By Diana Chavkin, MD –
Nutrition is the cornerstone of a healthy body and a healthy life. Stress is the wrecking ball that takes the whole building down.
Women who are interested in conceiving want to learn how to eat right and how to manage the stress that life throws at all of us, every day. If you are reading this you likely want to get pregnant and you are probably curious about the intersection between nutrition, stress, health and fertility.
Well, if you thought I had a kale salad recipe for you that would guarantee that you would get pregnant, I’m sorry to say that I don’t. What I do have is the awareness that when it comes to taking good care of yourself along your personal journey, it’s not about a recipe; it’s about giving yourself the best chance possible – finding the best doctor; looking for the best information; and making your physical body as healthy as you possibly can.
Think about it. The new person that you bring into the world is going to need care, nutrition and nurturing while they are a developing fetus, so they can be as strong as possible when they are a new being out in this world. You need to be as strong as possible, now and later. And that begins with your nutrition.
There is a lot of research that ties nutrition and stress to cellular health, which is tied to aging and reproductive health. So I’d like to outline some nutrition guidelines for women who would like to conceive, especially those with polycystic ovary syndrome, adapted from The Dietician’s Guide to PCOS, Angela Grassi, MS, RD, 2007:
- Choose a variety of fresh and minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and lean protein foods.
- Almost all grain choices should be whole grains, such as 100% whole wheat products, cracked wheat, barley, oatmeal, brown rice, low fat popcorn or whole grain corn. Less familiar whole grains include amaranth, buckwheat, kamut, millet, quinoa, spelt, teff, and triticale.
- Avoid juices, sugared soda, and other sweetened beverages.
- Have a small meal or snack every three to five hours and include a small amount of lean protein with each; such as one ounce low fat cheese or skinless chicken, ¼ cup cottage cheese, a container of light yogurt, one cup soymilk, or one tablespoon nuts.
- Avoid hydrogenated/trans fats; these raise cholesterol. Look for them in the ingredients list on food packages.
- For the benefits of omega-3 fats, choose fatty fish twice weekly, for a total of eight to twelve ounces. These include salmon, sardines, herring, etc. A tablespoon of ground flaxseed daily provides a plant source of omega-3s.
- Consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Follow the Food Pyramid: 6-10 one ounce servings of grains, 2-4 fruits, 3-5 half-cup vegetable servings daily.
- Limit sodium to 2300 milligrams daily. Use no-added-salt, reduced sodium, or unsalted products. Limit restaurant meals, as well as processed foods in cans and boxes. Season food with lemon, garlic, onion, flavored vinegars, herbs, spices, and other unsalted seasonings.
- Consume protein regularly, ideally 25 grams daily. Some healthy sources of proteins come from soy products such as tofu, tempeh, edamame and soy milk.
- Exercise every day.