Sue’s Nutrition Nuggets: fertility-boosting healthy eating tips
By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
When it comes to fertility, maintaining a healthy weight is important and can have a direct impact on becoming pregnant. This is because being an unhealthy weight can affect a woman's fertility by causing hormonal imbalances and problems with ovulation (releasing an egg from the ovaries).
Things are not always easy or straightforward either when it comes to fertility, as being overweight can also be associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of low fertility or infertility. But let’s look on the positive side of things and what we can do to help ourselves. The most difficult thing can often to be to take a first step in the right direction, but once this is done it gets easier from there!
So, first things first – what is a healthy weight?
One way to measure whether you're in a healthy weight range is using the Body Mass Index or BMI. You can enter your height and weight into a BMI calculator as can be found on the NHS website to find out your BMI number.
- A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered a ‘healthy weight’.
- A BMI below 18.5 is considered ‘underweight’.
- A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered ‘overweight’.
- A BMI over 30 is considered ‘obese’.
Why is it important?
- A healthy weight can increase your chance of becoming pregnant and having a healthy baby.
- Being overweight may affect the quality of eggs and sperm and may reduce the chance of pregnancy - especially if you’re very overweight.
- Being underweight can also reduce fertility.
- For both men and women, healthy eating, regular exercise and losing even a few extra pounds can improve the chance of pregnancy.
Top nutrition tips to help lose a few extra pounds and keep on track!
- Aim to eat a daily diet containing wholegrains, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oils, vegetables, fruits and fish, as this dietary pattern has been associated with improved fertility in women and higher sperm quality in men.
- Avoid foods containing trans – fats, fast releasing carbohydrates, too much saturated fat and sugar.
- Write a food diary so you can see what you are eating each week then try to eliminate the above ‘avoid’ foods and include the ‘aim to eat foods’. Watch how you progress over a couple of weeks. Cross bad things out as you go!
- Watch your portion size – remember that one portion is equal to 80g
- Drink plenty of fresh water – up to eight glasses a day. Feeling hungry can sometimes be mistaken for being thirsty.
- Batch cook healthy meals so when you come in from work/busy day you don’t reach for fast food.
- Make it easy to get your 7 a day of fruit and vegetables (aim for 2-3 of fruit and the rest vegetables) in by planning ahead – quick ways are: stir-fries, homemade soup, smoothies, juices.
- Try to have 12 hours from your last meal in the evening to your first in the morning – a mini fast!
- Eat a good breakfast and make your evening meal your smallest as metabolism slows down at night
- Whenever you eat some carbohydrate food always eat some protein food to help balance blood sugar levels e.g. an egg on wholemeal toast.
- Exercise – this is important for a healthy body and mind and helps get rid of the extra pounds faster – go for something you enjoy even if it is a brisk walk each day as you will be more likely to stick at it.
Here is a starting point for a fertility boosting shopping list to help you keep focussed…
- Green vegetables
- Brown fortified bread and cereals
- Beans and pulses
- Shellfish – but stop eating shellfish once you are pregnant
- Wholemeal bread
- Baked beans
- Fortified cereal
- Dried fruit such as apricots and figs
- Green vegetables
Recipe: Why not try making some healthy blueberry and dark chocolate energy bites?
These are a healthy snack that can be enjoyed at breakfast, after/between work-outs or in packed lunches and avoiding ‘spiking’ your blood sugar levels with quick-fix sugar. These energy bites are filled with protein, slow release carbohydrates, fibre, nutrients - and important antioxidants can be found in the blueberries and dark chocolate. What’s also great is that you can make lots and put some in the freezer to bring out whenever you want!
Blueberry and dark chocolate energy bites (makes approx 30)
- 6 oz / 170 g of porridge oats
- 2 oz / 56 g of blueberries, dried or fresh roughly chopped
- 3 oz / 85 g of almond or peanut butter
- 2 oz / 56 g of chopped almonds
- 1 tbsp. ground flax seed
- 1oz / 28 g of honey
- 1 tbsp. chia seeds
- 2 oz / 56 g dark chocolate roughly chopped or dark chocolate chips (above 70% cocoa)
- Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C and bake the oats and chopped almonds for 8-10 minutes and bring out and give it a stir. Allow the mixture to cool.
- In a medium bowl combined the baked mix with flaxseed, almond or peanut butter, honey, chia seeds, blueberries and chocolate chips. Form into 1.5" balls and place into the fridge. Store in an airtight container refrigerated for up to one week or freezer for up to 3 months.
Sue Bedford, MSc (Nut Th), BSc (Hons), PGCE, mBANT, CNHC is a Nutritional Therapist, with a special interest in fertility, general health and well-being, weight loss and child nutrition. She gained her MSc in Nutritional Therapy from the University of Worcester in 2012 (her thesis explored nutrition and fertility in-depth) and has worked with a variety of clients ever since. Sue is qualified to offer nutrigenetic testing, an exciting new area of nutrition, which offers a personalised analysis of an individuals’ nutritional needs. Sue also has up to date training on nutrition and the menopause.
She has written numerous nutrition articles for a preconception charity and fertility clinic over the last few years. She is also co-editor of a book in which she authored two important chapters and has co-edited another book published in January 2020. Sue writes nutrition recipes/articles for IVF Babble. Sue is able to offer various consultation options to suit a variety of scenarios including face to face, telephone, skype and email consultations / follow up consultations. www.suebedfordnutrition.co.uk