Findings from the Nurses' Health Study indicate that getting more protein from plants and less from animals is an important step towards fertility.
Women in the study with the highest protein intake (115 g/day) were 41% more likely to have reported problems with ovulatory infertility than women in the lowest-protein group (77g/day). However, when the type of protein was looked at (animal versus plant) protein, an interesting distinction appeared. Ovulatory infertility was 39% more likely in women with the highest intake of animal protein than in those with the lowest. The reverse was also true – women with the highest intake of plant protein were substantially less likely to have had ovulatory infertility than women with the lowest plant protein intake.
Fertility Diet Recommendations:
These results point the way to another strategy for overcoming ovulatory infertility – eat more protein from plants (beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds) and less from animals (meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy). Contrary to old ways of thinking about protein quality, plant proteins are actually an excellent source of high fiber protein.
Legumes (beans, peas, lentils) are plant proteins that are rich in fibre, iron and B vitamins. Eat legumes every day either for lunch or dinner. Add them to soups or salads, make them into dips, or cook up a batch of chili or a bean casserole. Keep your cupboards stocked with a variety of canned and dried beans.
Traditional soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, tamari, and miso are a nutritious protein and can be eaten as part of a balanced diet a few times a week. Balance is the key. People in Asia have been eating tofu, tempeh, and miso for hundreds of years -- in moderate amounts. In the West, however, we consume large qualities of processed soy products in soy milk, soy protein powders, soy “meat” products, and soy fillers. The result is that we are eating much larger quantities of soy that has ever been consumed in a traditional Asian diet. As well, we are eating a highly processed food product rather than a whole food. Increasingly studies are showing that adulterated foods (such as trans fats) have unintended health consequences.
The Acubalance Fertile diet advocates a whole foods, mostly plant based diet. The portion of protein in the full spectrum of the diet is about 25%. Of that 25%, most of the protein should come from plant sources. Soy protein, in its whole food form, is only one of many sources of plant protein available to us. To optimize your health and fertility enjoy a wide variety of whole food plant protein.
Whole food soy products like miso, tempeh and spouted soybeans are healthy if eaten a few times a week in small amounts. If you eat tofu you should choose organic tofu. Two great sources that are made locally are Sunrise Tofu Soyganics and Superior Tofu. Daily consumption of processed soy products may have a negative impact on your fertility.
What is soy?
Soy products are made from soy beans.
Tofu is fresh soy bean curd, which is a quick to prepare source of protein that takes on the flavour of whatever you are cooking. Natto is fermented soybeans. Miso, tempeh, and seiten are fermented soybean products that have a similar taste and texture to cooked chicken.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of quick concentrated protein and good fats. Limit your daily intake to no more than one ounce (about 20 nuts) and choose natural organic products. For variety, try almond butter, cashew butter, and hazelnut butter in addition to natural peanut butter. Toss a tablespoon of ground flax seed on your oatmeal each morning. Try pumpkin seed butter, sunflower seed butter, or hemp seed butter on your toast instead of regular butter or margarine.
Small amounts of organic animal protein can be part of a healthful fertility diet. If you choose to eat red meats, choose grass or pasture-fed meat. Keep your serving size to no more than the size of the palm of your hand.
Organic turkey and chicken are great sources of lean protein, especially when eaten without the skin.
Organic eggs are an easy to digest inexpensive source of high quality protein. You can enjoy 3 – 5 eggs a week, even if your cholesterol is high. Don’t forget about eggs for a quick high protein dinner!
Canadian Regulations for Animal Sources of Protein Meats
Specialty Meats and organic meats are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics and fed a diet of both grass and grains. Organic meats have the added benefit of being given organic food only. Buffalo/bison is entirely grass fed, but most beef is fed a combination of grains and grass. There are some suppliers of pasture fed beef. See our list of resources
Chicken and Turkey
Free-run poultry run around freely and are not confined in a cage. All chicken raised for human consumption in Canada is free-run. Free-range poultry are allowed access to outside for part of the day. All turkey raised for human consumption in Canada is free-range. Organic poultry is free-range poultry that are fed a vegetarian diet that is at least 80% organic.
Free-range eggs are laid by chickens that range free on pasture and are fed all-vegetarian feed that does not contain animal by-products. Free-run eggs are laid by chickens that are cage-free inside the barn on shavings and are fed all-vegetarian feed but do not range outside on pasture. Omega 3 - free-run eggs are fed all-vegetarian feed that contains ground flax to provide Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids. The feed is also Vitamin E enhanced. Chickens are cage-free inside the barn on shavings and are fed all-vegetarian feed.
Short-lived, deep fish such as mackerel, trout, herring, sardines and wild salmon are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids shown to support healthy cells and immune function, manage weight and hormone balance, and reduce pain associated with endometriosis
Mercury in Fish
How do we follow advice to eat seafood twice a week without getting too much mercury and other toxins? Mercury is a neurotoxin, which can damage a developing brain. Fish that is high mercury tends to be larger fish such as tuna, swordfish, shark, marlin, orange roughy, and escolar. Limit your intake of these fish. Instead choose short lived deep sea Pacific fish such as wild salmon, mackerel, sardines and halibut. Choose only high quality supplements that are from "safer" fish.
Check the Environmental Defense Fund website for a review of the safest and most sustainable fish choices for your health.