Eat Yourself Pregnant

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9781848992078

Zita West, a midwife and fertility expert, believes a good diet ‘forms the bedrock of getting a woman’s body baby-ready and a man making healthy sperm’. In her new book, Eat Yourself Pregnant: Essential Recipes for Boosting Your Fertility Naturally, she explains which foods can help with conception. Fascinated by the role nutrition takes in every couple’s ability to have a baby she came to the conclusion that micronutrients play a big role in getting pregnant – both naturally and through assisted conception – with deficiencies having significant effects on fertility for both men and women. When meeting a couple she investigates their digestion and gut health, toxicity, immunity, and how much their states of mind are affecting their bodies. But don’t worry this book does not eliminate bread, chocolate, cheese and dairy. It is not a faddy diet. The focus is on nourishing the body in a positive, sustainable way.

She explains that mood, weight and hormones can change rapidly according to where a woman is in her cycle. It is possible to support your body’s monthly shifts through your diet. Here are her rules for your cycle.

Phase 1

On the first day of your period when you may feel lethargic enjoy warm, nourishing foods and a diet rich in iron and vitamin C, as these nutrients help to replenish the iron that you lose with your period. Good sources of iron include lean red meat, pumpkin seeds, beans and pulses, dried apricots and raisins, shellfish and dark green leafy vegetables. For B-vitamins include whole grains, lamb, beef, poultry, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products, leafy green vegetables, yeast extract and nutritional yeast flakes. Most fruits and vegetables will provide good levels of vitamin C particularly citrus fruits, berries, kiwi fruit, leafy green vegetables and red pepper.

Phase 2

During phase two of your cycle oestrogen is on the rise as your body prepares for ovulation. This is usually a time when you’ll burst with energy. Foods rich in capsaicin, isoflavones and L-arginine (such as spicy foods, tofu and watermelon) encourage the body to make nitric oxide (NO). This compound helps to dilate your blood vessels, easing blood flow through your whole system, which is good news for your reproductive organs. During this phase, stock up on your B-vitamins, which are important for hormonal balance. B-vitamins also help with healthy cell division. Lecithin will help to keep your cell membranes healthy. Keep eating the vitamin-C-rich foods as this vitamin is thought to increase the amount of water in your cervical mucus, making it more plentiful. For healthy implantation of an egg, the immune system needs to be strong. For this reason, stock up on vitamin D. Exposing your skin to sunlight is the best way to get your body to manufacture this vitamin, but it is also present in salmon and sardines, and in shiitake mushrooms.

Phase 3

Next is the luteal phase of your cycle. The corpus luteum, that produces progesterone to thicken the womb lining, close the cervix and maintain a pregnancy, contains a high level of betacarotene. During this phase, try to include plenty of betacarotene-rich foods, including butternut squash, carrots, collards, kale, spinach, potato and mustard greens.

Phase 4

Lastly, in stage four, if no fertilisation has occurred, your hormone levels start to fall. During this phase you may begin to feel more lethargic again and crave sweet foods. Allow yourself the odd treat, but try to keep your blood sugar stable.

Finally do not forget that substituting foods containing fat with low-fat products, to avoid weight gain is a bad idea as these products often contain trans fats, sugar and sweeteners. Ovulation rates were 38 per cent better among women who used whole milk, a study found.

Wow some pretty amazing advice there. Happy fertile eating!

Merry F*&king Christmas

Don’t let Christmas make you feel crap. The year is almost over. Soon 2015 will be here and that will be a fresh start. Plus there’s no work for 2 days and the prospect of presents! So for one day do whatever makes you feel good. Scrap the fertility diet, crack open the champers and don’t force yourself to go places where you will feel childless, miserable or uncomfortable. Wishing you a lovely Christmas day.

De-stress

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20 Scientifically-Backed Ways to Ease Stress

The road to motherhood can be unbelievably stressful. With that in mind, here are 20 ways, backed up by good scientific evidence, to keep your stress in check:

1. Go For A 10 Minute Walk

While just about any walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins, green spaces, can put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention” during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection.

2. Breathe Deeply

Any yogi knows that the breath — known as pranayama or “life force” — plays an important role in nourishing the body. Breathing exercises – or even just taking a few deep breaths – can help reduce tension and relieve stress, thanks to an extra boost of oxygen.

3. Visualize

Simply make yourself comfortable and then try to picture a relaxing scene.

4. Eat A Snack

Stress-eating doesn’t have to be bad. Pick a snack that will fill you up — say, half an avocado, a handful of nuts or a hard boiled egg — because nothing is more stressful to the brain than feeling like you’ve run out of nourishment. Focus on your food: its texture, the way it tastes, how it makes you feel. Now you’ve turned your snack into a meditation.

5. Buy Yourself A Plant

Houseplants can actually help you calm down. Researchers have found that simply being around plants can induce your relaxation response.

6. Step Away From The Screen

Uninterrupted computer use has been associated with stress, lost sleep and depression in women. Make sure to take frequent breaks during your day of computer use — and try to shut offline at least an hour before bedtime.

7. Pucker Up

Kissing relieves stress by helping your brain to release endorphins.

8. Try This Naam Yoga Hand Trick

Applying pressure to the space between your second and third knuckle (the joints at the base of your pointer and middle fingers) can help to create a sense of instant calm.

9. Hang Up, Then Turn Off Your Phone

Mobile phones stress you out. Talking can even raise your blood pressure.

10. Put On Some Music

While classical music has a particularly soothing effect — it slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure and even decreases levels of stress hormones — any music that you love will flood your brain with feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine.

11. Treat Yourself!

Eating or drinking something sweet is soothing because it stems the production of the stress hormone, glucocorticoid.

12. Or, On The Other Hand, Plug In

Yes, screens can stress you out. But used in the right way, there’s no reason you can’t turn to the Internet to get a little stress relief such as web-based stress management programs.

13. Chew A Piece Of Gum

Chewing gum doesn’t just make your breath better — it can relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress during episodes of multitasking.

14. Watch A Viral Video

A good laugh is a fine relaxation technique. What’s more, even if you don’t find the viral video your uncle Joe sent you to be that funny, just the anticipation that it might be will actually boost endorphins.

15. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Start with your toes and work your way up: tighten your foot muscles as much as you can, then relax them. Make your way up, tightening and relaxing each muscle until you’ve finished with your face. It may seem silly, but this practice can help reduce anxiety and stress.

16. Seriously, Turn Off Your Phone

Smartphones, in particular, are linked to increased stress, as more and more people feel pressure to respond to messages at all times.

17. See Your BFF

Friends aren’t just fun — your very closest ones can actually reduce your production of cortisol.

18. Eat A Banana (Or A Potato!)

Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure, which rises during times of stress.

19. Try Eagle Pose

Many yoga poses are known stress relievers, as they open the shoulders, relieve neck tension and do away with many of the physical symptoms of stress. Eagle pose is a prime example of how a brief asana can target back and neck tension. Learn how to do the pose here.

20. Craft

Repetitive motions — like the fine motor skills used to knit– can soothe anxiety.

Try one today!

Itchy & Scratchy

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On Tuesday I wrote that I would not complain about anything pregnancy related and that now puts me in a difficult position! With that in mind I will say, in a manner that is informative rather than complaining, that I am so very itchy. Since I was a child I have had a mild allergy to sugar. If I eat too much natural or processed sugar my skin has breakouts of urticaria, a red blotchy rash. During my first pregnancy and up until now my pregnancy hormones have suppressed the allergy and I’ve hardly had it. Until now! Friday evening after an indulgent apple juice binge and a slab of chocolate cake my skin erupted into an angry mess. Since then any sugar I have injested has triggered a far more severe reaction than I ever used to have. So weird. Supposedly antihistamines are not advised during during pregnancy so it’s going to be a scratchy time! Has your food allergy been exacerbated during pregnancy?
Oh and The Great British Bake Off is not helping my sugar craving!

Organic Shmorganic

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West Hampstead Farmers' Market 9

Able and cole

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I can’t believe that a cynic like me, who always thought organic was a rip off nonsense, has totally embraced it! In an effort to improve our health and well-being we have ditched anything processed and artificial in favour of organic living.

Living close to West Hampstead and Queen’s Park means we have a farmers market which offers locally sourced goodies. Additionally we have a weekly Able & Cole delivery of vegetables, fruit, fish, yogurts and other treats. We also bought a water filter, as there are chemicals and hormones in tap water which are disruptive to fertility. Finally we ditched the cheap plastic boxes we had accumulated from take away restaurants and replaced them with ‘safe’ plastic containers and Pyrex glass dishes which are chemical-free.

I do miss orange squash (which contains tartrazine, supposedly a contributor to cancer) and I enjoy a cheeky one when no one is looking.

Folic Acid Matters

Asparagus is high in folic acid

Avocados are high in folic acid

If you are trying to get pregnant you probably know that Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) is very important for the development of a healthy foetus, as it can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Folic acid is included in most pregnancy vitamin supplements, and can be prescribed by doctors, if you require an increased dosage.

However there are many foods that are naturally rich sources of folic acid. Here are the folic acid top scorers:

1. Spinach — 1 cup = 65% of your daily needs
2. Asparagus — 1 cup = 65% of your daily needs
3. Broccoli — 1 cup = 24% of your daily needs
4. Papaya — One papaya = 29% of your daily needs
5. Oranges — One orange = 10% of your daily needs
6. Lentils — 1 cup =  90% of your daily needs
7. Green Peas — 1 cup =  25% of your daily needs
8. Avocado =  22% of your daily needs
9. Seeds and Nuts

  • Sunflower Seeds — ¼ cup =  21% of your daily needs
  • Peanuts — ¼ cup =  22% of your daily needs
  • Flax Seeds — 2 tbs =  14% of your daily needs
  • Almonds — 1 cup =  12% of your daily needs

10. Cauliflower –  14% of your daily needs
11. Beets  – 34% of your daily needs
12. Corn – 22% of your daily needs

Get munching!

Guilt-free Cookies

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We’ve been eating organic and clean lately. My body is a temple and all that jazz. But I have a very very sweet tooth. Here is the easiest, healthiest recipe for cookies I know. I promise they taste delish (unlike the sweet potato brownies which were disastrous).

Ingredients
(makes 6)

1 mashed banana
2 tbsp apple sauce
60g gluten-free oats
white chocolate chips (optional)

Mix the ingredients and make mounds of mixture.
Bake at 200 Celsius for 15 minutes.

Enjoy!