A balanced paleo diet has recently shown positive indicators when helping women increase their chances of fertility and pregnancy, it’s no wonder that many are now referring to paleo as one of the best diet plans available to help women get in tip-top condition with no side effects. The paleo diet is the perfect foundation for a healthy eating strategy when trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and well into motherhood and beyond.
Let’s take a look at what you should and shouldn’t be eating. Paleo means, “to eat man food.” food that our ancestors ate, all natural foods. Basically, you will want to eat what is considered “paleo”, which means lots of plants, ( for good iron content) such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, legumes, and fish and limit your meat intake as much as possible perhaps to 2 or 3 times a week. If you love a nice juicy steak go for a fillet rather than ribeye as this will be a much leaner cut and it will greatly reduce the amount of saturated fat intake. Just remember to make the portion small, as a guideline something that fits in the palm of your hand is sufficient.
Forget the old wife’s tail “oysters and champagne will make you fertile”, yes they are supposedly an aphrodisiac, but perhaps getting in the mood for a “roll in the hay” may not be the problem, you just want to conceive like nature intended in the good old fashioned way. Life can be a bit unfair, why is it that some women are more fertile than others? According to the professionals a regular ovulation cycle, a healthy diet, a fit body, and a relaxed state of mind are all factors that can help women conceive more easily.
So if you are overweight, addicted to junk food and have never cooked a meal from scratch then you are going to have to make some radical changes if you want to optimize your chances of conception. Obviously, there are other reasons why women can’t conceive like a blocked a fallopian tube or a partner with a low sperm count but for now, we are only going to talk about diet and exercise which counts for why almost a quarter of couples have infertility issues.
It’s a bit more work having to keep up with a paleo diet, it’s so easy to order a “take away”, grab the easiest and handiest ready meal from the supermarket shelf or delve into your tastiest packet of biscuits. But, with practice and a bit of self discipline, you will eventually look at food in a different light and wonder why you ever craved junk food in the first place. The most important thing to remember is that it is not just about your diet, but it is about your general health and well-being. Exercise, meditation, and a positive attitude are all other factors that play an important role in getting the body ready to conceive along with a healthy pregnancy.
Which foods should you eat in abundance?
An assortment of foods is recommended with the more color on your plate the better. Yes, you have guessed it vegetables, red, green, and yellow peppers, dark red beets, greens namely sprouts, broccoli, peas, kale, spinach, lettuce, and cucumbers, go for tomatoes pumpkin, and squash. Making a stir fry is a great way to get a variety of vitamins and nutrients, cook in olive oil and think about adding some walnuts or cashews nuts instead of meat or poultry for the extra source of protein and fat. For added flavor add garlic and spices, make a big batch that will do you a couple of days. Another way to get a variety of vegetables in your diet is soup, pea and mint, carrot and coriander, tomato and basil, and don’t be afraid to experiment, you never know you could come up with an award winning recipe.
Now let’s talk about salads, I’m not talking about a couple of lettuce leaves with an overripe tomato and cucumber garnish. It never ceases to amaze me why some people turn their nose up when you mention the word salad, is it they lack imagination? The secret to a good salad is lots of variety, let’s start with the basics of any salad and that is lettuce. Luckily there is plenty to choose from, butterhead, cos, romaine, iceberg, little gem are just a few that come to mind. I tend to use a mix as the basis, then I add chives, cucumber, tomatoes, beetroot, carrot, apple, for extra crunch add celery and nuts if you want protein go for tuna or egg. For added flavor add some herbs like basil, parsley, or mint. I can honestly say my salads are truly delicious, particularly in the Summer months when most of the ingredients come from the garden. Fresh organic wins every time, strawberries often make it to the plate much to the delight of my children.
Whole milk should be replaced with skimmed, as skimmed milk appears to promote fertility and yes you can go for that ice cream on the odd occasion. Vanilla ice cream topped with strawberries or raspberries is a nice little treat now and again and will do you no harm at all. Think low carbs, not no carbs, a baked potato instead of mashed potato, apples, and pears in their natural form rather than juiced so you get the benefit of fiber/fibre in your diet too. Opting for foods with a lower GI can improve fertility by controlling blood sugar and insulin levels.
Eating a good selection of veggies and fruits daily will mean you won’t be tempted by foods with higher fat and refined sugar content, like cookies and other sweets. You should eat as many of the foods that are good for you if you want to get your body in the right state to conceive. Again, examples of foods that you should eat a lot of include raw nuts, fruits, whole grains, fish, and vegetables. Remember you are what you eat and a healthy diet will not only get your body in shape it will do wonders for your overall health and vitality.
What should I drink?
Roughly 60% of your body weight is composed of water, so to maintain that it’s recommended you drink around 2.5 litres a day if you’re woman and 3.5 litres a day if you’re a man. You need a constant supply of water to maintain healthy bodily function. Water helps flush toxins from your organs, carries nutrients to your cells, cushions your joints, and helps you digest the food you eat. Coffee and tea can be taken in moderation, but if you want a healthier drink go for green tea. The good news is that the compounds in green tea increase hormone levels that tell fat cells to break down fat, thus releasing fat into the bloodstream and makes it available as energy.
Should I take multi-vitamins?
If you follow the paleo diet then there is no need for any extra vitamins except folic acid (vitamin B9) as this should be taken before and during pregnancy, the recommended dosage being 0.4 milligrams daily. Studies show that mothers taking folic acid before conception and for a least 3 months support the baby’s spine and early brain development. Folic acid also helps prevent conditions known as neural tube defects (NTDs) reducing the risk of spina bifida for example. In addition, another supplement which is highly recommended during pregnancy is a pharmaceutical grade Omega-3 with a high DHA composition, many high level studies further suggest that supplementing with DHA during pregnancy significantly improves brain development in the foetus.
How much exercise should I take?
When you get used to eating healthier the first thing you will notice is that your energy level will increase. Remember how sluggish you felt after eating all that junk food, to increase your energy levels even more start with some simple exercises like walking. Just 10 minutes a day if you are a non-walker, and slowly increase the time up to an hour a day. Remember daily exercise will enhance your mood, increase your vitamin D levels and most importantly improve your chances of fertility.
As a mother of two, (one of each) having children is one of life’s greatest gifts and something you should never take for granted. If you can’t conceive easily, it can be very frustrating and sometimes feel very overwhelming. Overthinking and focussing purely on the perfect month to conceive or using ovulation apps to trigger the best time to copulate can for some be very exciting but highly stressful for others. My advice would be not to sweat the small stuff, stick to and enjoy your paleo diet, exercise regularly, meditate, think happy and positive thoughts, and this may just be the tonic you need to get pregnant.