Summer Produce and Fertility
by Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
The farmer’s markets are starting to be full of fresh fruits and vegetables. We all know that this produce is good for our overall health, but certain fruits and vegetables may also have specific fertility benefits. One of our central guiding principles at Pulling Down the Moon when it comes to nutrition for fertility is to promote a nutrient dense diet, in other words a diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Supplements can help fill in gaps our diet, but they are not a substitute for a nutrient dense diet. As we are starting to learn, certain beneficial compounds in foods work synergistically.
For example, local kale is now available. Kale has been a nutritional powerhouse long before it became so trendy. Kale and other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and collard greens, contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol that may help reduce oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and balance estrogen levels. Balancing estrogen levels is especially important in conditions associated with estrogen dominance or estrogen excess such as endometriosis, PCOS, and fibroids. Leafy greens such as these are also rich in folate, potassium, and vitamin C.
Berries are also starting to appear at the markets. Berries tend to be rich in antioxidants and nutrients while being lower in sugar than other fruits. Raspberries and blackberries are especially high in fiber. The extra fiber helps the body eliminate compounds like excess estrogen through the stool. The high antioxidant value may help neutralize free radicals.
Zucchini will be more widely available soon, and can be cooked on its own as a side dish, or use zucchini “noodles” instead of regular pasta. These “zoodles” help increase daily vegetable intake and can help you reduce regular pasta, which tends to lack nutrients and be high in refined carbs, depending on the type. Even gluten free pastas, such as those made from rice tend to not be very nutrient-dense.
Don’t forget the fresh herbs, like cilantro, parsley, basil, and mint just to name a few. These herbs not only add flavor, but also add extra antioxidants.
When choosing your fruits and vegetable, it’s preferable to choose organic when possible. When making your decisions about where to spend the extra money on organic produce, it helps to consult the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list . Fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list are best to buy organic, since they have higher pesticide residues. Examples include strawberries, spinach, apples, and peaches. Produce on the Clean 15 list tends to be lower in pesticides residues. Examples include onions, avocado, and pineapple.