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According to a new observational research study, the Mediterranean diet may improve a woman’s fertility. The study, completed in Spain, drew a conclusion to the connection between the Mediterranean diet and fertility based on insulin response. The American or Western diet is packed with sugars and processed foods. So, in order for the body to digest and use these foods correctly, an increased amount of insulin is needed. When the body has too much insulin, the other hormones in the body, like reproductive hormones, are not released accurately.
The Mediterranean diet, which is loaded with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats/oils, and whole grains, helps to control blood glucose. By helping to control the body’s blood glucose, or insulin response, this can assist fertility and reproductive hormones maintain a healthy balance.
Researchers studied more than 500 women who reported having trouble getting pregnant. Another 1,600 women with at least one successful pregnancy ending in live birth were also included in the study as a control group. The research split the group into Western diet and Mediterranean diet categories. The women in the Western diet category showed no difference in fertility whether they followed a Western diet strictly or loosely. The Mediterranean diet group, however, showed a significant difference in fertility based on how closely women followed the diet.
In contrast, approximately 17% of women who followed the Mediterranean diet firmly reported problems becoming pregnant. When women followed the diet loosely, that number jumped to 26%.
So, you can see that nothing is absolutely proven with the diet and fertility… yet. Not all doctors are convinced about the connection. There isn’t enough information to show that this diet pattern can assist a woman at becoming pregnant.
Also found in a new research study, diets containing foods rich in monounsaturated fat, like green fruit, olive oil, peanuts, almonds, and cashews, could triple chances of women becoming pregnant via fertility treatment. Health professionals believe a diet similar to this could assist most women wanting to become pregnant naturally as well. In this study, it was clear that consuming a diet high in saturated fat, found in dairy and red meat, appeared to impair women’s fertility. Diets high in saturated fat have also been linked to lower sperm counts in men. The School of Public Health at Harvard looked at how the intakes of different types of fats affect success rates of IVF treatment in women mostly in their 30s. The study found the women who ate the most monounsaturated fat had up to 3x the chance of giving birth via IVF, compared to those who ate the least.
In honor of May being Mediterranean Diet month, why not test your knowledge of traditional Mediterranean dishes, seasonings, and ingredients? Let Mediterranean Diet Month be your inspiration to try a couple unfamiliar items from this quiz during the month of May….
1. What is a red, spicy paste used in North African cooking made from red chili peppers, garlic, coriander, caraway seeds, dried mint, fresh cilantro leaves, salt, and olive oil?
2. What is a fine, granular pasta that resembles rice, frequently used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine?
3. What is a creamy dip or spread made of chickpeas, garlic, and lemon, and commonly tahini?
4. What is a traditional rice dish that originated in Valencia, Spain, and is seasoned with saffron, often made with seafood, but can also be made with combinations of vegetables and meat?
5. What is a salad made with fresh parsley, mint, and bulgur from Lebanese cuisine
6. What is a paste of crushed sesame seeds?
7. What is a thick paste or spread made of olives, capers, and anchovies that originated in Provence, France?
8. What is a sweet confection made primarily of sesame and honey?
9. What is are small dishes and snacks, often served in combination at meals?
10. What is a creamy dip made of eggplant and tahini with lemon and garlic?
11. What is a cornmeal porridge commonly featured in Italian cooking and served soft or cooled until firm, then sliced for baking, grilling, or frying?
12. What is are grape leaves stuffed with meat, grains, and/or vegetables found in Turkish and Greek cuisine?
10. Baba Ghanoush
Did you know that May is Mediterranean Diet Month? The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating reflective of traditions in the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, in countries like Spain, France, Italy, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Malta, Tunisia, Turkey, Algeria, Albania, Greece, Israel, Croatia, Libya, and Lebanon.. But, what most people don’t know is that you don’t need to travel around the world to get these heart healthy benefits. It’s remarkably easy to incorporate these types of foods into you and your family’s every day diet!
Embracing the Med Diet is all about making simple but profound changes in the way you eat today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life. Here are 8 simple steps for good health:
1. Eat lots of vegetables
2. Change the way you think about meat
3. Always eat breakfast
4. Eat seafood twice a week
5. Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week
6. Use good fats
7. Enjoy some dairy products
8. For dessert, eat fresh fruit
The Mediterranean Diet also been shown to help:
– Achieve weight loss and weight management goals
– Lower your risk of heart disease and hypertension
– Fight cancers and chronic diseases
– Reduce asthma
– Avoid diabetes
– Resist depression
– Nurture healthier babies
Did you know that the Med Diet has its own food guide pyramid? Here are some tips at following the guide from the bottom (proven to be the most important) all the way up to the top….
– Look for ways to be more active
– Cooking and enjoying time with family and friends contribute to good health
– Every day, eat mostly whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts and peanuts, and healthy fats such as those found in olive oil
– At least twice a week, eat fish and seafood, the best sources of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3s
– Yogurt, cheese, poultry, and eggs are central to the Mediterranean Diet, in rational portion sizes
– Red meat and sweets, at the top of the pyramid, are “sometimes” foods to eat less often.
The Med Diet has specific nutrition “powerhouses” that play a significant role in the health benefits it provides to people all over the world…
– Avocados– high in fiber and packed with monounsaturated fat and vitamin E
– Fish– great sources of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and mackerel
– Tomatoes– vitamin C and lycopene, which is a great antioxidant
– Yogurt– a protein powerhouse containing calcium to strengthen your bones
– Beans– a great sources of protein and fiber
– Nuts, peanuts, and seeds– protein, fiber, AND heart-healthy fats
– Wine– contains powerful antioxidants from the grape skins and the seeds have been shown to reduce the risk of most diseases of aging
– Whole grains– these “good” carbs are packed with nutrients, fiber, and protein
The Mediterranean Wallet
Americans constantly correlate a healthy lifestyle to expensive foods. This is not always the case. Yes, fresh foods, like produce for example, are normally higher in price compared to canned foods, or foods with a longer shelf-life.
Studies have shown that adopting the Mediterranean Diet helps reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attacks, amongst other chronic health disparities. The lifestyle stresses the importance of plant-based meals. One major ingredient in the diet is olive oil. The introduction of olive oil into the diet has been determined, to aid in feeling fuller long or the feeling of satiety.
Studies have also shown that an increase in plant-based meals can lead to a decrease in food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to nutritional foods for at least some days or some meals for members of a household.
Researchers conducted a study to emphasize the use of simple, plant-based recipes and olive oil, following a Mediterranean diet pattern. A number of participants commented on how inexpensive a Mediterranean-style diet was. So, the study approached a local food bank about designing their study using food pantry items for the program’s recipes.
Most people, who attempt at putting together a nutritionally balanced menu for their family or household, spend the bulk of their budget on meats, poultry, and seafood. These items, specifically lower-fat versions, tend to be the most expensive items someone will see on their grocery store receipt. Low socioeconomic status families will normally purchase these items first, leaving little left in the budget for healthier fruits and vegetables.
The researcher on the study explained that if the focus of the shopper could be changed to eliminate foods that are not needed to improve health from the shopping list, a healthy diet can be more economical. Certain foods that could be crossed off that grocery store list include meats, snacks, desserts, and carbonated beverages/sodas.
The first 6 weeks of the study consisted of cooking classes where instructors prepared quick and easy plant-based recipes that incorporated ingredients like olive oil, whole grain pasta, brown rice and fruits and vegetables. The participant’s progress was tracked for 6 months after the conclusion of the cooking program.
One particular benefit for those attending the 6 week cooking class was that they were provided with groceries that contained most of the ingredients discussed by the class facilitators. The chosen ingredients provided to the participants would allow them to make 3 of the discussed recipes for their family members.
Once the classes were over, the researchers collected grocery receipts throughout the remainder of the study. Analysis of these receipts showed a significant decrease in overall purchases of meats, carbonated beverages, desserts and snacks. This was particularly interesting to the research team as they never offered instruction to the participants to avoid buying these items.
The further review of the grocery receipts showed that each household enjoyed an increase in the total number of different fruits and vegetables consumed each month. Participants cut their food spending in more than half, saving nearly $40 per week. The study also found that the reliance on food pantries decreased as well, indicating a decrease in food insecurity.
The research team also found that the cooking program had unexpected health benefits as well. Almost one-half of the participants presented loss in weight. This was not an objective in the study but, raised a few eyebrows. The study also showed an overall decrease in BMI of the participants.
Overall, this study shows that a plant-based diet, similar to the Mediterranean Diet, not only contributes to an overall improvement in health and diet. The study also highlights how a plant-based diet can contribute to decreasing food insecurity in America.