By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Eating a rainbow of colours might be a simple means to get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive. Eat the rainbow simply implies that eating a variety of colours is a great way to receive the most vitamins and minerals possible.
The colour of your food can disclose a lot about its nutritional value. Consuming a colourful, nutrient-dense diet is thought to protect us from a number of diseases, and there is mounting evidence that it may also improve fertility. So, to improve your health and fertility, eat a rainbow!
What are some key examples of pink and red fruit and vegetables?
Key examples of Red and pink fruit and vegetables include: Beetroot, Radish, Tomatoes, Red Peppers, Red Onions and Pomegranates, Cherries, Cranberries, Strawberries, Pink Grapefruit, Watermelon, Raspberries, Red Grapes, Red Apples, Red currants and Loganberries.
What are the main nutrients to be found in pink and red fruit and vegetables?
Key nutrients found in Red and pink fruit and vegetables: Lycopene, Anthocyanins, Calcium, Vitamin D , Flavonoids, Resveratrol, Vitamin C, Folate.
What are the benefits to be gained nutrient-wise from consuming the red and pink rainbow-coloured fruit and vegetables and HOW do they help to support health and fertility?
Red and pink fruit and vegetables contain Anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid which are responsible for providing the colours in the skins of fruits and vegetables. In terms of general health, dietary intake of anthocyanins may enhance heart health also help prevent high blood pressure. In studies they have also been found to be useful re killing cancer cells in certain cancers, but more research is needed and ongoing in this area. They are powerful antioxidants and when it comes to male fertility this is important for sperm health – to keep sperm healthy, strong and to help to prevent damage due to oxidative stress occurring to the DNA. They have also been linked to reducing inflammation which is important when it comes to male fertility as inflammation of the reproductive organs can lead to sperm damage.
Red and pink vegetables and fruit usually contain some amount of lycopene (tomatoes are an excellent source) which has protective benefits to the body. Lycopene is a naturally occurring carotenoid. Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants, and provide red, pink, yellow and orange colour to fruit and vegetables. They have an important role in that they protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. In relation to fertility, there have been some studies conducted into the beneficial effects of lycopene on male fertility. Research has been carried out to examine the effect of the antioxidants in lycopene in helping to protect developing sperm from free radical damage and possible DNA damage. In some studies, it was discovered that lycopene is associated with improving the overall appearance and quality of men’s sperm. So, eat more red and pink fruit and vegetables – and cooked tomatoes are especially rich in lycopene! In women, recent research has indicated that lycopene may be useful in reducing the abnormal activity of cells and as a result may reduce the adhesion effects of endometriosis.
Red and pink fruit and vegetables contain Folate (vitamin B9). This is a very important vitamin, for many reasons. It is involved with DNA methylation (a process related to gene expression), supports red blood cell formation and is important in regulating homocysteine levels in the blood. Vitamin B9 is an essential nutrient that supports neural tube development during pregnancy Not having enough vitamin B9 can also affect energy levels and mood.
Folate is a group of chemically complicated substances that supply the body with chemically simple methyl groups. The body needs folates but can’t make them from scratch and therefore must obtain them from food or dietary supplements. Folate is vital at every life stage, from early development in the womb, through birth and all the way through adulthood. But for many people lifestyle factors, certain medications or common gene mutations deplete their folate stores.
The folate vitamin group is most active when converted into an active form known as Methyl-folate. Unlike folic acid, Methyl-Folate, when consumed, does not have to be converted into active folate—being already the body’s most active folate form, it can be immediately used by our folate enzyme systems. One of the most common human gene mutations is in the enzyme MTHFR (Methylene Tetrahydrofolate Reductase), whose function is to produce Methyl-folate. It is important for people who carry this gene mutation to ensure that they are taking adequate amounts of Methyl- folate into their bodies.
It is recommended that all women who could get pregnant should take a daily supplement of folic acid. You should take a 400 microgram supplement of folic acid (ideally in the form of methylfolate) every day ideally for at least 3 months before you hope to become pregnant (some people may need more depending on circumstances- this would be discussed with your G.P or Nutritional Therapist, and every day afterwards, up until you’re 12 weeks pregnant and then beyond too, as folate is important in both maternal health as well as infant health if breastfeeding.
Red and pink fruit and vegetables are excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C . This vitamin is important in immune system support, for producing collagen, help fight free radicals and aid in the reduction of inflammation. In studies, Vitamin C has been found to enhance sperm count, motility and quality. It also has been found to help to prevent sperm from clumping (agglutination) and also in the protection of the DNA in sperm from free radical damage.
And for a little extra reading :
Mendiola, J, et al. “A Low Intake of Antioxidant Nutrients is Associated with Poor Semen Quality of Patients Attending Fertility Clincs.” Fertility and Sterility (2010). 93(4): 1128-33.
Agarwal, A et al (2015). A unique view on male infertility around the globe. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. Volume 13, Issue 37.
Gupta NP, Kumar R. Lycopene therapy in idiopathic male infertility—a preliminary report. International Urology and Nephrology. 2002;34(3):369–372.
Improving Male Fertility (2013). Research Suggests a Nutrient-Dense Diet May Play an Integral Role. Today’s Dietitian Vol. 15 No. 6 P. 40.