Seasonal Recipes for Healthy Eating and Fertility
Plums are abundant in the autumn and not only are they nutritious they are also delicious! Eating seasonal fresh produce provides the body with the essential nutrients needed at that specific time of year. Native to China and Europe, plums are a member of the rose family and have been eaten for at least 2,000 years and there are also over 2,000 varieties, including greengages, victoria plums, and purple plums!
Packed full of important nutrients including vitamin C, selenium, iron, potassium, beta carotene, and chromium, Plums also contain anthocyanins as well as antioxidants, both of which are important to health and fertility. Some of the main roles of these nutrients provided by plums in the body include: protecting eye health and brain tissue and providing iron to help keep the blood healthy. In relation to fertility, they are linked to supporting a healthy liver function (important re detoxification of hormones), helping to balance blood sugar levels and help prevent constipation due to the fibre that they contain in the form of pectin (along with others) which helps to move food effectively through the colon. Plums provide the highest nutrient content when they are ripe.
Important: Plums are high in oxalates- check with your GP or qualified Nutritional Therapist /Dietician if you are unsure about their suitability for you.
Apples are abundant in the autumn and not only are they nutritious they are also delicious! Eating with the seasons provides the body with the essential nutrients needed at a particular time of year. Apples contain only a few nutrients, but the ones they do have are highly important when it comes to health and fertility –and these include the powerful antioxidants vitamin A and C. Vitamin C helps to protect cells and DNA (including that of egg and sperm cells) helping to slow down cell aging. It also plays a role in male fertility and has been linked to improving sperm quality and preventing agglutination. Vitamin A helps to keep the tissues in the reproductive system healthy, along with ensuring the normal growth and development of embryos during pregnancy. It also helps with tissue repair in the mother after birth has taken place.
Apples contain high levels of plant chemicals including the flavonoid Quercetin which acts as an anti-inflammatory and is great for those watching their waistline too as they help to balance blood sugar levels and have a low Glycemic Load (GL). These properties are important for inflammatory conditions of the reproductive system and to help balance hormones. Apples are high in pectin, a soluble fibre that can help to lower bad cholesterol.
Cinnamon pairs well with Apple in many dishes. Preliminary research suggests that Cinnamon may help to jump-start irregular menstrual cycles in women affected by Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Polycystic ovary syndrome, which involves many of the body’s systems, is thought to be heavily linked to the insensitivity of Insulin. It is not yet clear exactly why cinnamon may work to regulate menstrual cycles in those with polycystic ovary syndrome, but it may improve the body’s ability to process glucose and insulin. In research involving diabetic patients, it has been shown to reduce insulin resistance in people with diabetes.
What is Butternut Squash?
Butternut squash belongs to the ‘gourd’ family- which also includes cucumber and pumpkin. Butternut squash is technically a fruit as it contains seeds.
It is rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients and contains ample vitamin B6, potassium, dietary fibre, vitamin C and beta carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A). Butternut squash is low in fat.
The beautiful colour of the butternut squash is due to carotenoids (these are naturally occurring fat-soluble pigments that are synthesized by plants, algae and photosynthetic bacteria).
How does 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. Beta carotene and other carotenoids have potent antioxidant activity. Free radicals are highly unstable and set off a process called oxidation which can have harmful effects on every cell in the body. Antioxidants help to neutralise free radicals before they cause damage to body cells, 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 is responsible for the vivid colour of orange-coloured foods and has been related to improved immunity, heart health, dementia prevention, and cancer prevention. It aids in the production of collagen, is related to the reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol and is crucial for eye health. Orange vegetables and fruits are high in carotenoids, which are strong antioxidants. 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.
Carrots are one of the most nutritious root vegetables. They are one of the richest vegetable sources of carotene (this gives them their vibrant orange colour), high in fibre and packed full of the antioxidants beta carotene, vitamin C and E and also the minerals calcium and potassium – all great nutrients when it comes to supporting fertility. Beta carotene, also called ‘plant’ vitamin A, is a carotenoid, which is converted into vitamin A by our liver. Beta carotene is generally considered to be safer than retinol which is fat-soluble.
Beta carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A) helps to keep the tissues in the reproductive system healthy, along with ensuring the normal growth and development of embryos during pregnancy. It also helps with tissue repair in the mother after birth has taken place. Beta-carotene also helps to produce the female sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). These hormones are important for ovulation and for the regulation of the menstrual cycle.
All health starts with the gut! If nutrients cannot be digested and/or absorbed from our food correctly then this will have an impact on all body organs and systems in some way, including the nervous system, reproductive system and immune system.
It is important to ensure that the gut is full of healthy microbes which are balanced, as these form an ecosystem that works closely together forming many interconnections (this is known as the Microbiome). This finely tuned ecosystem is important for a healthy body and mind as it is involved in the effective absorption of vital nutrients, enhancing the immune system and helping to reduce inflammation in the body, turning off genes, turning on enzymes, helping in the reduction of anxiety and depression and the ageing process (to name a few).