Summer Produce to Help Maximize Your Fertility

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

Now that late summer is here, the local produce is abundant. Visit your local farmer’s market for the best tomatoes of the year, and stock up on some raspberries and zucchini. These summer fruits and vegetables can help support your overall health and fertility. Check out some specific items to emphasize below:

Summer Fruit: Berries pack a strong antioxidant punch and tend to be high on the priority list of farmer’s market shoppers. Watermelon, cherries, and peaches also grow here in the Midwest, and the juicy summer sweetness makes for great desserts without the added sugar.

Broccoli and Kale: These cruciferous vegetables may help balance estrogen levels and contain important nutrients like calcium, folate, and vitamin C.

Zucchini: Zucchini tends to be abundant and cheap at the farmer’s market. Use a spiralizer to make zoodles (zucchini “noodles”) and top with chicken or white beans, pesto, fresh tomatoes, and sautéed kale for a nutrient-rich summer meal.

Herbs: Don’t forget the herbs like chives, cilantro, oregano, basil, and dill. Herbs are antioxidant-rich and thus may help to prevent free radical damage to eggs and sperm. Add any of these herbs to salads, salad dressings, or eggs for extra flavor. Use basil to make pesto or in Thai dishes with cilantro. Use cilantro in tacos or other Mexican dishes.

Eggs: You can get some of the best eggs at the farmer’s market – the kind of eggs that come from chickens that have been running around eating bugs and vegetable scraps. These eggs have a deep orange yolk, due to higher levels of beta-carotene. Eggs are a healthy and nutrient-rich protein source and are great way to ensure you get enough protein at breakfast.

Learn more about healthy exercise and nutrition while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and beyond at the Two Week Walk with co-founder, Beth Heller!  Reserve your spot here.

Keeping Your Fertility Friendly Eating Going During the Summer Months

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

It’s both easier and harder to eat healthy during the summer. Local fruits and vegetables are abundant, especially leafy and greens and berries, which are nutritional powerhouses. On the other hand, there are also lots of opportunities for less healthy options due to eating more meals out on vacations and attending more parties and barbecues.

The key is not to take the enjoyment of these events, but to make choices that are consistent with your goals with the knowledge that there is no such thing as the perfect diet, and that it’s perfectly fine and normal to indulge sometimes. That being said, what’s the best way to handle events during the summer? Follow these tips, and see what you can apply to your life:

Have a plan in mind for events or meals out. Often when we’ve decided ahead of time what we plan to eat, it goes better than when we make decisions in the moment. When eating out at restaurant, check the menu online ahead of time. At  other events, try to load up your half your plate with vegetables.

Bring a healthy dish. Potlucks tend to be light on the veggies, so bring a veggie dish if you can. Alternatively, bring fruit or a healthy protein.

Manage your appetite. Make sure you don’t arrive to restaurants, parties, or events ravenously hungry. When we’re overly hungry, it’s SO much harder to make healthier food choices, and it’s much easier to overeat.

When you’re on vacation, rent a place with a kitchen. That way, you can prepare some of your own meals. Seek out a local farmers market for fruits and vegetables, and pick up some local fresh fish if you’re somewhere on the water. Make a point of prepping 1-2 meals per day where you’re staying, so that you can have healthier options and feel your best.

On road trips, you use apps to find restaurants nearby. Using the signs on the freeway pretty much ensures you’ll be eating at fast food restaurants. Apps like Yelp will show you what restaurants are nearby, and you can even peruse menu from the car (not while you’re driving, of course) and get directions.

Remember to keep it all in perspective. What you eat most of the time is what matters the most to your health and fertility. Eating also shouldn’t be a source of stress in our already stressful lives, so do your best and let the rest go. It’s ok and totally normal to indulge and eat more meals at restaurants on vacation. Choose healthier options most of the time, indulge sometimes, and eat until your satisfied, but not overly full, and make peace with your decisions without guilt.

 

Looking for more ways to use your diet to positively impact your fertility or to fit healthy eating into your busy life, book a nutrition appointment today!

 

Fast Food, Fruit, and Your Fertility

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

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.

Fruit

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.

Fast food

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! 

 

Is it Hot in Here?!

By Dr Helena Para LAc, DACM, MSTOM

With the quickly approaching summer, and Chicago’s humid tendencies already underway, some people may be getting concerned about staying cool. One such population would be women with a tendency towards hot flashes. While we most often associate hot flashes with menopause and ladies over 45, there are other reasons for this bothersome temperature dysregulation. Pregnancy, menstruation, premature menopause and anxiety can all be causes of hot flashes, and some individuals are just heat intolerant overall. Interestingly, Traditional Chinese Medicine pays particular attention to your body’s internal and external temperature, and you may find that your acupuncturist often asks about temperature even when you don’t have any complaints associated with it.

The best way to balance temperature and clear heat is the integration of acupuncture into your health care routine. Your acupuncturist can determine the root cause of the fluctuations you are experiencing and bring your body back into balance. If you want to carry on the heat clearing outside of the treatment room- you can also eat foods that are “cooling” in nature.

Alfalfa sprouts Apple

Artichoke Apricot

Asparagus Avocado

Bamboo Shoots Banana

Beets Blueberry

Bok Choy Cantaloupe

Broccoli Cranberry

Cabbage Fig

Carrots Grapefruit

Cauliflower Lemon

Cilantro Lime

Collards Orange

Cucumber Peach

Daikon Pear

Dandelion Persimmon

Mushroom Strawberry

Potato Tomato

Seaweed Watermelon

Snow Pea Barley

Spinach Kamut

Squash Millet

Watercress Rice

Try a Nutrition Consultation in June AND a follow-up session for only $99!  It is great for general health, your fertility treatment plan, during pregnancy, and postpartum. Learn more here.

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Helena in Sept for our FREE Points to Ponder:  Acupuncture, Community, and Stress Reduction session in Chicago! Have more questions about how acupuncture can help you or want to schedule an initial consultation?  Call us today at: 312-321-0004.

Choosing the right kind of fats to support fertility

By Mia Zarlengo, MS RD

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!

Nutrients for Thyroid Support

Nutrients for Thyroid Support

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

Did you know there a number of nutrients required for your thyroid to function properly? At Pulling Down the Moon, we’re interested in helping you ensure your thyroid is functioning optimally, because thyroid health is integral to fertility. Here are some of the key nutrients to focus on to support thyroid health:

Iodine is an essential mineral for thyroid hormone production, and 30% of women of childbearing age are iodine deficient. A recent study also noted that women with sub-optimal iodine levels had reduced fertility. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women who are pregnant take a prenatal vitamin with 150 mcg iodine. To learn more about the impact of iodine on fertility, read this post . Food sources of iodine include seafood, seaweed, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, and iodized salt.

Selenium is another essential mineral required for the conversion of T4 to T3. T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone. In addition, a few studies have shown that supplementation with selenium reduced the levels of antibodies in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune cause of hypothyroidism. Food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, meat, and seafood.

Iron is also essential for thyroid hormone production. Iron requirements for women of childbearing age are quite high at 18 mg and even higher at 27 mg during pregnancy. Given iron needs are so high, it’s not that difficult for iron stores to become depleted, especially if you are a vegetarian or vegan, because iron isn’t as well-absorbed from plant sources as from animal sources. In addition, heavy periods can make it more likely that your iron stores become depleted. Food sources of iron include meat, poultry, fish, legumes, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

It can be difficult to make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients on a daily basis, thus it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin while trying to conceive and during pregnanct that covers your bases. The Pulling Down the Moon prenatal vitamins ( Supplement Pack while trying to conceive and the Prenatal Pack once pregnant) contain 175 mcg iodine, 200 mcg selenium, and 30 mg of iron to help support your thyroid along with a healthy diet.

Looking for more ways to support your thyroid with nutrition? Make a nutrition appointment today!

Does Iodine Deficiency Reduce Fertility?

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

A recent study, the first of its kind, investigated the impact of iodine deficiency on fertility. Iodine isn’t a nutrient that you hear very much about, but it’s essential for proper thyroid function. The thyroid is the master regulator in the body, governing metabolism in all the body’s cells. In addition, during pregnancy, adequate iodine is essential for baby’s brain development. About 30% of women of childbearing age (who aren’t pregnant) aren’t getting enough iodine. This study measured levels of iodine in the urine of more than 450 women as they were starting to try to conceive and looked at how long it took these women to conceive. (Iodine in the urine is considered to be reflective of the iodine status of the body.)

The results: A whopping 44% of women had iodine levels below sufficiency and 23% where moderately or severely iodine deficient. Women who were moderately or severely iodine deficient were 46% less likely to get pregnant per cycle than when with sufficient iodine levels. This is a striking result and definitely points to a need to ensure you’re getting enough iodine while trying to conceive. Iodine deficiency may cause your thyroid to not function optimally, which impairs fertility.

Iodine is in a variety of foods including seafood, seaweed, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, and iodized salt. Vegetarians and vegans are most at risk for iodine deficiency. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women who are pregnant and breastfeeding take a prenatal vitamin with 150 mcg iodine in order prevent iodine deficiency. Both Pulling Down the Moon prenatal vitamins contain 175 mcg of iodine, so either would be a great choice to ensure adequate iodine intake. It’s important to note that certain types of seaweed are very high in iodine, and people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis should avoid high iodine intake, as it may make Hashimoto’s worse.

Are you wondering if you’re getting enough iodine and other nutrients in your diet to support optimal fertility? Book an appointment today with one of our nutritionists.

Reference: Mills JL, et al. Delayed conception in women with low urinary iodine concentrations: a population-based prospective cohort study. Human Reproduction. 33(3): 426-433.

Focus on Nutrient Density to Optimize Your Fertility Diet

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

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 !

Reducing Endo Pain Naturally with Diet

by Mia Zarlengo, MS, RD

The pain and discomfort associated with endometriosis can at times be overwhelming and seem just unbearable. Fortunately, there are many areas we can address in our diet to help to relieve these symptoms naturally! With endometriosis being a state of inflammatory pain, an anti-inflammatory diet is our best approach to nutritional support. A few small, realistic shifts in our diet can make quite a large difference on our reproductive health!

When attempting to relieve the symptoms of endometriosis naturally, there are a few areas in our diet where we can address -especially in the Standard American Diet. The biggest culprits that promote inflammation include processed foods, refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine, and refined carbohydrates.

In addition to eliminating some unhealthy foods from our diet, we can support the healing of inflammation through the addition of some healthy foods. For example, increasing our omega-3’s from foods like fatty salmon or sardines is a simple way to help to reduce inflammation. Additionally, adding more vegetables to our diets help to increase fiber, which has also been shown to reduce markers of inflammation in the blood. The My Plate method recommends ¼ of your plate to be protein, another ¼ to be a whole grain or starchy vegetable, and the rest of our plate to be filled with a variety of vegetables. Aiming for half of our plate to be filled with veggies, and always including a high quality protein source is a simple way to visualize our plate and ensure we are filling up on the right foods!

Follow these few simple guidelines to help reduce any ongoing inflammation:

  1. Limit added sugars to less than 24g each day

  • Reading ingredient labels is key! Look for words like cane sugar, cane syrup, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, etc. in an ingredient list.

  • Added sugars can show up in mysterious places- don’t assume “health” foods are perfect- check the labels on things like protein bars, cereals, and oatmeal packets.

  • This does not include natural sugars occurring in fruit! Fruits like blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are packed with antioxidants and low in sugar- making them a great addition for an anti-inflammatory diet.

  • Eat an antioxidant-rich diet

    • The more color, the better! Fruits and vegetables with vibrant colors provide us with tons of inflammation fighting antioxidants!

    • “Eat the rainbow!” Eating a variety is so important. Every fruit and vegetable has a unique nutrient profile, providing us with their own unique benefits!

    • Antioxidants are powerful tools for reproductive health in general.

  • Increase fiber

    • The average woman gets around 10-13 g of fiber per day- when we should be aiming for around 30 g!

    • Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens and carrots are high in fiber and packed with beneficial nutrients for reproductive health and reducing inflammation.

  • Eat healthy fats every day!

    • Incorporate more healthy fats into your diet with foods like salmon, walnuts, olive oil, avocados, and chia seeds.

    • Change it up! It’s important to get variety in our diet, including the fat sources we take in!

    • Avoid pro-inflammatory fats like trans fats, corn fed beef, and highly processed vegetable oils.

    Learn more about Mia here . Book a nutrition consult to get started today!

    Healthy Valentine’s Dinner for Two

    by Mia Zarlengo, MS, RDN

    Course 1 (Appetizer):

    Green Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Pepitas

    Recipe courtesy of Cookie and Kate​

    Ingredients

    Green salad

    • 5 ounces (about 5 cups) spring greens salad blend
    • 1 large Granny Smith apple
    • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
    • ¼ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
    • 2 ounces chilled goat cheese, crumbled (or about ⅓ cup crumbled goat cheese)

    Apple cider vinaigrette

    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • 1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • 1 ½ teaspoons honey
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    Directions

    1. Toast the pepitas: In a medium-sized skillet, toast the pepitas over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are turning golden on the edges and making little popping noises. Transfer the pepitas to a small bowl to cool.

    2. Make the dressing: In a cup or jar, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey and mustard until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

    3. Just before serving, chop the apple into thin, bite-sized pieces. Place your greens in a large serving bowl. Top with sliced apple, dried cranberries and toasted pepitas. Use a fork to crumble the goat cheese over the salad. Drizzle the salad with just enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves once tossed (you probably won’t need all of it). Gently toss to mix all of the ingredients and serve!

    Course 2 (Main Course):

    Sautéed Samon with Citrus Salsa

    Ingredients

    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    • 2 (6-oz.) salmon fillets, skinned
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup grapefruit sections
    • 1/2 cup orange sections
    • 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

    Directions

    Step 1

    Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle fillets evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add fillets to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

    Step 2

    Combine remaining 2 teaspoons oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, grapefruit sections, and remaining ingredients in a bowl; toss. Spoon grapefruit mixture evenly over fillets.

    Course 3 (Dessert):

    Sesame Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

    Ingredients

    • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
    • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
    • 2 tbsp. buckwheat honey
    • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
    • 4 oz. of dark, high quality chocolate
    • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

    Directions
    Mix all ingredients together until you have soft dough that you shape into a ball and flatten. Roll out on a floured surface and cut into shapes. Bake in a 350 oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on a rack. Once fully cooled, dip half of each cookie in the melted chocolate, sprinkle with sesame seeds and cool on a piece of parchment paper until the chocolate has hardened.

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