Fat: Fertility Friend or Foe?

Margaret Wertheim M.S., R.D., L.D.N.

by Margaret Wertheim, MS, RD, LDN

There has been much debate about what the ideal diet is for weight loss, optimum health and of course, fertility. After listening to many qualified speakers at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Orlando last week, I realized that there are quite a few uncertainties. However, there are some things that we know for sure. As humans we are very adaptable and can survive eating just about anything, but that does not mean we are thriving. When you're trying to conceive, it's essential that the body's most basic needs are being met. In other words, adequately nourishing your body and meeting your vitamin and mineral requirements is a must.

Throughout the 1980s, it was drilled into our heads that we should follow a very low-fat and high carb diet, based on the somewhat misguided notion that eating fat makes you fat. This type of diet has fallen out of favor for the most part. The pendulum swung back the other way to the Atkins diet, full of protein and fat with minimal carbs. I think there is a balance to strike somewhere in between.

In my experience, women tend to follow low-fat diets and eat reduced-calorie foods in order to lose weight or maintain their weight. It's unfortunate that low-fat and reduced-calorie foods, such as artificially-sweetened non-fat yogurt and diet coke have become almost synonymous with "healthy" in certain circles. While we can survive on these types of foods, we don't thrive. There are 4 fat-soluble vitamins - vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins are only found in foods that contain fat. Eat a very low-fat diet, and you won't get enough of these vitamins that are crucial to your overall health and can play a role in fertility as well. Vitamin A is essential for embryonic development, and in one study of women going through IVF, the group of women with higher vitamin D levels in their blood had higher pregnancy rates. Furthermore, vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and may have a beneficial effect on sperm quality. (That's right guys, this is for you too!)

When you eat a very low-fat diet, it's all but impossible to meet your daily requirements for these important fat-soluble vitamins. Remember that when incorporating more fat into your diet, it's essential to focus on quality fats and steer clear of unhealthy fats like hydrogenated oils. Eating more healthy fat doesn't have to mean you eat more calories or gain weight. You're likely to feel more satisfied after eating, which means you're less likely to be grabbing for unhealthy snacks later on. Also, when you provide your body with the nutrients it needs to be healthy, often cravings fall away and you feel healthier and more vibrant and energetic.

To learn more about the role of healthy fats in your diet and which fats to stay away from, call 312-321-0004 to schedule an appointment with a Pulling Down the Moon nutritionist.

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