Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
This week as part of our ‘Eat a Rainbow’ series we are going to examine more closely the nutritional benefits of including and enjoying a variety orange coloured fruit and vegetables as part of your diet to help support health and fertility.
It goes without saying that diet is an important area to focus on when trying to conceive (TTC) and preparing your body for fertility treatment. It is important to make sure both eggs and sperm are in the best possible health, adopting healthy habits is one of the first steps that should be taken when preparing for fertility treatment – for both partners.
The idea of ‘eating the rainbow’ really applies here – Eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables (plant-based foods) across the colour spectrum is a good way of optimising your nutrient and antioxidant intake, thus supporting your general health and fertility too. These plant-based foods include fruit and vegetables in a variety of forms – they could be fresh, frozen, cooked, pureed, canned or dried.
Some examples of healthy orange fruit and vegetables you may wish to include :
Squash, peppers, oranges, satsumas, apricots, carrots, papaya, sweet potatoes, mango, persimmon, pumpkin. Ginger and Turmeric and other herbs and spices also are a beautiful orange colour too and boast numerous health benefits.
How do Orange plant-based food help our general health?
Plant based orange foods provide an array of nutrients including flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, folate, vitamin C and beta carotene. The beta carotene and other carotenoids have a potent antioxidant activity. Free radicals are highly unstable and set off a process called oxidation which can have harmful effects on the every cell in the body. Antioxidants help to neutralise free radicals before they cause damage to the cells in your body, including the cells that form tissue in the reproductive system and thus help to protect the egg and sperm cells from free radical damage.
Beta carotene gives the orange spectrum foods their vibrant colour and is thought to help to support immunity, keep our heart healthy, fight against dementia and certain cancers. It is important in collagen formation, linked to lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and very important in eye health. Carotenoids are the main antioxidants found in orange vegetables and fruits. Carotenoids are important for healthy eyes, mucous membranes and skin. Orange foods also contain the carotenoid Lutein, which helps to maintain healthy vision.
And what about fertility?
In relation to fertility, beta-carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A) helps to produce the female sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). These hormones are important for ovulation and for the regulation of the menstrual cycle. Beta-carotene is the plant-based precursor to vitamin A. It may protect us from conditions related to oestrogen dominance, for example breast cysts and heavy menstrual bleeding. When it comes to male fertility, food rich in antioxidants including beta carotene is associated with improving sperm quality in men.
Albert Salas-Huetos, Mònica Bulló, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: a systematic review of observational studies, Human Reproduction Update, Volume 23, Issue 4, July-August 2017, Pages 371–389.