Eat like the Greeks, they say! Having a diet similar to those in the Mediterranean can do more for our health than protecting our heart. Did you know that a recent study in Greece has suggested that the traditional Mediterranean diet may help to improve fertility by up to 65%?
Over 200 women about to commence their first round of IVF had their typical diet analysed. Those whose diet more closely resembled the Mediterranean diet, were found to have a greater number of successful pregnancies and live births. Unless you’ve been living off the grid (preferably on a remote Greek island), you would have heard that the Mediterranean diet, being rich in fresh vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, legumes, fish and low on red meat and other processed foods, has a range of beneficial of health benefits on inflammation and disease.
So, if you have a client who is thinking of starting or growing their family, what does this mean for them?
Low GI benefits insulin resistance
Being rich in fibre and low in processed foods, the Mediterranean diet leads itself naturally to being low GI. This means that the carbohydrates that are obtained from the foods eaten are released slowly and won’t cause any extreme spikes in blood glucose levels. Insulin is the hormone responsible for delivering blood glucose to working muscles, and fat stores. If your patient’s diet has been less than perfect in the past, it may be possible that they may be experiencing some level of insulin resistance (where insulin is working, but inefficiently). Insulin resistance can impact fertility as it can cause inflammation, promote fat storage and can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance needed for ovulation. So, increase their fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and plant-based proteins in their diet and they will be helping insulin to work more effectively.
Good fats benefit egg health
The health of oocytes is paramount when trying to make a baby. Granted there are some things that affect egg health that cannot be changed, such as the patient’s age, but a healthy diet is one thing that can be controlled. Research has shown that a diet rich in healthy oils, such as mono and poly-unsaturated fats can boost antioxidant content and minimise the risk of damage to improve the composition and overall health of a woman’s eggs. Thus, encourage clients to open up the good olive oil, enjoy smashed avo for brunch and to keep a small container of unsalted nuts in their bag for a handy and healthy mid-meal snack.
Rich in micronutrients for good health
Have you ever wondered why dietitians keep saying to ‘eat a rainbow’? It’s because the different colours of fruit and vegetables are indicative of the variety of nutrients found in them. For example green leafy vegetables are likely to contain more folate, and yellow vegetables are more likely to contain more vitamin A. By ensuring a varied and colourful diet in the lead up to pregnancy, it will help to boost dietary micronutrient intakes.
A Mediterranean-style diet is an easy-to-follow and nutrition eating style.
For more fertility diet tips, sign up to our fertility and prenatal journal club at www.nutritionplus.com.au/healthcarepro
Author: Melanie McGrice is one of Australia’s best known dietitians. She is a highly respected author and health presenter on nutrition and dietary issues – and a lover of great food! Join her free nutrition and wellbeing network at www.melaniemcgrice.com.au or like her on Facebook www.facebook.com/MelanieMcGriceDietitian