What is a fertility diet?
A fertility diet focuses on foods that have a high nutrient density as opposed to a high calorie density.
For the most part, this means you will be focusing on whole, unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, veggie protein foods, such as nuts, seeds, lentils and healthy fats (e.g. avocado, coconut oil), along with plenty of water and warming, herbal teas.
You have probably noticed that there is no mention of alcohol, caffeine, sugar, wheat, dairy and red meat in this list. I'm afraid that's because in high amounts, these foods/stimulants can have a bad effect on fertility. In particular, on the developing egg and sperm, which is to be avoided when trying for a baby.
Tips & tricks for the festive season
To start with, let's look at what makes you crave the 'bad' stuff;
Lack of sleep - burning the candle at both ends. Being up early for work, then staying out late for dinner or a Christmas drinks party, will play havoc with your appetite hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Try your best to get at least 7-8 hours each night if you want to avoid craving sugar or caffeine the next day.
Stress- for many people, along with all that festive cheer, comes quite a lot of stress! Running around trying to find that last Christmas present, organising the house, preparing food, dealing with family politics, tying up loose ends at work...the list is endless. When we are stressed, this increases our cortisol levels causes a release of sugar into the bloodstream, which is no good for hormonal balance. Try to delegate as many jobs as you can, you don't have to be superwoman! At the very least, take 5 minutes to breathe deeply, Harvard has done research on this and found it to be as effective as medication for calming the body, plus you can do it wherever you are. Breathe in for 4, hold for 7, release for a count of 8 and feel the difference in yourself afterwards.
Temptation- sometimes cravings have nothing to do with stress or fatigue, but are there simply because the food is put in front of you! The golden rule for minimising this problem is to NEVER arrive to a party or social event hungry. Even if you're going to a dinner party, make sure to eat something before you go as you could be waiting around having drinks before sitting down and if you're hungry you will be far more likely to over eat.
Suffer with indigestion? If you find that you are prone to IBS and party food can send your symptoms into overdrive then you could probably benefit greatly from digestive enzymes. Easily found in most health stores, although aim to buy the higher quality brands to ensure they do work for you. Take a tablet during your meal and hopefully you will see those nasty indigestion symptoms diminish, allowing you to enjoy yourself without any discomfort.
Avoiding alcohol without being asked a ton of questions!
One of the most common complaints I hear from my patients is that if they are seen to be avoiding alcohol at a social occasion, people immediately assume they must be pregnant. Of course, this can be most upsetting, when the reason you are avoiding alcohol is not because you are pregnant, but because you have been trying for many months, if not years to conceive.
If you can't pull off the 'designated driver' excuse, there are a few other tricks you can try.
First of all, if you know there will that particularly nosey friend in attendance, just accept whatever drink is offered to you. Then you can chat away and pretend to drink it, by putting the glass to your lips but not actually taking any. When no one is looking, put down your glass and pick up an empty one. If you're asked would you like a refill, just say you'd like something else instead so they get you a fresh glass. If all else fails, a potted plant may prove handy or you can even bring your glass with you to the bathroom and pour some down the sink.
I appreciate this may sound a little extreme, but when you're dealing with fertility issues there really is nothing worse than the idea of people gossiping about you at a party when you're supposed to be enjoying yourself.
What about having just a little alcohol? If you prefer to opt for that approach instead, but want to minimise the potential impact on the developing eggs (or in the case of your partner, the developing sperm) try to do the following;
- have a glass of water alongside the alcoholic drink. This is easy to do at a dinner party, less so at a drinks party.
- make sure you are having some food, never have alcohol on an empty stomach.
- Don't drink too fast. The liver is able to process about 1 alcoholic drink per hour, so make sure to sip slowly so your body has a change to process the alcohol for excretion.
It's Christmas, so it's important to be able to have some treats. Over the years I have found that by having a healthier version of a classic dessert you won't feel deprived as they still taste delicious and more importantly, you won't feel like rubbish after eating them.
Check out the recipe for these totally delicious chocolate truffles from my book the Guilt Free Gourmet here;