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How to eat your way to better fertility





How to eat your way to better fertility How to eat your way to better fertility
  • Zita West has over 25 years experience having started out as a midwife
  • Her latest book The IVF Diet explains what to eat to boost your fertility
  • A balanced diet of protein, complex carbs and fat is essential
  • Recipes include chocolate bean brownies and fig, pear and pistachio muffins 

If you're an A-list star ready to take time out from the red carpet to start a family, then Zita West is the woman you call.

The midwife and fertility specialist has spend two decades helping couples through conception, pregnancy and birth, and the likes of Stella McCartney, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Davina McCall and even Sophie Wessex are among the women who have previously sought her advice. 

In her latest book, The IVF Diet, she explains how to adapt your eating to give yourself the best chance of falling pregnant and prepare for an optimum result from fertility treatment.

Here FEMAIL sets out Zita's ultimate dietary guide for couples who are trying to get pregnant - from what to eat more of, like leafy greens, dairy and sardines, to what to ditch from your diet, including fizzy drinks and vegetable oil. 

The expert has also shared some simple recipes for sweet treats, smoothies and even a mocktail that can help to boost fertility - including an easy avocado and spinach drink loaded with inositol to support egg development. 

 Fertility expert to the stars Zita West says what you eat can impact your chances of conceiving

Fertility expert to the stars Zita West says what you eat can impact your chances of conceiving

Fundamentally, I believe that one of the most important influences of a couple’s chance of IVF success is nutrition. 

Everything that happens in our body is influenced by how we fuel it. Never has ‘we are what we eat’ seemed more apt than for those who are about to embark on IVF and their fertility journey.

Even if you are not having fertility treatment, good nutrition will support you and create an optimum environment in your body for the embryos to thrive. 

Eating well is fundamental to the health of all our body’s cells, including those that go on to make eggs and sperm.

WHAT YOU SHOULD EAT IF YOU'RE TRYING FOR A BABY...

Vitamin A: Found in oily fish, liver, cod liver oil eggs and dairy, it's essential for the growth and repair of all the body's cells

B-complex vitamin: Found in seafood, leafy greens, nuts, oranges, pork, salmon and eggs, it helps to support all of the body's processes, from cell growth to digestion

Vitamin D: Found in oily fish, eggs and some dairy products and fortified milk alternatives, D is now recognised as one of the most important vitamins for your fertility

Vitamin E: Found in leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, avocados and wheatgerm, it helps to combat stress, slow down the ageing process and boost the health of red blood cells

Calcium: Found in dairy, eggs, leafy greans, soy products, sardines, and pilchards with bones, a good calcium level can reduce instances of pre-eclampsia

Iron: Found in red meat, leafy greens, tinned fish, whole grains, dried fruit, nuts and seeds and pulses, iron is essential for pumping oxygen and nutrients in the blood 

... AND WHAT TO CUT OUT TO BOOST YOUR CHANCES

Trans fats: Found in many fried and processed foods, they damage cell membranes, increase inflammation and disrupt insulin function

Alcohol: You should eliminate alcohol all together for the three months before you begin trying for a baby or before beginning IVF treatment - as well as while trying and while pregnant

Fizzy drinks: Many contain caffeine as well as high levels of refined sugar or sugar substitutes

Refined carbs: Including white bread, pasta, rice and sugar in its refined forms 

Fish with high levels of mercury: Including swordfish and marlin

High levels of omega 6 fatty acids: Found in some vegetable oils and grapeseed oil, excess levels can promote inflammation 

Overheated oils: Overheating some oils can damage them and 'feed' free radical damage in the body 

Low fat or no-fat foods: Small amounts of full far dairy and other 'fatty' foods are better for reproductive health than the flavour enhancers found in many diet products 

Every nutrient and micronutrient you eat has an impact on your health, causing balance or imbalance, wellness or illness, depending on the nutritional choices you make. 

Every nutrient has an impact - however small - on the quality of the eggs or sperm you produce. Remember, especially, that a man’s sperm is constant production - what he eats directly influences this manufacturing system. 

This is why a specific diet plan, beginning at the preconception or the pre-IVF stage, and throughout pregnancy is so essential. 

THE PERFECT BALANCE 

 You should also include three or four portions of green leafy vergetables, and five to seven portions of other (multi-coloured) vegetables every day; you can make a soup using plenty

You should also include three or four portions of green leafy vergetables, and five to seven portions of other (multi-coloured) vegetables every day; you can make a soup using plenty

Overall, your daily diet when you’re preparing from and then going through IVF should contain:

  • 25-30 per cent protein (or 1.2g per kg of body weight)
  • 30 per cent fat (about 65g fat, made up mostly from healthy fats)
  • 40-45 per cent complex, slow-releasing carbohydrates, such as whole grains or starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips (about 200-225g)
  • You should also include three or four portions of green leafy vergetables, and five to seven portions of other (multi-coloured) vegetables every day.
  • Finally, aim for two pieces of low-GI fruit (a portion of strawberries or a serving of melon) every day.

RECIPES FOR GOOD FERTILITY

FIVE MINUTE LIME AND AVOCADO SMOOTHIE

This thick and creamy lime and avocado smoothie recipe is dairy free and rich in healthy fats and inositol to support egg development. The recipe also contains the zest and juice of a lime, which are known for their cell protective properties and alkalising benefits. And it only takes five minutes to whip up.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 medium avocado, chopped
  • A handful of spinach or other leafy greens
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 300 ml coconut milk
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 chopped and frozen banana

Place all the ingredients together in a blender and process until smooth and creamy.  

CHOCOLATE BEAN BROWNIE 

 Rich and fudgy, these delicious brownies are packed with protein

Rich and fudgy, these delicious brownies are packed with protein

During IVF it is vital that you avoid refined sugar and junk food. My chocolate bean brownies are a perfect healthy snack, an on-the-go breakfast option or can be eaten as a pick-me up when your energy levels are low. Rich and fudgy, these delicious brownies are packed with protein thanks to the addition of cooked beans and protein powder.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Makes 12 brownies

Ingredients

  • 60g walnuts, toasted
  • 60g almonds, toasted
  • 60g pecans, toasted
  • 350g black beans, cooked and drained
  • 60g coconut oil, melted
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped
  • 60g soft dates, pitted
  • 50g chocolate protein powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Step one: Preheat the oven to 180g (gas mark 4). Line a 20x20cm traybake tin with baking parchment

Step two: Place the nuts in a food processor and process briefly until they are finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and process to form a thick soft batter.

Step three: Spoon the mixture into the traybake time and smooth the surface. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until cooked through.

Step four: Allow to cool in the tin completely and when ready cut into 12 bars to serve.

The brownies can be stored in the fridge for one week, or frozen up to three month.

FIG, PEAR AND PISTACHIO MUFFINS 

 Figs are rich in iron, which is important for healthy eggs and ovulation

Figs are rich in iron, which is important for healthy eggs and ovulation

Did you know, figs have long been renowned for their ability to improve fertility and for boosting libido? Figs are rich in iron, which is important for healthy eggs and ovulation. Pistachio nuts are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, L-arginine (important for sperm health), B vitamins and antioxidants including vitamin E - essential for protecting eggs and sperm from free radical damage, and the use of ground almond provides plenty of protein.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Chilling time: 30 minutes

Makes 8 muffins

Ingredients

  • 250g ground almonds
  • 60 g tapioca flour
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 60g coconut oil or unsalted butter
  • 60g xylitol
  • 1 pear, cored and grated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 125ml kefir or almond milk
  • 100g dried figs, chopped
  • 75g pistachio nuts, chopped

Step one: Preheat the oven to 180c (gas mark 4). Grease and line eight muffin tin holes with paper cases.

Step two: Combine the ground almonds, tapioca flour, maca powder, baking powder and salt in the food processor.

Step three: Place the coconut oil or butter in the pan with the xylitol and melt. Stir to dissolve the xylitol.

Step four: Pour the oil and xylitol mixture into the food processor along with the grated pear, vanilla extract, eggs and milk. Blend to combine. Add the figs and most of the pistachio nuts and briefly pulse.

Step five: Divide the mixture between the paper cases and scatter over the remaining nuts.

Step six: Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean.

Step seven: Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

These muffins will keep well in the fridge for three to four days or can be frozen up to three months.  

REFRESHING VIRGIN BLOODY MARY

 This hydrating juice is rich in lycopene and is ideal for preparing the body for IVF

This hydrating juice is rich in lycopene and is ideal for preparing the body for IVF

This energising, hydrating juice is rich in lycopene and is ideal for preparing the body for IVF. Lycopene is especially important for improving sperm health: a low intake of lycopene in the diet is associated with poor semen quality and male infertility.

This recipe is so simple and only takes 5 minutes to prepare!

Prep time: 5 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 6 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
  • 2 celery sticks
  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 lime, peeled
  • 3-4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce, to taste
  • 3-4 dashes of Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • ½ tsp baobab powder
  • ½ tsp acai powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Small slice of fresh horseradish (optional)
  • Crushed ice, to serve

Put the tomatoes, celery, cucumber and lime through a juicer. Stir in the remaining ingredients and serve with crushed ice.  

MACKEREL PATE 

You should aim to include two or three portions of oily fish in your diet each week. Mackerel is a fantastic source of omega-3 fats which are known to lower inflammation, improve sperm quality and the health of eggs and follicles.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Serves 4:

Ingredients

  • 2 hot smoked mackerel fillets
  • 100g cream cheese
  • 100g creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp freshly grated horseradish
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • Black pepper

Step one: Skin the mackerel fillets. Flake half of the fish into a food processor with the cream cheese, creme fraiche, horseradish and whizz until smooth.

Step two: Season with black pepper and lemon juice to taste, the fold through the dill and the remaining fish.

Step three: Place in a bowl, cover and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up slightly before serving.

It’s that simple!

This pate will keep in the fridge for three to four days, so if you make a little extra, store it away for the next day.  

Zita West's book, The IVF Diet is available from Amazon, priced £15.90 


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