the sugar of a generic chocolate bar. On top of all that, dark chocolate is one of the most concentrated sources of those all important dietary antioxidants that promote egg and sperm quality.
Swap SUGARY TREATS for FRESH FRUIT
Sugar is bad news for our reproductive health, and if you’re trying to improve your fertility it’s crucially important to reduce sugar consumption. Therefore sugary treats should be just that, treats and we should avoid indulging on a daily basis. Sugar consumption leads to high blood sugar and high insulin levels and these imbalances have been shown to negatively impact sperm and egg quality. So keep sweet treats to a maximum of 2 times a week and instead replace those treats with some antioxidant rich fresh fruits such as berries, watermelon, kiwi fruit and cherries.
Swap WHITE POTATOES for SWEET POTATOES
Sweet potatoes definitely pack a much more significant nutritional punch compared to white potatoes. Sweet potatoes are higher in the antioxidant nutrient beta carotene, thanks to their orange colour, and are higher in fibre while also having a lower impact on blood sugar levels. Swapping from white to sweet potatoes is an easy way to increase our antioxidant intake while also looking after our blood sugar health. A large body of research has consistently shown that high blood sugar levels can negatively impact male and female fertility, so choosing foods that have a lower impact on blood sugar levels is a key way to support fertility.
Swap DAIRY ALTERNATIVES for REAL DAIRY PRODUCTS
No I haven’t got that the wrong way around! Unless you are lactose intolerant or have an allergy to dairy products, cutting dairy products out of your diet completely is not necessarily going to improve your reproductive health. In fact eliminating dairy products significantly reduces dietary intake of the mineral iodine, which plays an important role in supporting female fertility and is crucially important in pregnancy. In fact good quality organic dairy products and fermented dairy products such as natural yoghurt, kefir and unpasteurised cheese can have real benefits in supporting and helping to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Focusing on good gut health may appear odd as a way to improve fertility, however, we now know that the good bacteria that populate our guts can restore balance to the rest of the body. The health benefits of a healthy gut microbiome include promoting nutrient absorption, supporting hormone balance and reducing inflammation, all factors that can impact male and female reproductive health.
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