Unlike men – who produce a regular supply of fresh sperm, women are born with all of their eggs, or ova. Your ovaries contain about 2 million eggs at birth, but as you age they gradually disintegrate. Your fertility is dependent on the health of these eggs and your reproductive organs, plus your body’s ability to produce the right balance of hormones. Getting the right mix of supporting nutrients is the key to this.
Zinc and B6– This nutrient is absolutely vital for reproductive health. Infertility, low sex drive and period problems have all been linked to inadequate levels of zinc because, together with B6, it affects every part of the female sexual cycle. Oysters, lamb, nuts, egg yolks, rye and oats are all rich in zinc while B6 is found in cauliflower, watercress, bananas and broccoli. It’s a good idea to supplement with 20mg of zinc and 60mg of B6 a day.
Fats – Although the “wrong” fats (saturated fats) are rich in most peoples diets, the “right” kind are often lacking. Oily fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines and salmon are rich in omega 3. Nuts and seeds are rich in Omega 6. Like zinc, omega 3 and 6 fats are needed for healthy hormone functioning, so a deficiency is likely to affect your menstrual cycle and therefore your fertility.
Antioxidants – Oxygen is essential to life, but it also causes damage to cells through free radicals– and reproductive organs are particularly sensitive. We have a complex repair system in our bodies that “fights off” free radicals and minimises damage. This system is dependent on a good source of ‘antioxidant’ nutrients from our diet. If these are lacking then we age faster, we are more prone to developing disease and can become less fertile. The main antioxidant nutrients are vitamin A, C and E plus the mineral zinc and selenium. Phytonutrients are a recently discovered class of antioxidants – bioflavonoids and lycopene help enhance our absorption and utilization of other nutrients – and are often responsible for giving a plant it’s colour, which is why eating a rainbow selection of fruit and vegetables ensures you get a good variety of phytonutrients. Studies have shown that both vitamin C and vitamin E boost fertility in women and men, while vitamin A is needed for your ova to grow and develop before ovulation.
Where to find these vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin A (beta-carotene) – Carrots, sweet potatoes, dried apricots, squash and watercress. Click [here] for a great Carrot recipe
Vitamin C – Green vegetables, peppers, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, citrus, fruits and berries
Vitamin E – Nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocados, beans and sweet potatoes
Selenium – Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, tuna, cabbage and whole grains.
Zinc – Meat, fish, eggs, oysters, seeds, nuts and green leafy vegetables.
Phytonutrients – Fruits and vegetables of all colours – red beetroot, blueberries, orange apricots, yellow peppers, pink grapefruit and green leafy vegetables.