Fertility and a Woman’s Diet…

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.

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Med Diet and Fertility

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Happy Mediterranean Diet Month!

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

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Is SNAP-Ed Under Attack?

Is the Farm Bill’s Nutrition Education Program under Attack?

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Since the Farm Bill is up for re-authorization, Congress is currently threatening to cut one of its components. This component is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs’ nutrition education (SNAP-Ed).

SNAP-Ed empowers recipients to purchase healthy foods within a very tight food budget. The program employs hundreds of RDs in all 50 states. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ (AND) Farm Bill Work Group is making slight revisions to the 2012 Farm Bill Recommendation document to highlight the SNAP-Ed program among other aspects of the bill.

The recommendations include talking points related to:

          Empowering consumers

o   Maintain current funding for SNAP Nutrition Education (SNAP Ed), an effective program that empowers participants to change behaviors for healthy eating using knowledge tailored to their lifestyle.

          Provide access to healthy and safe foods

o   Protect and strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), key programs in our nation’s nutrition safety net.

          Assure a healthy and safe food system

o   Ensure funding for a variety of community-based and regional agriculture initiatives that expand the availability of regionally-grown food, create jobs, and promote economic development.

o   Support farm practices and policies that conserve soil, water, air, habitat and biodiversity, as these are essential to our survival, and help to assure that a next generation of farmers has access to land and the skills and incentives to grow healthy foods.

          Assure sound science for future evidenced-based decision making

o   Maintain funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Agricultural Research Service that includes Human Nutrition Research Centers for vital research to drive better nutrition, eliminate hunger, increase food security and healthy food systems and eliminate diet-related health disparities, including obesity and assure the availability of nutrition monitoring, food composition and related data.

o   Maintain funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grants in order to support food safety and nutrition research and a diversity of fruits, vegetables and nuts available to help people achieve the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Farm Bill overview:

The Farm Bill is a critical piece of legislation that determines not only what farmers grow, but what is available in the United States food supply. Farm policies have existed in the U.S. since the establishment of our country. The 1920’s brought about the first big shift in agriculture policies, focusing on direct government intervention to provide income support by increasing crop prices and controlling supplies. Legislation continued to support farmers through direct income payments and crop supply management until 1996. At that time fixed income support payments were removed, making a shift to the modern commodity payments currently in place, and focused on issues surrounding food safety, food assistance and the environment.

The most recent Farm Bill, 2008 Food Conservation and Energy Act, included several key provisions that impacted nutrition.

          – Renamed the “food stamp program” to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to reflect a modern program, putting healthy foods within reach for people.

          – Authorized a small pilot program, the Healthy Incentives Pilot, to research the effect of incentives in encouraging SNAP participants to purchase healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables.

        –   Created the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to coordinate agricultural research and Extension programs.

          – Established funding for new programs to support producers transitioning to organic agriculture and to increase research in organic agriculture.

So, now the real question is- what will happen next? Only time will tell….

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2012 Farm Bill recommendations

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Shingles and Nutrition

shinglesShingles and Your Diet

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a rash that can be painful. According to MayoClinic.com, shingles typically resolves on its own, but medications can help hustle up the healing process and relieve pain. Certain nutrients have displayed pain-relieving assets, and incorporating these into your diet can help with shingles or painful difficulties.

First

Add foods to your diet that are rich in lysine. Or you can take a lysine supplement. Lysine is an amino acid that may prevent herpes virus outbreaks, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dietary sources of this amino acid include meat, cheese, sardines, eggs, soybeans, beans and legumes. Fenugreek seed is also a good source of lysine.

Second

Eat shellfish, eggs, beef and dairy products, all of which contain vitamin B-12.

Third

Take a vitamin E supplement. Mount Auburn Hospital recommends taking 1,200 to 1,600 international units per day of vitamin E for postherpetic neuralgia. Dietary sources of vitamin E include almonds, spinach, broccoli, mangoes, tomatoes, peanuts and peanut butter.

Fourth

Stock up on foods high in vitamin C and zinc. MayoClinic.com states that shingles outbreaks can occur due to an impaired immune system, and vitamin C and zinc are essential in promoting a healthy immune system. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, broccoli, leafy greens, peppers and potatoes. Oysters, red meats, chicken, legumes and whole grains are also good sources of zinc.

What to Avoid when you have Shingles

Shingles

According to the Mayo Clinic, shingles are red, raw and very painful blisters that can appear anywhere on your body but typically appear as blisters that wrap around your torso. If you have previously had chicken pox, are over 50 and have a weakened immune system, you are most at risk for contracting shingles. The CDC advises you to stay away from infants, pregnant women and others who have compromised immune systems until your shingles outbreak has passed.

Foods to Avoid

Avoiding certain foods can help alleviate symptoms of shingles. Arginine is an amino acid that your body produces naturally, but you should avoid foods that contain it. Arginine helps the herpes zoster virus to replicate. Chocolate, nuts and gelatin contain high levels of arginine. Also, don’t consume foods such as saturated fats or refined carbohydrates, because those might cause further inflammation. In addition, avoid alcohol and caffeine because these can weaken the immune system.