Kimberly Wong, RD, LDN
Spring, in unbroken tradition, has long been a celebration of the fertility of the earth. Similarly, this glowing season marks a time of renewal and revitalization in one's fertility journey. Thus, in new hope and anticipation, what better way to welcome the coming months than by improving your fertile body with the natural nutrients of Mother Nature.
While it seems like the path to parenthood may at time be paved with difficult words upon deeply scientific concepts, the movement for local foods, dubbed with the endearing, folksy name "locavorism," is much less esoteric and was spawned in the mid-2000s in an effort to promote sustainability and eco-consciousness.
Fertility vocab 101: locavore, (ˈlō-kə-ˌvȯr, noun), one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible.
Repeat. Memorize. Embrace.
Here's the 411 on why becoming a locavore can aid in optimizing your preconception nutrition status. In short, locally farmed foods a) provide more vitamins and minerals per serving than do their grocery store counterparts b) encourage increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and c) frequently boast a pesticide-free label.
Local foods travel far fewer miles than your average megastore produce. While it seems convenient to run to the corner store and buy a pint of strawberries to meet our daily quota for our 9-A-Day, what we end up with in hand is quite the reverse of nutritious and fresh. In fact, a food is only considered local if it is grown within 100 miles of where it is sold. Conversely, the average carrot will travel 1,838 miles from farm to table.
While this particular carrot travels the rough equivalent of DC to Mexico City, greater than 50% and up to 90% of its vitamin C content will be lost within the first day of travel. Other essential nutrients fall prey to time-, temperature-, and light-sensitivity: the vital B vitamins, particularly folate, and vitamin E. These particular nutrients are all antioxidants that not only protect from an array of disease, but also help prevent harmful oxidative stress that has been linked to both male and female infertility.
Next, shopping for local foods is a calming, rewarding, and positive experience. Sifting through the wagons of crisp kale, chatting with its grower, and breathing fresh air may be considered so pleasurable that it increases the frequency of fresh fruits and vegetables, and grass-fed/cage-free proteins in one's diet. Even without a drastic increase in servings per day, the mere substitution of local foods decrease the amount of commercialized foods in the diet. This, in turn, essentially cuts back the amount of processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and preservatives in the diet. Just think-a mere trip to a local market can bring you one step closer to an anti-inflammatory, lower-glycemic, fertility-friendly diet!
Finally, local foods tend to offer pesticide-free and organic varieties. The upside to directly dealing with the foods' producer ensures the elimination of any confusion. Pesticide-residues on fruits and vegetables and hormone/antibiotic-residues in meats and their by-products are of concern to fertility because of the accumulation of such toxins has been linked to reproductive damage.
The Environmental Working Group has developed the infamous "Dirty Dozen," which notes the foods that are likely to be highest in pesticide residuals. Do try to buy these foods organic and locally when possible. Conversely, they have released the "Cleanest Twelve" which indicates the produce lowest in pesticides.
|Sweet Bell Peppers
||Sweet Corn (frozen)
||Sweet Peas (frozen)
Words of caution: the label "organic" does not mean that the produce was grown locally. While it may lack harmful toxic chemicals, it may have travelled several days to arrive to your location and thus also lacking in vital nutrients.
Although the warm summer-like weather donned upon us this year with as much surprise as our back-to-back blizzards, take this opportunity to explore new grounds in your fertility journey and tune into your inner locavore and enjoy the one predictable mainstay this spring: the flood of fertility-friendly, nutrient-rich produce into our fresh markets.
Check out http://www.rawdc.org/dc/fruitDC.html, an excellent online resource with more details and links to local farmers' markets, CSAs, and organic retailers scattered across Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland. For nationwide information, check out http://www.localharvest.org/.
Click here to schedule a fertility nutrition consultation with Kimberly Wong at Pulling Down the Moon in Rockville. For more information about nutrition counseling visit our website at www.pullingdownthemoon.com.