Fertility Foods: Our CT Nutritionist Superhero
It does matter what you eat. Our food fuels us, nourishes us, builds cells and healthy organs. True fertility demands that we look honestly at what we do in our lives, including what we put in our mouths. It's not easy to be honest about food. So many of us, including me, use food as comfort and a treat. That leads to eating that is less than helpful. In some ways, this is like exercise or caffeine or even alcohol, in that infertility is tough enough without having to give up some of the things that we use for comfort.
And then we have to do it all by ourselves, right?
Just eat better. Just exercise more. Or less. Just don't drink caffeine or alcohol.
As if making those changes are easy. As if by simply saying those words, poof, you're all done with comfort habits. Just do it. Yeah, I know what it sounds like.
A bad ad campaign.
It's not that the advice is bad. It's good advice, very good advice. But we all need a little bit of help. Or a lot of help. Especially to turn away from bad habits and towards better ones.
We need to take action. And we need help.
That's why at RMACT, we have Carolyn. Think super hero. Think lots of passion and conviction. Add a HUGE dose of knowledge and understanding of eating, food and creature comfort. Carolyn Gundell, here at RMACT, is our not so secret super hero. Instead of just telling you sound bites, she actually helps. Read below for more about Carolyn.
And remember, to see Carolyn, it's simply the cost of a co-pay, which is a fraction of the price of what you would pay for a nutritionist of her caliber anywhere else.
A win/win situation. A great nutritionist, with access to board certified reproductive endocrinologists to consult with, scientific data and a passion to help you. Yes, definitely, a win/win situation. ~ Lisa Rosenthal
Nutrition for Fertility with Carolyn Gundell, M.S.
“You are what you eat” are excellent words to live by, especially when you’re trying to conceive a child. At RMACT, we believe that eating well as part of a healthy lifestyle can help lay the groundwork for a successful pregnancy.
That’s why we provide nutritional support and resources for our patients as part of our comprehensive approach to infertility treatment. Under the direction of Nutritionist Carolyn Gundell, M.S., our nutrition program helps our patients and their partners understand the relationship between dietary choices, weight management, health conditions, and fertility.
“My passion is nutrition. I love working with patients to help them understand how living a healthy lifestyle plays an important role in fertility, pre-conception and prenatal health, in addition to the life-long health of the parents, child, and whole family,” Carolyn says. “Many consumers are given the wrong impression about health and nutrition from misleading information which often promises quick and unsafe results rather than reinforcing life-long healthy behavior change.”
Fertility Nutrition | Learn to Incorporate Foods to Improve Fertility
The fertility nutrition program offers individual consultations that provide education and strategies on how to optimize health for conception and pregnancy, using foods to improve fertility. Carolyn has a special interest in helping women with conditions that affect fertility – from insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) to celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, underweight and overweight concerns – and harnessing the power of nutrition education to optimize health.
Coming up soon~ Menu writing for Fertility with Carolyn. Look for it!
Follow Lisa on Google+
Fertility Foods for Fall
Fall is here, with glorious colors, cooler temperatures, less moments of sunlight.
It's squash season, pumpkin season.
I thought I’d put the question out there about fertility foods. And recipes.
For me, it’s all about food. I hate to say it, but it’s true. It all revolves around food. There are a lot of things I don’t choose to eat anymore. We won’t go into that here although if you are interested, just let me know, we can talk offline.
In terms of fertility and general well being, I listen to my muse about food. That would be, RMACT’s fertility nutritionist Carolyn Gundell, MS. I love that she embraces carbohydrates. Good carbohydrates, in appropriate amounts. Whole wheat and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet, farro and kamut.
They are far simpler to make than you realize. They also take on flavors easily and can be made in bulk for the week, to throw in salads, soups, casseroles and stews. Oh, yeah, and whole grain pastas too.
They are also delicious once you give them a chance. They can drastically improve your cholesterol and insulin levels in a much shorter time period than you would think. If weight or blood sugar levels are a problem or a potential problem with proceeding with fertility treatment, whole grains can be a partial answer to that.
Having said that, this blog is not about grains at all. That was a side note actually.
Healthy Recipes Kick-off: Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash. Made it last night. Oh my word. So delicious. So easy. So healthy that I just had to share this morning. Here's my healthy recipes kick-off:
Get a spaghetti squash, making sure that it’s nice and fresh. Being a winter squash, they actually keep quite well in a cool place, so fresh simply means that there’s no visible sign of rot. They can be cream or yellow or any variation in between. They are most often oval although they can also look like bowling balls.
I made mine the simplest possible way because I am essentially a lazy cook. Hence why I like soups.
I pierced it in several different places so that it wouldn’t explode and then put it in a baking dish into a preheated oven, set to 375 degrees. It took about an hour to cook. After about 45 minutes, I cut it in half and found that it wasn’t cooking as fast as I thought it would. Being cut in half, it was done in an additional fifteen minutes.
Then I simply scraped out the seeds and stringy stuff and had the most beautiful looking and tasting squash. It really does look just like spaghetti and you will be surprised at just how much a medium size squash will yield. I made it very simple after that. I put some ghee (clarified butter), grated parmesan cheese and a tiny bit of salt and served it as a side dish. It was delicious, even for those eating who were not squash lovers.
It’s local. It’s fairly inexpensive. It’s easy to find at this time of the year. A lot of farms and stores have organic versions. It’s simple to make and enjoy.
It’s healthy and it’s delicious.
Could you please, please share what you make in your kitchen that is healthy, delicious and simple to make? We can swap out the recipes, right here on PathtoFertility.
Let’s make a decision to improve our eating, to improve our health and our fertility.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Honoring Carolyn Gundell's Fertility Nutrition Program During National Nutrition Month
I know I've been bragging about Carolyn a lot this month. But it's the month to do it! March is National Nutrition Month and the changes that Carolyn has made for our patients has been nothing less than extraordinary. Here's the complete information on Carolyn.
Ask any PCOS patient that she sees and you will hear rave reviews. Hmmm... Maybe that's what I'll print next week. Meanwhile, enjoy getting to know Carolyn from afar. ~ Lisa
Carolyn Gundell, M.S., leads RMACT’s Fertility Nutrition Program, a service available to all patients. Carolyn has a great passion for nutrition and its link to fertility, which she shares with her patients to empower them with food and lifestyle behaviors that optimize their health for conception, successful fertility treatment, and healthy pregnancy.
Carolyn Works Alongside the Fertility Specialists to Customize Nutrition Plans
After a nutrition assessment, patients benefit from individualized meal plans, advice on how to develop positive relationships with food, and on going motivational counseling sessions with Carolyn. She works closely with her patients and their team of fertility specialists to personalize their nutrition plans to reflect each patient’s own food preferences, concerns, and experiences – all influenced by their culture, religion, values, health, and emotions.
In addition, Carolyn encourages her patients to embrace comprehensive wellness through acupuncture and relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and tai chi to reduce stress. The goal is to support their fertility treatment while improving blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and insulin control, and weight management.
Carolyn Also Runs a Unique Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Clinic for Patients
Under Carolyn’s direction, RMACT has implemented a Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome clinic, one of the few of its kind in Connecticut. With Carolyn’s help, patients address this frustrating metabolic condition that causes hormonal imbalances, preventing women from ovulating and leading to infertility. It is a common condition, affecting 5 – 10% of women of reproductive age, and is best managed through lifestyle changes such as healthy eating habits, exercise and weight management.
Beyond patient care, Carolyn co-conducts health and nutrition seminars with Monica Moore, Nurse Manager, as part of an RMACT patient’s standard of care. Topics include Pre-conception Considerations, Nutrition Tools for Fertility Success, Heart Disease Risk Factors, Diabetes Risk Factors, Health and Nutrition for Pregnancy, Exercise, Fitness & Fertility and more.
With over 20 years of nutrition experience, Carolyn has a special interest in helping women with conditions that affect fertility, including insulin resistance, diabetes Type1/Type 2, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), lipid disorders, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, underweight and overweight concerns. Carolyn earned her M.S. in Nutrition from Columbia University and completed her undergraduate studies in Biology/Nutrition at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven. She is trained as a Research Associate in Clinical Skills Training, and is certified in HIPAA, CPR, First Aid and Food Safety & Sanitation. Previously, Carolyn worked at Pediatric Endocrine & Diabetes Specialists, The Center for Advanced Pediatrics, both in Norwalk and at Yale University Medical Center’s Obesity, Diabetes, PCOS Clinic and The Yale Fertility Center.
In Honor of National Nutrition Month, My Fertility Hero is...
Every once in a while, when I am so inspired, I write to you about a fertility hero. There are people that just do that. Inspire. It could be Lindsay Nohr Beck, cancer surviver and founder of Fertile Hope, an organization devoted to fertility preservation. It could be a man or woman who goes above and beyond in their quest to create their family and keeps their sense of humor. And cheers up other people. And spends time with their nieces and nephews. It could be my fearless partner in leading Ladies Night In, Carrie Van Steen, who gives her whole heart to her patients.
Lately, I've had one on my mind. And, as it happens, it is March 1, the first day of National Nutrition month. The timing seems fortutitous. Meet Carolyn Gundell, RMACT nutritionist. Where do I start? From the beginning.
Carolyn Gundell and Nutrition
She has helped patients make substantial changes in their lives since she has joined the practice
Her nutrition expertise when it comes to weight loss, food plans and understanding the challenging endocrine disorders of insulin resistance, pre-diabetes and PCOS is unsurpassed
Carolyn has five board certified reproductive endocrinologists that she consults closely with to create plans for patients trying to conceive
Her passion has led her to create seminars, such as pre-conception health and how to be healthy once you become pregnant
She has led the charge to educate and support young women, NOT trying to become pregnant, who have PCOS and want to live their lives in as healthy a way as possible
Carolyn has established on-going PCOS seminars and support groups to support and educate women trying to manage PCOS and trying to conceive
- She is an integral part of our new program for teenagers struggling with the effects of PCOS
Those are the formal things to know about Carolyn. I'm lucky enough to have an insider view. Here are some less formal things that inspire me about Carolyn.
Those beautiful boards that tell you about pre-natal vitamins, PCOS and food? She makes them herself
When she broke her foot, she continued to see patients, lug around empty boxes to review ingredients with patients and never lost a step (pardon the pun)
She always has time to stop in at Ladies Night In, to chat or educate - at 8 pm, after a full day
She will often walk someone over personally, for Fertile Yoga
Carolyn will speak with any RMACT team member about food, diet, exercise. She gives of her time very freely
When there is no appointment and a patient needs one, she will always find time
She has more ideas on how to improve patient experiences at RMACT in 10 minutes than most of the rest of us do in weeks
Here a few comments from some of her RMACT colleagues:
Carolyn has inspired me very much.
I am trying to use some of her suggestions in my own life.
I am actually feeling the best that I have in some years with a better diet, vits and excercise. Thanks Carolyn! ~ Spencer Richlin, MD - Surgical Director of RMACT
Working with Carolyn Gundell as a part of the PCOS team has been truly inspiring. Her dedication, caring and willingness to spend time with each patient she cares for is remarkable. She will go the extra mile for anyone in order to help make their lives better. In addition, on a personal note, Carolyn is always there to help me in my own struggle with my weight and nutrition. ~ Diana D'Amelio - RMACT Physicians Assistant - PCOS and Third Party team member
Adjectives that I would use to describe Carolyn would include: passionate, dedicated, intelligent, resourceful, kind, and pretty darn amazing. Carolyn has changed the practice's thoughts and behaviors about eating and at this point hundreds of patients in the practice. Recently there's been a patient in our practice that I believe never would've gotten pregnant if she not met with Carolyn. Additionally she works hard and persistently for patients that are at risk from diabetes and significant obesity. She picks up things that the doctors don't pick up secondary to her inquisitive nature and unique relationship she has with patients.
She frequently teaches me things. She's always pleasant and positive and I feel thankful that I get an opportunity to work with her. ~ Mark Leondires, MD - Medical Director of RMACT
Carolyn shares a wealth of knowledge with a passion and energy that is inspiring. She works tirelessly to ensure the well being of her patients. Working with Carolyn is an enriching experience- I am always learning something new! ~ Eloise Downs - Registered Nurse on RMACT's PCOS Team
A final note about Carolyn. Lately, it's occurred to me that Carolyn is remarkable, in a way that I'm a little uncomfortable talking about. That's a word that's used a lot for her. Remarkable. Passionate is another word. Educated is a third. Those three words are probably the reason that she is able to connect so effectively with patients. When I look at Carolyn, I realize the point of looking past the physical being. Carolyn is a beautiful woman. She is also thin and svelte. I admire our patients and Carolyn's looking past one another's looks to see the person within.
When I first met Carolyn, I really wondered how men and women who were obese, overweight or even had just a few pounds to lose would take to working with someone who is a size 2. Her size intimidated me. Credit goes to her ability to make a connection despite the difference in outward appearances, for her to relate so passionately to patients who could be dismissive of her, but who are not. She finds the way, seamlessly into our patients hearts, to help and support them on their journey for their families.
I have a lot to learn from Carolyn too. I find I am in a large pool of RMACT team members and patients that are grateful we are lucky enough to have this fertility hero. Thanks Carolyn, for contributing your considerable self, size 2 or not, to the RMACT team and family.
Balancing the Vegetarian Way for a Healthy Pregnancy: PART 2
Written by RMACT Nutritionist Carolyn Gundell, MS, for National Nutrition Month
This week’s nutrition blog is Part 2 for vegetarian meal planning prior to and during pregnancy. To recap from last week's fertility nutrition post: Cooking healthy vegetarian choices requires planning meals with a variety of foods. The more restrictive you choose to be, such as adopting a vegan lifestyle, the more effort is needed for adequate intake of calcium, iodine, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and zinc.
Please refer to last week’s Vegetatian Way and Healthy Pregnancy - Part 1 blog for a discussion on protein, Vitamin B12, and iron. Today’s blog addresses the importance of calcium and Vitamin D prior to and during pregnancy.
Meet Nutritional Needs first for Mother before Baby . . .
Calcium and Pregnancy
CALCIUM - The recommendation for calcium for women age 19 and older is 1000 mg/day. If 1000mg /day of calcium is consumed prior to pregnancy, then once pregnant an increase is not greatly necessary. Unfortunately, vegetarian or not, many women are deficient in dietary calcium. Calcium is necessary to build strong teeth and bones, to assist in muscle, heart and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and for boosting immune response.
Several factors influence intestinal calcium absorption, including vitamin D level; the amount of calcium rich foods consumed; the activity of calcium regulatory hormones; and the chemical composition of foods we eat. If excessive levels of dietary protein, caffeine, sodium or foods high in oxalates are consumed, then calcium is lost through urinary excretion. Oxalates, substances found in many plants (spinach, tea, rhubarb, beets, peanuts, chocolate), phytates (found in legumes and whole grains), and dietary fiber can bond with calcium and decrease its absorption. If recommended amounts of calcium intake is consumed and the meals and snacks are balanced with a variety of food choices, calcium absorption is not a huge factor.
Any vegetarian women who do not consume 3-4 servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese should add calcium rich foods (dairy and/or nondairy) at meals and snacks and consider discussing the need for a prenatal calcium supplement with her physician. Note: Calcium supplements can inhibit iron absorption and interfere with thyroid medicine so should not be taken at the same time of these medications. (More on calcium supplements in a future blog.)
Calcium is needed in pregnancy for synthesis of fetal bones and teeth. Increasing dietary calcium is vital to protect a mother’s own bone density. Adequate calcium intake can lower the risk for high blood pressure (preeclampsia) in pregnancy. If calcium intake is low in pregnancy, the baby will take needed calcium from maternal stores and thus put the mother at great risk for osteoporosis later in life.
To find cow’s milk/yogurt, soymilk/yogurt that are fertility diet friendly, look for those without growth hormones, pesticides, or herbicides, and not produced with chemical fertilizers.
Calcium Rich Food Sources: Good sources include cow milk and yogurt, fortified soy milk, calcium-set tofu, soy yogurt, soybeans/nuts, cheese, salmon with bones, sardines, collard greens, turnip greens, rhubarb, spinach. Moderate-Low sources include kale, bok choy, broccoli, sesame seeds, almonds, figs, cottage cheese, almonds.
Vitamin D and Pregnancy
VITAMIN D - Vitamin D is a vitamin and a hormone. Vitamin D plays a critical role in calcium absorption, immune function, cellular repair and, in addition, our team of integrated infertility specialists at RMA of CT are observing the important role that vitamin D plays with pregnancy and increasing fertility. Vitamin D assists reproductive hormones and in healthy (oocyte) egg formation and insulin sensitivity—which is helpful in ovulatory regulation.1
Who is at risk for vitamin D deficiency? Many women and men are low in Vitamin D or vitamin D deficient. Our skin makes vitamin D with the help of sunshine. If we are inside most days, live in northern climates, wear sunscreen and cover ups, and do not consume fish and milk, then we are at risk for deficiency. Ethnicity also plays a role in deficiency risk. Darker skinned men and women have more melanin in their skin, which acts as a natural sunscreen and inhibits sun/skin production of vitamin D. In addition, women with PCOS, gastric by-pass, ovulatory dysfunction, and/or who are overweight are all at increased risk for vitamin D deficiency.
All women at RMA of CT get their vitamin D levels tested. If deficient, a supplement is recommended and sold in RMA of CT offices. Vegan formulation vitamin D supplements are available in area drug stores. Vitamin D supplements should never be self-prescribed and dosages should be supervised when trying to become pregnant and during pregnancy. Supplement absorption is greater when consumed at a meal with a fatty food, such as lunch and/or dinner.
Maternal vitamin D deficiency exists in many women and, if pregnant, is associated with several disorders of calcium in both the mother and infant, infant rickets, and increased rates of preeclampsia, premature births, low birth weights, and autoimmune risk later in life. Consumption of adequate levels of vitamin D is challenging since very few foods are rich in this nutrient. If your vitamin D serum levels are optimal (40-60ng/dl), then at least 600 iu of vitamin D3 per day is recommended. No more than 2,000 iu vitamin D3 daily should be used to increase vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D Food Sources: Fortified milk-cow, soy, almond, rice milk and orange juice have only 100 iu per 8 oz serving. Fatty fish, egg yolks, butter and fortified fat spread provide 40 iu or less per serving. Cod liver oil is NOT recommended for vitamin D because of it toxic levels of vitamin A.
- Ogle, Amy and Lisa Mazzullo. Before Your Pregnancy-A 90 Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception. New York: Random House, 2011.
Balancing the Vegetarian Way and
Optimizing a Healthy Pregnancy: PART 1
From RMACT Nutritionist Carolyn Gundell, MS for National Nutrition Month
I counsel many vegetarians in our office in our focus on healthy pregnancy. Some are vegetarian for religious or cultural reasons and others are by personal or ethical choice. Vegetarian meal plans that are balanced with a variety of food choices can meet all nutrient needs for increasing fertility, optimizing health prior to and during pregnancy, and for breastfeeding.
Since the nutritional status of all women, vegetarian or not, directly affects pregnancy outcomes and the quality of breast milk, it is very important to be aware of nutrient needs unique to vegan/vegetarian meal plans.
Vegetarian meal plans are comprised of foods from plant sources with varying compositions:
Vegans – omit all animal food products and other animal products such as leather, wool, and silk.
Lacto – include dairy products.
Lacto-ovo – include both eggs and dairy products.
Pesco – include fish.
Pollo – eat poultry, such as chicken, turkey, and duck.
All vegetarian women looking to become pregnant should be taking a prenatal vitamin with 800 to 1000 mcg of folic acid months before conception. Folic acid alone is not enough. RMA of CT does sell vegan prenatal vitamins at each office. Contact RMACT for more information. In addition, extra supplements are often necessary for vegetarians and it is important to consult with your physician and/or nutritionist to determine supplement and dosage. Extra supplementation should never be self-prescribed. Vegetarian meal plans may be low in vitamin B12, Vitamin D, calcium, iron, protein, essential fatty acids and iodine.
Optimal Pregnancy Diet for All
One optimal pregnancy diet does fit all: Once pregnant, caloric and weight gain requirements are the same for vegetarians as for non-vegetarian women. Make sure to include the following:
PROTEIN - Protein builds new tissue and repairs cells.
Vegetarian meal plans are rich in protein when meals and snacks consist of a balanced combination of grains, beans, nuts & nut butters, lentils, seeds, and vegetables. A good variety of food sources planned daily and weekly will meet basic non pregnant and pregnant protein needs. Protein is needed in pregnancy to support growth of maternal tissue and the rapid growth of the fetus and placenta.
Protein Food Sources: Dried beans, lentils, nuts & nut butters, seeds, whole grains, soymilk, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt products, vegetables.
IRON - Iron promotes tissue growth and increases blood supply.
Many vegetarian food sources are rich in iron, but this plant form of iron is not well absorbed. Iron absorption can be increased when a vitamin C rich food is consumed with an iron rich food. Calcium and dairy food can interfere with iron absorption so it is often best to take calcium (citrate) supplements in between meals. When tea or coffee is consumed at meals iron absorption can also be inhibited. Prenatal vitamins can be taken at bedtime to get the best absorption.
Iron needs are high in pregnancy because blood volume doubles. Iron deficiency anemia is not uncommon in pregnancy, so vegetarians should choose iron rich foods at all meals and snacks prior to pregnancy to increase their iron storage. Iron supplements may be necessary
Iron Food Sources: Iron fortified cereals and breads, whole grains, beans/legumes, dried fruit, prunes, tofu, dark leafy vegetables.
VITAMIN B12 - Vit B12 helps to form & maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells; makes cellular DNA.
Vegans should be especially careful to get adequate daily amounts of vitamin B12, even though it may take years to develop a B12 deficiency. Low maternal B12 in the first trimester is an independent risk factor for neural tube defects. Adult vitamin B12 deficiency results in pernicious anemia, cognitive impairment, numbness, weakness, nervous system damage, fatigue, and psychiatric disorders. A woman with a gastric bypass, taking metformin for insulin resistance, or on acid reflux medication is at greater risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. Infant B12 deficiency can cause developmental delays, anemia, lethargy, and failure to thrive. The addition of a vitamin B12 supplement for a lacto-ovo vegetarian and vegan should be discussed with the woman’s physician.
Vitamin B12 Food Sources: Milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese, B12 fortified cereals, B12 fortified soymilk, B12 fortified nutritional yeast. The following are unreliable/poor sources of Vitamin B12: tempeh, miso, fermented soy products, spirulina, seaweed, bewers yeast, leafy vegetables.
Fertility Nutrition Resources
For further fertility nutrition tips and to discuss your own optimal nutrition for fertility--before, during, and after pregnancy--come speak with me! The Fertility Nutrition Program at RMACT offers both individual consultations and seminars. Also, the following books and websites may be helpful:
Vegetarian Resource Group - www.vrg.org
Vegan Health - www.veganhealth.org
Your Vegetarian Pregnancy:A Month-by Month Guide to Health and Nutrition by Holly Roberts, D.O., FACOG, 2003.
The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book: All you need to know for a healthy pregnancy that fits your lifestyle by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, FADA, 2011.
More to come next week when our fertility nutrition tips for National Nutrition Month continue.
Protein and Pregnancy
Many think of the importance of protein when it comes to muscle building, but rarely do women and men ask me about protein and pregnancy and how protein can help support their fertility nutrition. Proteins play a role in almost every biological process in the body by providing cellular structure and function, including 1) growth, repair, and maintenance of muscles, connective tissue, organs, hemoglobin/healthy blood; 2) acting as enzymes and hormones; 3) maintaining fluid & electrolyte balance; 4) making antibodies to strengthen our immune system; and 5) providing energy when carbohydrate and fat intake are inadequate.
Protein and Health: Find the Right Source
Since this blog article is about “Reshaping your Fertility Plate,” I think it is important to chat in more detail about protein and health and how using protein as an energy source can be a health disadvantage. Ideally, our body’s primary sources of energy are carbohydrate and fat. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver and fat as triglycerides in fat tissue. Adequate intake of carbohydrates and fat spares protein, but if protein needs to be used as energy it actually means that the diet does not have enough carbohydrate and fat for energy use. Instead, protein stores are used for the energy source and they are then taken from the blood and body tissues such as liver and skeletal muscle. In well-nourished individuals, proteins contribute very little to energy needs. High protein diets can contribute to bone loss, osteoporosis, kidney disease and high cholesterol. Combine low-fat proteins with other food groups to help balance caloric and nutrient intake.
Where is protein found? Protein is found in meats, fish, milk, cheese, yogurt, egg whites, soy products, tofu, tempeh, whole grains, vegetables, and nuts. Beans/legumes are excellent sources of protein, in addition to sources of calcium, fiber, iron, and many B vitamins (not B12). Eating legumes/beans regularly-- kidney beans, pinto, black beans, garbanzo, lentils, black-eyes peas, lima beans-- provides a great source of folic acid and helps to lower diabetes and heart disease risk as well. (I will discuss vegetarian options in next week’s blog.) Dairy is a terrific source of protein, calcium and other vital nutrients and is often not consumed enough. Grains and vegetables are low protein sources, but rich in fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients.
Why Boost Protein for Fertility?
Pregnancy is a time for growth, development and repair--creating a greater demand for 71 grams of daily protein intake, which means boosting protein for fertility becomes a priority. At conception proteins build fetal cells, uterus, placenta, blood, and other pregnancy related tissue. Antibodies, also comprised of protein, are passed to the fetus and help to strengthen the fetal immune systems.
Most hormones are made up of protein. Hormones help to regulate overall body functions, some of which do play a role on optimizing health prior to and in pregnancy, such as insulin and glucagon for blood glucose regulation and thyroid for controlling our resting metabolic rate. "Fertility Diet" recommendations choosing proteins low in saturated fats. A diet high in saturated fats, such as red meats, butter, palm oils, reduces fertility and also increases risk for diabetes in pregnancy.
In summary, small servings of protein over the course of your day can help maintain muscle and energy, provide essential nutrients for preconception and pregnancy, reduce morning sickness in pregnancy and provide optimal intake for your developing child. Balanced meal planning is the ultimate goal. Contact the team RMACT for more information through our Fertility Nutrition Counseling and Wellness Programs.
Here at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut, we are so lucky to have Carolyn Gundell, MS, a nutritionist with over a decade of experience working with fertility and PCOS patients in particular. Here, she shares some wisdom about an important grain that can lead to better health and fertility.
Fertile Secrets of Whole Grains–A Quinoa Primer
Are you bored with your selection of whole grains?
Are you eating the same whole wheat toast, whole wheat pasta and brown rice day after day?
Have you tried quinoa, or other whole grains such as bulgur, buckwheat, millet, farro, barley, or steel cut oats?
Have you purchased quinoa and now you are staring at it in your cabinet with no idea how to cook it?
Maybe learning how to pronounce quinoa is more intimidating than the how to cook stage or if you are like me and had a not so successful first time experience cooking quinoa, it may be hard to go back and try again.
Yes, even a Nutritionist can be a bit stymied with the “how to cook” stage.
So I thought I would share a few tips with you.
If we are going to purchase and cook quinoa first learn how to pronounce this powerhouse of a whole grain. Quinoa is a two syllable word and is pronounced “Keen-wah”. If you want to hear an audio version, then google the Merriam Webster dictionary audio link, “How to pronounce quinoa.” You will surely impress everyone with your verbal skills.
Learn a little trivia about “Keen-wah” to add to your dinner conversation
While relatively new to the United States, quinoa has been a staple food in Peru, Chile and Bolivia for over 5,000 years. The Inca Indians consider it a sacred food, refer to it as the "mother seed" or “mother of all grains” and believe that quinoa nutrients improve the quality of breast milk. Quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse. It is a complete protein and high in magnesium, folate (folic acid), Vitamin E (antioxidant), iron and phosphorous. Quinoa is gluten free. This whole grain fits nicely into the fertility meal plan because it digests slowly with a low-glycemic index. This means that it does not spike blood sugar levels, satisfies hunger longer, and great for PCOS, insulin resistance, diabetes, and fertility.
Tips for Selecting/Preparing Quinoa
The “If you can read, you can cook” stage. Quinoa is generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. If purchasing from a bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the quinoa are covered and that the store has a good product turnover to ensure its freshness. Store quinoa in an airtight container and will keep three to six months, if stored in the refrigerator. While the processing methods much of the soapy saponins that coats quinoa seeds, it is still a good idea to thoroughly wash the seeds to remove any remaining saponin residue. Run cold water over the quinoa that has been placed in a fine-meshed strainer, gently rubbing the seeds together with your hands. If the seeds still have a bitter taste, continue the rinsing process.
How to Cook and Prepare Tips
To prepare just add one part quinoa to two parts water and stir for about 12-15 minutes. Substitute rice and pasta with quinoa or even use it as hot breakfast cereal with milk, bananas, walnuts and dried cranberries.
Many recipes suggest mixing quinoa with corn or brown/wild rice, low fat cheese, Italian spices, marinara sauce, or vegetables. How about adding ground turkey and stuffing it into baked green peppers? Try combining cooked chilled quinoa with pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, scallions and coriander. To add excitement to your favorite pasta recipe, use noodles made from quinoa. Sprouted quinoa can be used in salads and sandwiches just like alfalfa sprouts. Add quinoa to your favorite vegetable soups. Ground quinoa flour can be added to cookie or muffin recipes. Quinoa is also great to use in tabouli, as a (and wheat-free) substitute for the bulgar wheat with which this Middle Eastern dish is usually made. Quinoa freezes well too. Many recipes can be found on the internet and in cookbooks. A u-tube cooking video and narrative can also be found at www.healthcastle.com.
I welcome your quinoa experience comments.
More at RMACT. How lucky we are to have these wonderful, compassionate professionals offering these programs, free of charge, open to the public. Please, if you are in Connecticut, come and take advantage of these highly educational, interactive seminars.
Nutrition & Pre-Conception Wellness Tools for Fertility Success
Come to Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut for an interactive wellness seminar on genetics, nutrition, The Fertility Diet™ and fertility secrets for preconception, meal planning & shopping.
Healthy lifestyle behaviors will also be addressed. This seminar will give each couple a nutritional edge before you conceive and health tips to support fertility treatment.
Seminars led by Carolyn Gundell, MS & Monica Moore, MSN, RN
Locations: Norwalk Office- 10 Glover Avenue, Norwalk CT, Danbury Office- 67 Sandpit Road, Danbury CT- All seminars are free
Sat Sept 10 8:15 AM Improving Preconception Health, PCOS with the Fertility Diet / Raffle Gifts Free Norwalk
Tues Sept 20th 7:00 PM The Fertility Diet & PCOS / Raffle Gifts Free Danbury
Sat Oct 8th 8:15 AM Nutrition & Preconception Wellness
Tools for Fertility Success Free Norwalk
Tues Nov 8th 7:00 PM The Fertility Diet & Lifestyle for Fertility Success Free Stamford
Sat Nov 12th 8:15 AM Nutrition & Preconception Wellness
Tools for Fertility Success Free Norwalk
Sat Dec 10th 8:15 AM Nutrition & Preconception Wellness
Tools for Fertility Success Free Norwalk
RSVP required. Please call Melissa/Justine to reserve a seat at 203-750-7484.
Please visit our website or call to confirm date, time and/or location as they are subject to change.
Fertile Yoga has changed days and times!
No longer on Saturday. Starting September 1, Thursday night in Norwalk at 5:45. Danbury/Brookfield, Friday night at 6:00, starting August 26.
And of course, Ladies Night In, Thursday night, August 25, Danbury, with Carrie Van Steen and Lisa Rosenthal
There is an assumption that exercise is always good, including when you are experiencing infertility; in fact, we are seeing evidence that too much is too much. That, just as an example, too little body fat can cause all sorts of problems, including disruption of your menstrual cycle.
On my infertility journey, I felt so out of control when I was in treatment that eventually I decided that food and exercise were two of the things that I could control. And so I did. I altered my diet to vegetarian, with very little cheese or other dairy products. I added beans and nuts and seeds to make sure that I had what I felt were enough protein. I started yoga more seriously and as something fun, I added racquetball. It’s hard to imagine anyone worse at racquetball than I was. I am not being modest. Ask my husband.
When you think of it though, how brilliant? I had my yoga, bringing me into the present, vigorous and calming. Challenging and soothing. Ah, but the racquetball. What did I care about what the score was? I got to take a racquet and hit a ball. As hard as I wanted. And I really wanted to hit it hard. I visualized people that I was angry at when I hit the ball. I released in a physical, directed way, my disappointment, frustration and rage about my infertility. It’s safe to say that my inadequacy in playing racquetball was not in the power of my swing. (It had more to do with my aim, due to the wind up of my swing.) I took the intensity of my rage out on that little white ball and didn’t have to apologize to anyone for losing my temper or breaking down.
I lost weight, felt fit, more in control. My doctors did not approve. They wanted me to modify what I was doing. So I did. I found a balance that fit my fertility treatment and my temperament. I collaborated with my doctors and compromised to make sure that everyone was happy with my exercise and nutritional plan. I was eating well, exercising safely but happily, and found a place in treatment where I actually felt ok. Even more than ok, I felt sane. That was a first, after 5 plus years trying to conceive, I felt sane. I was not pregnant, but I felt sane. Less angry. More present to the moments in each day. That was an unexpected gift.
I felt sane.
I was not thrilled that I was still not pregnant, but I felt whole.
Complete and whole, just as I was.
This coming Saturday, we are pleased to offer a new seminar. Dr. Mark Leondires, (Medical Director of Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut) and Carolyn Gundell, MS (Nutritionist) will be discussing how the interaction of nutrition, exercise need to be balanced so that you can achieve your goal of a successful pregnancy. Finding the right amount of exercise and a way of eating that feels comfortable can make it so that you are fully engaged in your fertility treatment.
Exercise, Nutrition and Fertility – The Balancing Act
Is it actually possible to be too physically fit to conceive? Medical education and nutrition tools to support exercise, balance body composition, and optimize health for conception will be shared. Led by Carolyn Gundell, MS and Mark Leondires, MD.
This seminar will take place at:
10 Glover Avenue, Norwalk, CT
Saturday October 2nd 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Seminars are $10 per person or $15 per couple
Please visit our website or call to confirm date, time and/or location as they are subject to change
RSVP to Cori at 203-750-7492
Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut