When you’re working on making changes to your eating habits to support fertility, it’s important to set yourself up for success by making sure you’ve got healthy foods on hand. Often the best of intentions can awry, because we’re short on time or mental space or energy for planning. Stocking your kitchen with healthy nutrient dense foods helps ensure you have healthy options on hand. No need to overhaul everything at once, but pick your step to take to help you move forward. Here are some tips for getting started:
Keep only fruits and vegetables out on the counter. Everything else should be put in the fridge, freezer, or cupboards. We tend to reach for what we see. Have you ever walked past a cookie sitting out and been tempted to eat it? Of course! We all have. Out of sight, at least helps to keep it out of mind. Conversely, when you see fruit and veggies out, you’re more likely to reach for them for snacks or when planning a meal.
Buy versatile vegetables. If you have trouble with vegetables rotting in your fridge, you’re not alone. To combat this, focus on vegetables that you can use for a variety of recipes. For example, organic power greens are a combo of baby kale, chard, and spinach. These greens work for salads, adding to smoothies, and for cooking. For cooking, add to a veggie egg scramble, stirfry, chili, or sauté with mushrooms.
Stock your freezer with organic frozen fruits and vegetables. Of course, fresh fruits and vegetables are great, but we all get busy and frozen are super convenient and nutritious. Pick your favorite vegetable blends. Alternatively, broccoli and cauliflower rice are always good options when you need to add a quick veggie to a meal. Thaw out frozen fruit, and add to plain yogurt or to a smoothie for breakfast or a snack.
Stock your freezer with high quality meats and fish, like wild salmon, grassfed beef, and organic chicken. A common barrier to preparing dinner is not having a protein source on hand. It’s so helpful to just be able to open the freezer and have something to cook.
Keep nuts and seeds on hand for snack, smoothies, and salads. Choose raw or dry roasted nuts and seeds, but skip those roasted in oil. Great choices include walnuts, almonds, hemp hearts, and pumpkin seeds, but most nuts/seeds are nutrient dense and contain healthy fats, so you can’t go wrong.
Keep eggs on hand. A veggie omelet/scramble works great for breakfast or for dinner on a busy night. Boil some eggs on the weekends that you can grab for snacks or breakfast during the week.
Keep beans on hand for a nutrient dense protein source. Beans are packed with fiber, iron, and folate. In order to avoid BPA in canned beans, either buy beans in BPA free cans, glass jars, or cartons, or make your own from dried. You can freeze portions of cooked beans, so that you have them on hand when you need them.
Now that you have gotten started, schedule a nutrition consult for the next steps! Schedule in October and save with an Initial Nutrition Consult for only $49! Use promo code PCOS49 and book today!
Have your vitamin D tested. Women with PCOS are often vitamin D deficient, and correcting the deficiency may help restore more frequent menstrual cycles and promote improved blood sugar regulation.
Eat low mercury fish like wild salmon, tilapia, and sardines. These fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that may help reduce the inflammation associated with PCOS.
Cut out all sugar-sweetened drinks like soda, sweetened teas, and sports drinks. These beverages can lead to insulin resistance, which only exacerbates the symptoms of PCOS. Instead, drink water with lemon or cucumber slices, or sparkling water with a splash of 100% fruit juice
Avoid artificial sweeteners. They usually serve only to exacerbate sugar cravings and may contribute to issues with blood sugar regulation
Make sure to eat a protein source at all your meals and snacks to help keep you full and satisfied and promote good blood sugar regulation. Moderate protein diets have been associated with better IVF success rates too! Protein sources include meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds, or (limited) dairy.
Eat only full-fat dairy instead of low-fat or non-fat. In the Nurse’s Health Study, intake of full-fat dairy, as opposed to reduced or non-fat dairy, was associated with lower risk of ovulatory infertility.
Eat cruciferous vegetables daily, as they are great for estrogen-dominant conditions like PCOS. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, kale, collard greens, and arugula.
Avoid refined grains like white breads, pasta, cookies, cereals and crackers. They have no nutritional value. Instead eat whole grains like Ezekiel bread, brown or wild rice, quinoa, and millet.
Take a fish oil supplement. Since it’s important to limit fish due to its mercury content, taking a fish oil supplement that has been purified to remove mercury is a great way to make sure you’re getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce the inflammation associated with PCOS.
Lose the sugar! High blood sugar may be damaging to egg quality and promote inflammation in the body, besides the fact that it’s empty calories. Cutting back on the sugar is also an essential strategy if you’re trying to lose weight.
Avoid corn, soybean, and cottonseed oils that are rich in inflammatory omega-6 rich fatty acids. These oils are often found in crackers, cookies, salad dressings, and pasta sauces.
Eat vitamin D-rich foods like low mercury fish (salmon, tilapia, haddock, sardines) and egg yolks and get some sunshine.
Eat fermented foods, which can help promote healthy digestion and balanced gut bacteria.
Avoid foods with “soy protein isolate” and “texturized vegetable protein,” as they contain high levels of phytoestrogens that may be detrimental to fertility. You find these in meat replacement products, many protein bars, and in high protein cold cereals.
Eat organic whenever possible, especially meat and dairy.
Work towards a healthy weight. Whether you are overweight or underweight, a healthy weight is an important way to help improve your chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy.
Eat berries. Berries are rich in antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation and prevent free radical damage to eggs.
Eat healthy fats – dry roasted or raw nuts and seeds, avocados, low mercury fish, and olive oil.
Learn the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s website to learn more. The Dirty Dozen are the top 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues. These are the items to buy organic. The Clean 15 have the lowest pesticide residues so buying conventional versions is a good money-saving option.
Avoid Bisphenol A (BPA) by using a BPA-free water bottle and limiting your intake of canned foods. Higher BPA levels in the body have been linked to PCOS.
Try myo-inositol. This vitamin-like supplement may reduce insulin and testosterone levels and may promote ovulation in women with PCOS!
Try cutting out gluten, especially if you have any digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, or frequent bloating. If you have poor digestion, you likely are not absorbing nutrients from your food well.
Support good digestion with probiotics, fiber from fruits and vegetables, and plenty of fluids. Limit refined grains and sugars.
Eat beans and lentils. These nutritional powerhouses are great for PCOS as they are loaded with protein, fiber, iron, folate, and calcium – all very beneficial nutrients when trying to conceive.
Avoid trans fats, which are a component of hydrogenated oils. Don’t buy any foods with “hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list as these unhealthy fats may increase inflammation and are linked to decreased fertility.
Take a prenatal vitamin that contains all of your B-vitamins. B-vitamins are vital to the ovulation process and especially important for women with PCOS. If you aren’t eating a balanced diet, you may not be getting enough of these important vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, B6 and B12 among others.
Eat low glycemic carbohydrates. Low glycemic carbs keep your blood sugar steadier and provide more sustained energy throughout the day. Blood sugar balance can help keep insulin levels lower, which is important because higher insulin levels seem to be a driving force in PCOS.
Eat foods with folate. You should definitely be taking a folic acid supplement while trying to conceive, but eating foods with folate is also beneficial. Include leafy green vegetables, beans, lentils, green peas, strawberries, and avocados.
Eat slowly and mindfully. These practices can enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients and satisfaction with eating and prevent overeating and digestive issues like gas and bloating.
Get plenty of antioxidants in your diet, especially if you’re doing ART. One study suggests that IVF increases free radicals, but increasing your intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals was able to neutralize the free radicals. Think lots of different colored fruits and vegetables!
So many of us struggle with having a “sweet tooth,” reaching for sweets automatically after meals or struggling to say no to any sweets that happen to be in the break room at work or at events. When we rely on willpower in these situations, it’s very difficult to be successful. Instead, set yourself up for success by making sure to have healthy snacks on hand and managing your appetite. Anytime we become overly hungry, we’re much more likely to overeat, and it’s more difficult to make healthy food choices.
It’s helpful to first determine the time of day that you’re working on cutting back on sweets. If it’s after dinner, get in the habit of having fruit for dessert after dinner. Don’t make having a real dessert off limits, since that sometimes makes us obsess about it more. Just add the fruit or a fruit smoothie as an experiment and see what happens. Sometimes you just might find that it’s enough, and you don’t need a “real” dessert afterward. The key is to pick fruits that you really enjoy and feel like a treat to you. Here’s a delicious and nutrient-rich smoothie to try, especially right now when peaches and blueberries are in season.
Peach Blueberry Smoothie
1 peach, peeled and pitted
1 cup blueberries
½ cup water or amount to achieve desired consistency.
Add all ingredients to blender or food processor.
Blend until smooth.
Want to learn more? Call us for a Nutrition Consult for fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, as well as, health/wellness support at: 312-321-0004.
A recent study looked at women’s diets while they were trying to conceive and found that certain aspects of their diet impacted their fertility. 5628 women with no previous pregnancies recalled their intake of certain foods leading up to conception when they were 14-16 weeks pregnant. The two factors that were found to impact time to pregnancy (how long it took to get pregnant) were fast food intake and fruit intake.
Eating fruit 1-3 times per month as compared to 1-6 times per week was associated with an 11% increase in time to pregnancy. Eating fruit 1-3 times per month compared to 3 times daily was associated with 19% longer time to pregnancy.
Eating fast food at least 4 times per week was associated with a 24% increase in time to pregnancy as compared to women who eat no fast food. Risk of infertility was 41% higher in the group of women who ate fast food at least 4 times per week compared to those who ate no fast food.
It’s important to keep these results in perspective, as the time to pregnancy increase with high fast food intake or low fruit consumption was only about 0.6-0.9 months, which isn’t a huge difference. The increase in risk of infertility is definitely concerning. The bottom line is that we already know that fast food is harmful to our overall health, but it is also seems to impact fertility, which could be through the intake of unhealthy fats in fried foods and just a generally nutrient poor diet high in refined carbs and added sugars.
It’s important not to stress when you read these studies! Fertility is affected by many factors, so worrying about your fast food intake or lack of fruit intake is definitely counterproductive. Instead look forward and work on small changes that that will improve your overall health and potentially your fertility moving forward.
If you are eating fast food regularly, focus on one step you could make towards healthier eating. It could be cooking up 1 one-pot meal with leftovers per week, such as soup or chili that you could eat for multiple meals during the week. Alternatively, it could be choosing healthier fast food options with more whole foods such as tacos, a salad with protein, or a burrito bowls that include vegetables and omits fried foods. Adding some fruit can be as simple as taking the step of bringing an easy fruit with you to work or adding a fruit after dinner in the evening. Clementines, bananas, and apples are all pretty easy and portable. Berries pack a good antioxidant punch and would also make a great addition.
Need help making changes to your diet to maximize your fertility? Schedule a nutrition appointment today! Get outside this summer with others TTC and learn more about nutrition for fertility with Mia Zarlengo at the FREE Two Week Walk event in Chicago on July 21st!
Do you know the different types of healthy fats that support a diet that fights off inflammation in the body ? Since science has begun to debunk the myth that a “low-fat diet” is the healthiest diet, we can look to focus more on which fats are actually healthy that we should include in our daily intake.
One of the key components of a diet that supports reproductive health is being anti-inflammatory. Many sources of fats can support fighting inflammation, while some are actually pro-inflammatory. Navigating these different choices is a great first step in adopting a more anti-inflammatory, fertility friendly diet.
Fats to avoid that can cause inflammation:
Trans-fats: Luckily, trans-fats for the most part have been taken out of our food system in America. However, it’s still important to always check your food labels and be sure there are 0 grams of trans fats!
Corn and Soybean oil: These oils are often used as cheap fillers in processed foods. However, these processed vegetables oils are heavy in omega-6 fatty acids; when our omega-6 levels exceed omega-3’s, the result is an increase in inflammation. Swap out processed vegetable oils with some of the healthy options below!
Healthy fats that support an anti-inflammatory diet:
Avocados: One of the easiest anti-inflammatory foods I tell patients to add to their plate are avocados! They are easy to pack on the go, go well with all sorts of meals, and are a nutrient-dense source of healthy fats to help fight off inflammation! They also provide fiber, potassium, and many other micronutrients essential for health.
Olive oil: Olive oil, especially in its raw state, is a great source of healthy fats. I suggest using this as a salad dressing or a finishing sauce, to avoid burning off the healthy properties of the oil that can happen at high temperatures.
Salmon: This fish is packed with omega-3’s, great for fighting off inflammation in the body. This is a great source of protein that will also add a healthy dose of good fats to your plate!
Walnuts: Walnuts are especially high in omega-3’s for a nut, and a great addition to salads, snacks, and smoothies! They also provide fiber, another essential nutrient for a fertility-friendly diet.
Chia Seeds: These tiny little seeds pack a mean punch of nutrients! They are high in healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Try adding these to your smoothie, oatmeal, or yogurt to create a more nutrient-dense meal!
In addition to a diet filled with antioxidants from vibrant, colorful vegetables and fruits, fiber from vegetables and whole grains, and foods low in added sugars, healthy fats are a great addition to your diet to help support reproductive health and fight off any internal inflammation. Trying adding a healthy fat source to all of your meals today and notice how you feel!
Book a nutrition appointment today to learn more ways to adopt an anti-inflammatory lifestyle through diet and supplementation to support hormonal health! Don’t miss your chance to meet Mia in-person at our Chicago office for the FREE Two Week Walk event July 21st!
An exciting new study shows promising results for CoQ10 supplementation in women with poor ovarian reserve doing IVF. In the study, 186 women under age 35 with poor ovarian reserve, defined as Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) < 1.2 ng/mL, and antral follicle count (AFC) < 5, were randomized to receive either treatment with 600 mg CoQ10 (200 mg 3 times per day) or control (no treatment) for 60 days leading up to their IVF cycle.
The results were pretty striking. The CoQ10 group had significantly more high quality day 3 embryos (1 vs. 0 in the control group), significantly less gonadotropins needed for stimulation, significantly more eggs retrieved (4 vs. 2 in the control group), and significantly higher fertilization rate (67% vs. 45% in the control group). In addition, significantly more patients who took CoQ10 had embryos to freeze (18.4% vs. 4.3% in the control group). The CoQ10 group also had higher pregnancy rates (32% vs. 17% in the control group) and higher live birth rates (29% vs. 16% in the control group), but these results were not statistically significant.
CoQ10 is an antioxidant and plays an essential in energy production in our body cells, including maturing eggs. CoQ10 is thought to exert its beneficial effects by neutralizing free radicals that could damage the DNA or other structures within the egg. Damage to DNA can prevent fertilization or result in a nonviable embryo. In addition, because of CoQ10’s role in energy production, CoQ10 likely also supports the energy needs of maturing eggs, thus leading to better quality eggs and embryos. CoQ10 tends to be a safe and well-tolerated supplement, and in this study, there were no adverse effects reports from supplementing with CoQ10.
Absorption of CoQ10 is best when the dose is divided into 3 doses with meals during the day. Because CoQ10 is fat-soluble, having fat with CoQ10 increases the absorption. Learn more about our CoQ10 supplement here.
Reference: Xu Y, Nisenblat V, Cuiling L, et al. Pretreatment with coenzyme Q10 improves ovarian response and embryo quality in low-prognosis young women with decreased ovarian reserve: a randomized controlled trial. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. 2018;16:29.
**Save 25% off CoQ10 in June with the promo code EGG25! Available in-center and online while supplies last.
Imagine this scene. You worked late to finish a project at work. You ordered in some takeout while you were working, and now it’s finally time to go home. You’re exhausted and stressed. When you get home, you start raiding the fridge and cabinets for things to eat. You really aren’t hungry at all since you ate dinner at work, but you’re looking for comfort in the cupboards.
I think most people can relate to this, and I would venture to guess that most of us have been in this or a similar situation before. In times of stress, we tend to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Food is readily available and processed high sugar, high fat foods tend to give us a quick, but very short-lived, boost that often leaves us feeling worse or just simply that we haven’t acted in a way that is consistent with our long-term goals. No matter how good our intentions are, stress from a variety of sources can tend to deplete our resolve and decision-making capability. In addition to the daily stresses of work, family, and finances, struggling to conceive adds significant stress. People have varying degrees of stress or emotional eating, and these habits can take significant effort and time to change. Here are some tips to help get you started:
1) Check-in with yourself to determine whether you’re feeling physical “stomach” hunger or “head” hunger. Sometimes our head is telling us to eat even though our stomach isn’t hungry. Physical hunger comes on gradually and is felt in the stomach, and can be satisfied by most foods. In contrast “head hunger,” tends to come on quickly with very specific cravings. In addition with “head hunger,” it may not be very long since you last ate, and your stomach isn’t giving you any hunger cues.
2) Find alternative coping mechanisms to manage stress and find comfort other than eating. It’s helpful to make a list of things you can do when you want to eat when you’re stressed, but not actually hungry. There are a wide variety of options including ways to simply distract yourself or ways to actually help you unwind and manage your stress. Examples include: go for a walk, take deep breaths, meditate, do a few yoga poses, take a bath, call a friend, read a book or magazine, go outside and get some fresh air, etc. It’s helpful to make your own list of 5 things that you can do when you find yourself turning to food for comfort.
3) Be kind to yourself. In those moments when you eat something that you wish you hadn’t or feel uncomfortable because you ate too much, practice being kind to yourself instead of berating or beating yourself up or feeling guilty. As much as we think our guilt about our eating habits helps us do better next time, it actually holds us back and keeps up trapped in the cycle of stress eating. Instead, practice being kind to yourself as you would to a dear friend or family member. Then move on, and return to your healthy eating instead of letting it spiral out of control or deciding to restrict at the next meal. Restricting at the next meal only causes the cycle to repeat, as becoming overly hungry combined with stress makes it much more likely that we have a harder time making healthy choices moving forward.
Reducing stress and emotional eating takes time, so be patient with yourself. Know that progress often comes in fits and starts, and we often take 2 steps forward and 1 step back along the way.
Need to take a break? Try a four week nutrition, yoga, and coaching dextox program! Learn more about “Spring Cleaning: Using Nutrition and Yoga to Cleanse” and all our community events here .
Did you know that there are a variety of vitamin and minerals that may impact your fertility? Our bodies require 27 vitamins and minerals to function properly. These vitamins and minerals are involved in a wide variety of processes in our bodies including breaking down our food for energy, allowing cells to communicate with each other, contracting our muscles, as well as bone and skin health. Specific nutrients may also impact fertility and pregnancy, including folate (important for DNA integrity), iodine (essential for thyroid hormone production), and vitamin D (thought to be involved in embryo implantation), just to name a few!
It can feel overwhelming to make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients on a daily basis. Instead of trying to track how much you’re getting of each nutrient, it’s helpful to focus on eating a nutrient dense diet. Nutrient density refers to the concentration of vitamins and minerals per calorie of food. In order to maximize the nutrient density of your diet, start by focusing on these tips:
Eat whole, real, and minimally processed foods.
Limit refined grains and added sugars.
Maximize your vegetable intake by including at least 5 servings of vegetables per day. Work on including a variety of different vegetables. Does 5 servings per day seem too daunting? Start where you are, and set a goal of increasing your vegetable intake by 1 serving per day.
Include especially nutrient dense foods like leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, berries, and nuts and seeds.
Would you like to dig deeper and make sure you’re meeting your daily nutrient needs? Are you a vegetarian or vegan, or do you have other food intolerances or allergies that mean you’ve had to eliminate foods or food groups? Schedule a nutrition appointment today to ensure that you’re meeting your daily vitamin and mineral needs to maximize your fertility. Try our FREE special event for National Infertility Awareness Spring Cleaning: Using Yoga and Nutrition to Cleanse !
The infertility journey can strain even the healthiest of relationships, which is why it’s important to protect your partnership while navigating this process. The end goal of any fertility treatment is a baby, but if you’re going through it with a partner it is essential to prioritize connection and communication. This process can be grueling at times – medications, injections, sperm samples, genetic testing – but maintaining a team approach will help your relationship thrive during (and far beyond!) this process.
Avoid the blame game – PCOS, low sperm count, unexplained infertility – these terms may tempt you to assign blame to your partner. Signing up for partnership means erasing the blame and taking a team approach to whatever comes your way. Make a commitment from day one to resist the urge to place blame.
Seek out fun and connection – Spend a night away, plan a date – connect! Lately I’ve been loving the app “Gottman Card Decks”. It offers helpful questions and conversation starters to deepen intimacy and connection. Regardless of what you do, spend an hour or so intentionally connecting and try not to forget the reasons you chose this person to do life with.
Understand and validate your partner’s perspective – Infertility can bring up feelings of shame, guilt, and loss and it’s important to remember that you might have a different range of emotions from that of your partner. These feelings may be deeply rooted in our hopes and expectations of parenthood. Connect to your partner through this shared experience and encourage him or her whenever you can. If your partner is having an especially difficult day, offer your time and listening ear for support.
Find support – We all have different needs. Perhaps an online community would feel safest for you. Maybe an in-person support group or individual therapy would help your partner process this experience. For some, coffee with a friend who “gets it” meets this need. Even within the infertility world, situations and experiences can vary from person to person. Make sure that both you and your partner are surrounded by a supportive community of people who can hear and empathize with what you’re going through. Infertility is a unique journey that stirs up lots of emotions, don’t go at it alone!
Maintain hope – There’s no doubt that this process can be difficult and at times even discouraging. Try to hold onto hope, knowing that you’re doing everything you can. You may have to put some things on hold while going through the infertility process, but move forward where you can. You’re not alone and there are many people out there who have walked this path before. At the end of the day, remember there is a lot to be hopeful for.
As we transition into 2018, it’s so tempting to make New Year’s resolutions that are sweeping and very non-specific, such as “I’m going to eat healthier” or “lose weight” or “be more organized.” Ultimately, these resolutions are well intentioned, but often we focus on overly lofty goals that are difficult to continue beyond a few months, and we are left feeling demoralized and disappointed that we weren’t able to stick to our resolution.
One way to get around this, in my opinion, is to think about our intentions for the New Year and then get really specific about the behaviors we need to implement to get there. For example, if your intention is to improve your diet to maximize fertility, then it’s important to look at your diet and decide what areas need improvement. Do I need to reduce my sugar intake? Increase my intake of vegetables in order to increase my nutrient/fiber/antioxidant intake? Eat more home cooked meals instead of eating out so frequently? Once you’ve decided the habits that need improvement, then it’s important to choose small, specific, and very doable changes that you feel you can make for the long-term. For example, if you decide to focus on increasing your vegetable intake, first assess your current vegetable intake. If you do that and find you’re eating about 1-2 servings of vegetables per day, the next logical step may be to set a goal of eating at least 3 servings of vegetables per day (1 serving = 1/2 cup) instead of jumping right to 5 servings per day, which may prove to be quite challenging. Then decide how you’re going to achieve that. Strategies you might find helpful include adding vegetables to smoothies, eggs, soups, and chili. Roast a large batch of vegetables every Sunday to eat for the first part of the week. Check out this previous blog post about ways to eat more greens. Once eating 3 servings per day becomes a habit, you can always increase to 4-5 servings per day.
The most important thing for your goal setting to help propel you forward and build your confidence instead of get discouraged, which is what can happen when we overcommit ourselves to too many goals and goals that are too difficult to fit into our already busy lives. Tiny Habits is a great a resource when you’re thinking about habit change for 2018 or anytime of the year.