We all know instinctively why high sugar diets aren’t beneficial when we’re trying to conceive, for both men and women, but we don’t always know why this is the case and can be led to believe that as long as we’re in a healthy weight range, it doesn’t really matter what we eat. The truth is that, whatever our weight, being on a blood sugar rollercoaster often throughout the day, which is what happens when we eat high carbohydrate meals, especially in the morning, can tip the balance in many ways when it comes to fertility.
The impact of Insulin
The main culprit, in this case, is a hormone released in excess when the glucose (AKA sugar) in our blood gets too high following a high-carb meal. This hormone is insulin.
Insulin’s main goal is to make sure blood sugar gets removed from our blood vessels, which is damaging, and gets shuttled into our cells, which is where it gets used as energy fuel or energy storage.
The problem is that high insulin has several effects on our bodies, and here are 3 main reasons it can affect fertility:
1. High insulin has a downstream effect on our female hormones, including raising the production of androgens, such as testosterone, and inhibiting precursor hormones to the formation and maturation of ovarian follicles, therefore messing up ovulation. This is what typically happens if you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, but it can happen to varying degrees to anyone.
2. Insulin and high blood sugar can impact the energy factories in our cells, called mitochondria. The mitochondria and our cells are damaged by high insulin and blood sugar. This is due to the creation of higher oxidative stress. Why is this important for fertility? Well, our eggs and sperm are just another type of cells. With ovarian eggs, in particular, being the biggest cells in a woman’s body. So, looking after our cells is bound to support egg and sperm health too.
3. Chronic high blood sugar and insulin can cause chronic inflammation, which again can damage cells and tissues. This is why one of the main focuses when it comes to improving your fertility is to reduce inflammation and focus on anti-inflammatory foods. The first way to do this is to really look after your blood sugar.
How to manage blood sugar levels
Here are 5 strategies to manage your blood sugar to benefit your health and your fertility:
1) Make breakfast a savoury breakfast more often than not, and you’ll see the changes in your energy and cravings immediately. These are signs that your blood sugar is in balance
2) Focus on good amounts of proteins for each meal of your day, including snacks. In a normal meal, proteins should constitute at least a quarter of your plate. These can come from animal, vegetarian or vegan sources.
3) Fill in half of your plate with colourful vegetables. Fibre from these slows down the absorption of glucose in our bloodstream and prevents the blood sugar rollercoaster from happening.
4) Don’t cut out carbs completely. Swap the highly refined carbs, which tend to be more wheat-based too. Choose whole grains alternatives, such as rice (of any type), quinoa, buckwheat, barley, rye bread, and sourdough bread. Make sure these are not the star of the show on your plate. But they can be the vessels for all the other nutritious foods you can add instead.
5) Reserve a sweet treat till the end of a meal, not as a snack. This tends not to impact our blood sugar levels so much if the previous meal was well-balanced and you followed some of the tips above.
Who wrote this blog?
This article was written by the lovely Milena Mastroianni, a registered Nutritional Therapist from www.rootandleafnutrition.com
Milena Mastroianni is a UK Registered Nutritional Therapist. She works with couples on their whole journey to parenthood, from preconception through to pregnancy. Having decided to start her family way past the age of 35, her mission is to help her clients move away from worrying about the clock ticking. And instead, rediscover the healing, nurturing and regenerative power that real food has on fertility and the health of our future generations. She is passionate about supporting natural fertility and empowering her clients. She does this by giving them the tools they need to best nourish themselves. Whether they are trying to conceive naturally or using the assisted reproduction route.
Milena has seen first-hand the effectiveness of a Functional Medicine approach. This includes advanced testing to address the root causes of imbalances. Additionally, improving the nutritional status of both partners so that solid foundations can be set down for better fertility outcomes and a healthy future generation.
I love sharing tips and hope you enjoyed reading these. For more ideas and empowering advice on your fertility journey, here’s a special fertility-focused meal plan for you, which will keep your blood sugar in check and just in time for summer. I hope you enjoy it!