The Skinny on Fat When Trying to Conceive

Eating healthy is an essential piece of the trying to conceive puzzle. In this post, wellness expert Jennifer Colletti explains the difference between good fats and bad fats and how knowing the difference can help alleviate symptoms of PCOS and endometriosis and aid in your fertility efforts.

So…what’s the skinny on fat? Is it good, is it bad… what is it?

In the 70s, 80s and 90s there was a low-fat and no-fat craze that deeply influenced our nutrition as Americans. You are probably familiar with it, affected by it and lived it in some way. We stopped eating fat, thinking it was bad for us. The really unfortunate part of that shift in American nutrition is that when we took out the fat, we ate more sugar, processed foods and chemicals.

Even though we have a greater awareness of that now, much of that low fat, no fat craze is unfortunately still going on today. I was watching a cooking show at lunch today and the chef went on and on about how low fat the meal was she was cooking.

As Americans, I think we are deeply confused about what we should be eating.

The result of eating more sugar and less fat has profoundly affected our overall health. Obesity has grown to epic rates and incidents of type 2 diabetes have sky rocketed. Any amount of sugar in our bodies can result in inflammation. When we eat sugar on epic levels, our bodies can’t use insulin properly. Leaving us with unbalanced blood sugar, insulin resistance, and inflammation.  Inflammation is the root of all diseases such as; diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Alzheimers and also infertility.

Inflammation in relation to infertility is most commonly related to male infertility and poor sperm health, PCOS, endometriosis, ovulatory issues, unbalanced cycles and poor egg health.

So…wait…why did we all think fat was bad? And are we sure it’s not bad for us? I think many of us are asking those questions, and really wondering how we got to this place of Fat = Bad and Sugar = Good.

In the 1960s, the sugar industry paid scientists to conclude that saturated fat was the cause of heart disease and sugar had little to no role in it. As a matter of fact, the sugar industry still funds research that downplays its connection to obesity, heart disease and weight gain. Which brings us to today. It’s over 50 years later and we still have deep confusion around what we should be eating, because these same scientists went on to create our food pyramid, as well as influence the foods our government promotes as healthy. We have essentially been duped around fat and sugar. We have been made to think that good fat was bad for us, when it is really ESSENTIAL for our health and nutrition. (1)


Let’s Get Real and Bring Clarity to This Confusing Message

Good fat does not make us fat. Eating good fats are one of the best things we can do for our bodies. Healthy fats satiate all of our cells, nourish our brains, keep insulin levels steady and balance our blood sugar. Keeping our blood sugar stable and nourishing our cells is one of the best things we can do for our fertility and our long-term health.

Healthy fats help us regulate our cycles, optimize our egg health, ovulatory cycles and sperm health, and can also balance our insulin levels tampering PCOS.

The beauty of good fats is they also fill us up! When you get ample good fat, protein and vegetables at every meal and snack, your sugar cravings go down dramatically, and can even disappear!

 

The Healthy Fats

  • Monounsaturated Fats: These are often consider the base of the Mediterranean diet; olive oil, avocados, olives, almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, cashews, macadamia nut, pecans, pistachios, nut butters, grass fed butter, organic or pasture raised eggs, organic or pasture raised red meat, organic or pasture raised pork, duck, poppy seeds, organic cheeses, dark chocolate (please buy organic foods when ever possible). A Monounsaturated Fun Fact: The Harvard School of Public Health studied the intake of fats by 147 women going through IVF. The researchers found that the women who ate monounsaturated fats like avocados and olive oil were 3 times more likely to be successful with IVF treatments.
  • Omega 3s: These are essential fatty acids and are necessary for balanced functioning in the body. These essential fatty acids provide us energy, nutrient absorption and even help produce important hormones. Unlike some Omega 3 fatty acids are not made by the body itself, and must be consumed. Some of the best places to get them are grass-fed beef, fish (salmon, anchovies, sardines, mussels, trout, herring, mackerel, tuna), oysters, chia seeds, eggs, walnuts, beans, kale spinach, mayonnaise and flaxseed.
    Polyunsaturated Fats: Polyunsaturated Fats are typically liquid at room temperature, but may become more solid when chilled. The best sources are walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, tuna).
  • Saturated Fats: Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. The best sources of saturated fat are organic cheese, full-fat organic dairy, grass fed butter or ghee, almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, cashews, macadamia nut, pecans, pistachios, nut butters, tallow, lard, goose fat, duck fat, chicken skin and coconut oil

These are the fats we want to add to every meal or snack. Take a piece of paper, draw a circle on it, and draw a line from top to bottom, cutting it in half. Imagine this is a plate. The right half of your plate, I would like you to fill with vegetables. On the left side of that plate, draw another line from center to the outer edge, cutting that section in half. The upper half fill with protein; grass fed beef, chicken, quinoa, beans, etc. Fill the bottom half with good fat, think of it like a small handful.  Eat like this for every meal. When you have a snack, do the same, but reduce the amount to about ¼ – ½ of the size of a meal.

There are also some unhealthy fats that we want to avoid. These fats are linked to chronic inflammation, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and infertility. A Harvard Public School of Health study found eating 2% of total calories as trans fats doubled the risk of ovulatory issues. In addition each 2% addition of trans fats consumed in replacement of carbohydrates brought a 73% higher risk for ovulatory infertility. (2) That is big! Trans fats have also been associated with lower sperm counts. My suggestion is to avoid trans fats like the plague!

Still feeling a little uneasy about saturated fats? Read these articles by one of my favorite nutrition debunker’s, whenever I hear something in the national news about nutrition that raises an eyebrow, I always go to Chris, to get the real story:

 

The Unhealthy Fats

  • Trans Fats: Baked goods, donuts, rolls, biscuits, cookies, pie crust, frozen pizza, coffee creamers, margarine, processed foods and fried foods. Trans Fats are man made fats, or chemical fats meant to take the place of things like butter. These fats were developed to lower the cost of a particular food item and raise the profit margin. Trans Fats are commonly found in grocery store bakeries, bakeries, coffee shops and fast food restaurants.
  • Polyunsaturated Fats: Tofu, soy, soybean oil, safflower oil, corn oil. Some polyunsaturated fats can be healthy, and some are not. Commonly however you will find some of these lumped into the healthy category. I recommend avoiding tofu and any soy-based products as they are not only highly processed, but there are studies showing these products have estrogenic qualities. Also, avoid corn oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil. Most of these oils are made from GMO products, and are high in omega 6’s which also causes inflammation in higher doses.

Sugar has created a huge imbalance in our nutritional culture. Take a pause and look around at how obsessed we are with sugar: it’s everywhere! Our entertainment culture is abounding with treats; sugar has seeped into every aspect of our daily living. We have an incredibly unbalanced relationship with sugar; it’s time to shift this relationship. Don’t let our culture’s obsession with sugar sway you from walking a healthy nutrition path, and balancing your fertility.

The moral of this fat and sugar story: we need ample fat to balance our bodies, so make sure you’re eating the healthy kind. Eat real food, shop the perimeter of the grocery store, avoid the center where the processed foods and sugar live. Bump up your vegetables, add a small palm full of good fat to each meal or snack, and eat adequate protein.


Footnotes:

(1) https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.html

(2) https://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/news/20070112/trans-fats-infertility#1

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