Why you should eat fats to improve fertility
Essential fatty acids are an important factor in fertility. A balanced ratio promotes healthy skin and hair growth, adrenal activity and immunity, healthy blood, nerves and arteries, and are vital for the transport and breakdown of cholesterol. When essential fatty acids are low disorders such as dry skin and hair, frequent colds and flus, low body weight, impaired growth, and infertility may occur.
So, what impact do fats have on fertility?
Fats cells (adipocytes) assist in the production of oestrogen — the hormone involved in the production and maintenance of reproductive functions, healthy gene expression, and maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels.
Since fat is essential in the production of hormones, too little fat in the diet can therefore disrupt the menstrual cycle and interfere with normal ovulation.
Healthy fats are also essential as they help deliver fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) which are important for a healthy pregnancy.
By boosting healthy fats (when low) we provide our bodies with the building materials for various hormones that are essential for fertility.
What are the right types of fats?
A balanced ratio of omega-6 and -3 fatty acids is best. However, there is often an overconsumption of omega-6 and not enough of omega-3 which can lead to inflammatory processes in the body. The omega-6 fatty acids that are present in the diet, are often of poor quality. This is reflected in common cooking oils which are often rancid, refined, and contain trans-fatty acids due to high-temperature processing.
Making a switch to quality oils and selecting them based on desired cooking methods is essential. For dressings use quality cold pressed polyunsaturated oils to avoid free radical production. For cooking saturated fats should be used as they are the most stable and do not become rancid as easily. These include animal fats such as butter or ghee, and plant derived oils such as coconut, cottonseed and peanut oil.
Simple elements of dietary change can have a big impact on our quality of health. To ensure the right levels of omega 3 fatty acids, incorporate a variety of the following:
- Fish (highest sources are salmon, mackerel, sardine, herring, anchovy, tuna, and rainbow trout) 200-300g per week should be a sufficient amount for healthy intake. Fish oil tablets capsules can be a simple alternative too.
- Nuts and seeds (flax seed, chia seed, hemp seed, pumpkin seed, and walnuts) contain alpha-linolenic acid (a fatty acid found in certain plants) which is a great vegetarian source of omega-3.
- Dark green vegetables (kale, collards, parsley, wheat grass, barley grass) are great sources because all green chlorophyll rich foods contain alpha-linolenic acid.
Levine, H 2016, ‘Your Fertility: A puberty-to-menopause handbook covering the facts of life every woman needs to know’, Health, vol. 30, no. 2m pp.89-95, viewed 7 June 2017.
Mumford, SL, Chavarro, JE, Zhang, C, Sjaarda, LA, Pollack, AZ, Schliep, KC, Michels, KA, Zarek, SM, Plowden, TC, Radin, RG, Messer, LC, Frankel, RA & Wactawski-Wende, J 2016, ‘Dietary fat intake and reproductive hormones concentration and ovulation in regularly menstruating women’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 103, no. 3, pp.868-877, viewed 7 June 2017.
Pitchford, P 2002, Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd edn, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley.