Eat your way to Pregnancy
The weekend is nigh and the topic of food is always on the menu when meeting up with friends to decide what foods to indulge and plan for the weekend ahead. We even use food idioms in our everyday language such as ‘sweet as honey’ or ‘bearing fruit’ to describe different meanings.
Food is considered much more than the basic need to maintain our body. It is associated with celebrations and emotions that is enjoyable and comforting.
This love and association of food continues to be ignited with media and TV shows exciting us with the concepts of food art that gets our salivation glands working as we anticipate the taste of great looking food. It’s no wonder we are a society of foodies with a desire to chase world cuisines and visit as many Micheline star and good restaurants around the globe where food is taken to ‘another level’.
I too am a foodie and like to celebrate with good food in restaurants as well as in the home where the hub of conversation takes place. However, my love of food goes beyond what looks and tastes great, for me it’s about choosing good quality sourced ingredients that not only look and taste good, but bring to the table an intelligence of food with health matters in mind. When prepared a variety of food in any one meal brings an abundance of nutrients with natural co-enzymes, that allow your body to absorb the many vitamins and minerals to allow your cells and your body to work effectively.
Strapline… Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food
The link between food and health has been documented since Antiquity, and the Hippocrates statement of ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’ is a very real factor towards a healthy mind and body. We all know food affects how we feel especially associated with celebrations, and food should make us feel good. It tastes great and nourishes our bodies.
With one in four couples world-wide having difficulties conceiving, it is no surprise that many are leaning towards natural concepts to ultimately help improve their pregnancy outcomes. Food is essential to maintain our bodies and I see fertility and pregnancy health benefits for those eating a range of good natural foods.
In previous articles, I discuss the concepts of Traditional Chinese nutritional therapy as well as western concepts of nutrition to bridge the gap to help improve egg, lining and sperm quality. Most couples suffering infertility issues attending our clinics have seen improvements in their egg and sperm quality health, enabling positive and healthy pregnancy outcomes.
Eating towards fertility is about ensuring your body has a varied and wide variety of nutrients for the body’s needs which is supported by the growing evidence of research.
Many of our patients are encouraged to eat food that include iron, omega fatty acids and good sources of protein along with a wide range of vitamins and minerals based on bridging the nutritional gap using traditional Chinese nutritional concepts of foods. These foods have nourishing, warming, cooling and moving energetic properties to them which when a diagnosis is formulated help address individuals needs towards fertility.
What is amazing is that traditional Chinese nutritional concepts of food can be found in many everyday meals. Have you ever wondered why Lamb with mint source taste so good? and ginger with lemon just makes us feel better? Lamb in Chinese medicine is considered to have warming properties and mint is cooling which together provide an energetic balance in food, let alone the nutrient value of protein with its good source of vitamins and minerals.
We all know that our eyes and the taste buds determine a good meal, but how do we know what foods we should eat when we’re feeling tired, or just need a boost of warmth? Instinctively, we are likely to crave certain foods, and yet too much of a certain food is not good either. The concept of Chinese medicine nutrition and its 5 flavors of Salty, Sour, Bitter, Sweet and Pungent is found in all our foods that together provide a balanced meal with a good range of nutrients too.
Many ask, “what can I cook?’ or “what can I do with spinach?” It is in this concept that I have developed health cooking workshops where I really combine my passion for food, nutrition and its benefits for health in these fun interactive workshops for all.
Those that come for fertility treatment know well that I strongly advocate ‘Liver’ into their diet. Liver is a superfood and has many important nutrients including vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, folic acid, and minerals such as iron and copper. From a Chinese medical concept, Liver has ‘Blood Nourishing’ or ‘Tonifying’ ability, which many with infertility issues display a deficiency using TCM diagnosis. Therefore, Liver is a great source to address this diagnosis. Our research data has shown that those women who eat Liver at least twice a month but no more than once a week have shown to improve their pregnancy outcomes both for natural and assisted fertility.
Here are just a few ideas and recipes I have created and adapted that include the food groups I encourage with many of our fertility patients.
Chicken Liver and Chorizo Green Leaf Salad with Garlic and Herb Dressing
Many of my patients are initially reluctant to eat Liver due to the strong flavor and texture to handle. The art of cooking liver is to have small pieces and not to overcook. Also opt for calf and chicken liver if you don’t like the pungent flavor, but the garlic in this dish makes it delicious. This dish is always good to eat in your first phase of your cycle with the need to ‘tonify’ blood and your body can take up and absorb a greater amount of iron from Liver than spinach
350g chicken Livers of good quality, cleaned and trimmed.
200g chorizo cut into chunks
110g spinach and rocket leaves
Handful of fresh coriander and parsley
1 garlic clove, chopped
Handful of Walnuts
25g of olive oil
Plain flour for dusting the Liver
1 tbsp. Walnut oil
1 tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
Seasoning salt and pepper
Cook the chorizo in a large frying pan until crisp. Remove and set aside, keeping aside approximately 1 tbsp. of the chorizo oil. For the dressing, whisk together the walnut oil, reserved chorizo oil and red wine vinegar, then season.
Add a dash of olive oil in the same pan along with the garlic and cook on a low heat for a minute being careful not to burn the garlic. Dust the chicken livers in plain flour and then cook on a medium heat for about 2 mins each side. Combine the salad leaves, walnuts and liver together in a large bowl, then drizzle over the dressing, toss well and serve straight away.
Your body can take up and absorb a greater amount of iron from Liver than Spinach
Chickpea, Beetroot, Avocado Salad
Beetroot, chickpea and avocado together are a great source of folate, manganese, protein, potassium, copper and omega fatty acids which are all essential for health. This salad makes a great for lunch at any time of year although if eating during the winter add some additional spice or cooked medley of vegetables and serve warm. This dish is great when you’re having those hot night sweats leading up to your period.
250g fresh cooked beetroot, coarsely chopped
200g feta cheese
Handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2tsp olive or oil
¼ cucumber, coarsely chopped or grated.
Small handful of walnuts
Place the couscous in a large bowl and cover with the boiling water (125ml/4½ fl oz.). Leave for the liquid to be absorbed and cool completely. Once cooled fluff up with a fork.
Mix together the chickpeas, beetroot, feta, mint, avocado, walnuts lime and olive oil. Chill until ready to serve.
Stir in the cucumber and half of the beetroot salad mixture into the couscous, sprinkle the walnuts over the top and serve.
This is one of my favorite tasty dishes in my version of the Greek sausage which tastes great as a summer dish or as a great sharing meal. This has a good source of protein along with vitamins and minerals especially accompanied with a delicious salad packing in all those nutrients. This dish is great at tonifying ‘yang’ and helps lift the mood and provides ‘warming’ energetics with the lamb, garlic and nutmeg. However, this dish is balanced with its tonifying yin elements found in mint, yoghurt, cucumber and parsley.
1kg Lamb and Pork mince of equal amount
1 large red onion finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1 small bunch of flat parsley finely chopped
1 small bunch of coriander finely chopped
1 small bunch of mint finely chopped
1tsp grated nutmeg
2tsp Olive Oil
salt and pepper
Add the oil to a frying pan and cook the onion and garlic together until soft. Once cooked allow to cool.
In a large bowl add the lamb and pork mince along with the cooled onions. Add the egg, herbs, grated nutmeg and plenty of seasoning in the bowl. Use your hands to mix until well combined. There should be equal quantities of mince, onion and parsley, so adjust if necessary.
Roll a large golf-ball piece of mixture into an oval shape and place on a tray until ready to cook.
Place your sheftalia on a grill if using the BBQ, or in a frying pan and cook on a medium to low heat for approximately 10-15 minutes turning until cooked through and browned.
Serve with slices of lemon, Greek salad, flatbread and yoghurt. Why not add finely chopped fresh mint and cucumber to your yoghurt for that extra freshness and cool taste.
Mediterranean Seabass Casserole
This dish is amazingly easy which looks and tastes great, especially on an early autumn evening entertaining with friends or having that cozy night in with your partner. Energetically this dish is great at promoting Qi energy and promote circulation.
4 sea bass fillets, skin scored
4 fl oz. fish or chicken stock
1 large courgette
I red onion finely chopped
1 tin of plum tomatoes
1 stick celery thinly sliced
1 large red sweet pepper sliced
1 small sweet potato diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 sprigs of rosemary
3 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
Handful of black olives
Handful spinach leaves, washed.
2 tbsp. olive oil
Heat the oven to Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6).
Add the onions, peppers, courgettes, sweet potato, tinned tomatoes, stock, herbs, olives and seasoning into a covered dish and cook on the middle shelf in a preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, season the fish fillets well on both sides.
After 30 minutes of cooking the vegetables remove from the oven and place the fish with the skin side up on top of the vegetables and put back into the oven for a further 10-15 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
When you are ready to serve gently add the spinach last minute into the casserole to wilt and squeeze lemon over top.
Phytoestrogens are added or removed to bring about hormonal balance.
Steamed Mussels with Fennel
Mussels at the weekend is one of my special and yet quick and easy tasty dishes. Mussels are high in B12 vitamins and provide a readily absorbed source of B & C vitamins, amino acids, vital minerals including iron, selenium and zinc, all contribute towards fertility. Fennel is well known for its phytoestrogens and used in aromatherapy oils for the treatment of women’s health where required. Fennel or other phytoestrogens are added or removed to bring about hormonal balance. From a Traditional Chinese nutritional therapy point of view, mussels nourish the Yin and Jing and essential in the treatment of fertility.
2kg Fresh live mussels
1 large head fennel
1 tbsp olive oil
150g finely chopped shallots
1-2 garlic gloves
175ml (6fl oz) vermouth or white wine
small bunch of fresh chopped parsley
Clean and scrub the mussels to de-beard that may be attached. Discard any that may be damaged or open.
Dice the fennel and finely chop the fronds and place to one side for use later.
Add the oil to a deep saucepan and add the onion, garlic and diced fennel and cook until soft being careful not to burn.
Stir in the vermouth, parsley, fennel fronds and season with black pepper and bring to the boil to evaporate the alcohol.
Add the mussels, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the shells have opened. Discard any unopened mussels. Serve with fresh bread to dip into that great tasting juice!
Seasonal foods taste better but most importantly contain higher nutrients
Remember that it is important to select fresh and good quality ingredients where possible. Seasonal foods taste better but most importantly contain higher nutrients especially of they have just been picked or harvest locally. When selecting fish, meat and organ meats, try and source organic or sustainable foods from reputable stores.
Food for Thought
Eating your way towards fertility can be about tweaking your nutritional needs and having a little bit more of something into your nutritional diet to bring your body into balance that promotes cellular function and fertile health. If you would like to know how you can improve your fertile health or would like to join Michelle in her health cooking workshops see www.michellemulliss.com/events or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.