Why Carbohydrates are Vital for a Balanced Fertility Diet

Why Carbohydrates are Vital for a Balanced Fertility Diet

Whole grains are a healthy carbohydrate choiceYes that’s right ladies, eat carbohydrates! Fad diet creators and the media often lump all carbohydrates into one category and claim eating them will cause you to gain weight. This is not the truth. The truth is:

  • eating too many of the wrong carbohydrates (pastries, crackers, white pasta, white rice, processed foods, etc.) is a cause of weight gain
  • there are such things as healthy carbohydrates – it’s not so much about how many carbohydrates you eat, it’s all about which ones

If you experience irregular or absent periods, sleep issues, stress and/or adrenal fatigue, consider examining your carbohydrate intake and then eat more of them. Here’s why…

    Eating starches and nutrients from healthy carbohydrates along with protein, fat and fiber allow for a sustained and slow release of insulin. This will help to maintain energy levels, support healthy metabolism, as well as the proper production and release (and elimination) of all hormones.

    Naturopathic Doctor Lara Bridden says, “Starches [from gentle carbs] support your hormonal system including thyroid, adrenal and female hormones. Without adequate starch, your hypothalamus will think you’re starving and may decide to stop your periods – thereby reducing your beneficial estrogen and progesterone.”

Non-inflammatory carbohydrates, fats and protein help to regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis directs communication between the central nervous system and endocrine system. Hormone balance, healthy stress management and immune system function, not to mention blood sugar regulation and proper sleep, are all dependent on the healthy function of the HPA axis.

How Carbs, Fat & Protein Support The HPA Axis

Carbohydrates offer the body:

  • starch that boosts GABA, the neurotransmitter that slows nerve activity to calm the body (anxiety, tension, stress)
  • glucose which is needed for many healthy bodily functions
  • fiber to aid in detoxification and proper elimination
  • important nutrients, vitamins and minerals
  • energy

Good fats allow the body to:

  • produce hormones to promote healthy periods
  • feel full/satiated
  • benefit from the essential fatty acids they contain
  • properly absorb fat soluble vitamins like vitamins A, E and D, carotenoids and the nutrient ALA that comes from some fatty acids

Protein helps the body:

  • maintain healthy blood glucose levels which is important for hormonal balance, avoiding insulin resistance and sustaining a healthy weight
  • produce new cells and build muscle tissue
  • optimize healthy immune function by offering various enzymes, hormones and antibodies

How Much to Eat

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has established minimum recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for:

  • carbohydrates at 130 grams per day for adult females
  • protein at 46 grams per day for women (jumping to 71 grams daily for pregnant and nursing women)
  • healthy fats, which should make up 20-35% of a woman’s daily calorie consumption (including in pregnancy)

The Exceptions

Some women should limit their carbohydrate intake. They are:

  • women with a hyper-active HPA axis* – you may be able to limit carbohydrates without adverse effects on hormonal balance
  • women with insulin-resistant PCOS – you should limit carbohydrates and focus on eating only those listed on the low-glycemic index until insulin levels return to normal
  • women with digestive issues related to gluten – you should limit carbohydrates until the digestive system, the “gut”, is healed

Research shows that consuming meals that contain little-to-no protein and that are high in processed carbohydrates, concentrated glucose or sugar, and/or white grains, and wheat promotes inflammation and blood sugar imbalances. By eating meals with unequal proportions of protein to carbohydrates, you’re filling your body with foods that contribute to elevated insulin levels and overall hormonal imbalance.

Bridden suggests all women “do cut out refined sugar, concentrated glucose and white flour and gluten grains like wheat – they cause inflammation”.

*Having a hyper-active HPA axis essentially means the nervous system is on overdrive. Health issues associated with this are: adrenal fatigue, depression, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and hyperthyroidism.

Eat These Carbohydrates

Healthy sources of carbohydrates are those that are fresh, organic, and whole because they are high in fiber and low in sugar. Whole food sources of healthy carbohydrates are…

Fruits – Blueberries, raspberries, apricots, apples, grapefruit, oranges, pears, avocado, melon, watermelon, prunes and plums… just to name a few.

Vegetables – Broccoli, cauliflower, green and yellow beans, peas, carrots, celery, Brussels sprouts, bitter greens, cabbage, turnips, kale, chard, zucchini, peppers, leeks, onion, garlic, cucumber, lettuces (not iceberg), radishes, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes (not regular white potatoes) and yams, acorn and butternut squash, artichokes too.

High fiber foods – Dark leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower, whole grains (see below), navy, black, french and pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, fresh-popped organic popcorn (not microwave) and whole fruits.

Whole Grains – Barley and quinoa, sprouted bread, oats, rice pasta, brown rice, teff, millet, amaranth, or buckwheat, and wild rice.

Nuts and Seeds – cashews, pistachios, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

If you’re working to naturally support your fertility health, take some time to look closely at what you eat every day. We offer a variety of Fertility Diet recipes from salads and Fertility Smoothies, to The 21 Day Fertility Diet Challenge. A Natural Fertility Consultation could also provide you with a personalized guide to the best foods (plus the best natural therapies, herbs and supplements) for your unique fertility needs. Healthy carbohydrates are an important source of nutrients, and an important part of the Fertility Diet. Enjoy them!


References:
– Bridden, L. (2013, February 10). Gentle Carbs for GABA, Cortisol, and Adrenal Health. Retrieved from http://www.larabriden.com/gentle-carbs-for-gaba-cortisol-and-adrenal-health/
– Bridden, L. (2015, January 27). 9 Things To Know About Female Hair Loss. Retrieved from http://www.larabriden.com/things-to-know-about-female-hair-loss/
– Bridden, L. (2015, December 01). Have You Lost Your Period to a Low Carb Diet? Retrieved from http://www.larabriden.com/have-you-lost-your-period-to-a-low-carb-diet/
– Brown, B. (n.d.). Calming Down The HPA-Axis Hyperactivity: Implications for Nutritional Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.timeforwellness.org/files/imag_january_february2014.pdf
– Carbohydrates. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/
– Dietary Reference Intakes Tables and Application. (2015, August 09). Retrieved from http://iom.nationalacademies.org/activities/nutrition/summarydris/dri-tables.aspx
– Ventrelle, J. (n.d.). The Skinny on Low-Carb Diets. Retrieved from https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/skinny-low-carb-diets

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  1. Hi,

    I love this article – do you have it in a pdf format so I can give to clients or post on my website?

    Many thanks – love all your content.

    Alison 🙂

    • Hi Alison,

      We are so glad to hear this! You are welcome to print it off as is for your clients. We don’t have a PDF form. You can always share the URL as well. We don’t allow posting our articles to other websites. I hope it helps your clients!