Seven Fertility and Women's Health Benefits of Plant-Based Nutrition
For the past couple of months, tons of the lovely ladies I've coached have asked for info on following a plant-based eating pattern before, during, and after pregnancy. Maybe it was "What The Health?" or something else. Either way, folks are clearly curious about eating more vegetation and I'm all for it. So, I thought I'd do a series sharing what you need to know to enjoy plant-based meals that support your reproductive health.
First, let's define what a plant-based eating pattern is AND what it is not.
This may come as a surprise, plant-based does not (necessarily) mean vegan or vegetarian. Meat eaters who make fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds (you know, plants) the bulk of what they eat, are still eating a plant-based pattern.
Plant-based is more about what you do eat than it is about what you don't eat. So as long a larger proportion of your meals and snacks are made up of plants, you're a plant-based eater. And you're going to reap the many benefits of a plant-based way of eating.
Benefits of Plant Based Nutrition for Women's Health
What are the benefits of eating a variety of plant-based foods?
Where do I even start? So much goodness to share! We'd literally be here all day if I named every single benefit of plant-based meals and snacks, so I'll just list my top seven reasons to go plant-based.
Promotes Blood Sugar Control
If you've spent any time around the blog, you may have picked up on my little obsession with blood sugar balance. I'm convinced preventing sudden blood sugar spikes and dives is one of the most important things we can do for our reproductive and overall health. Especially if you have PCOS or insulin resistance.
Fortunately, plant-based food sources tend to be high in fiber and many are high in protein and healthy fat as well. All of which are amazing at slowing down how quickly foods are broken down and absorbed. That allows for a more gentle and less dramatic rise and fall in your blood sugar.
By keeping your blood sugar steady, you can enhance egg health, support healthy ovulation, and help harmonize your hormones.
Reduces the Risk of Ovulatory Infertility
Plant-based protein sources are some of the most beneficial foods you can include in your meals and snacks when you're trying to conceive. If you're not eating beans, peas, and lentils (and you can tolerate them), I highly recommend you start ASAP.
Not only are they tasty, inexpensive, and versatile, they're also pretty well backed by science to reduce the risk of ovulatory infertility. In fact, replacing a single serving of animal protein in favor of beans, peas, or lentils may reduce your risk by more than 50%. That's a huge impact for such a tiny change.
Plant-based protein sources are also packing plenty of iron and folate. Which are two super important nutrients for all women, no matter where they are along their fertility, pregnancy, or postpartum journey.
There's been a lot of hoopla around inflammation lately. And for good reason.
Inflammation is normally in response to some sort of trauma the body. Like a cut, infection, or high blood sugar (see there it is again!) Which is no big deal if the trauma isn't ongoing. Remember, your body is resilient. Your body was designed to handle short-lived inflammation.
Chronic, ongoing inflammation on the other hand, can give rise to chronic disease and negatively impact our reproductive organs.
One way we can counter inflammation is by eating plenty of anti-inflammatory nutrients. Which you'll find in? Yup, fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs, spices, and tea (you know, plants.)
Improves Your Gut Health
Gut health, the microbiome, and probiotics are topics you've been hearing about a lot lately. It seems probiotics have become the cure-all du jour. And while probiotics get tons of attention, not nearly enough attention is paid to prebiotics.
Prebiotics are the nutrients found in the foods that make our intestines a more hospitable environment for good bacteria. You wouldn't invite houseguests over if you didn't have food and somewhere for them to rest their heads, would you? Same idea here. Want to keep the good bacteria happy and in balance? Make sure they have what they need to flourish.
And plant-based foods just happen to be full of prebiotics.
Adds Some Tasty Variety to Meals, Simply and Easily
Can please we talk about the importance of pleasure when it comes to food for just a minute?
It's soooo important that the foods we eat are enjoyable. We have taste buds for a reason! Foods you enjoy the appearance, flavor, and texture of are foods you are more likely to eat. It doesn't matter how "healthy" a food is if you don't eat it or want to eat it.
Plant-based foods add color, variety, texture, and flavor to foods, making them more delightful, appetizing, and nutritious.
Lowers the Chance of Developing Endometriosis and Fibroids
While there are no foods you can eat that will 100% guarantee you won't develop endometriosis or fibroids, you absolutely can reduce your risk of developing them by choosing to nosh on plenty of plant-based foods.
There's some research that suggests eating plenty of vegetables can be protective against endometriosis. And including plenty of fruit and veggies into meals and snacks seems to lower the chance of developing of fibroids. So, it looks like a plant-based diet could be a simple way to ward off both.
Plus, plant-based foods, packed with fiber can help alleviate constipation. Something women with endometriosis and fibroids may experience.e
Might Protect Against Breast Cancer
Lifestyle choices, like tobacco use, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use, and imbalanced eating habits, are estimated to account for about a third of all cancer diagnosis. So while there are plenty of things we can't control about your cancer risk, there are quite a few things we can do to influence and lower our risk. Choosing nourishing foods being one of them.
Choosing foods that support a healthy immune system, drive down inflammation, and promote overall good health can reduce your risk of developing cancer. And you already know which foods fit the bill, don't you? Plants, my friend, plants.
In the coming months, I'll give you the details on how to get enough of some of the nutrients that can be harder to pack in when you eat a plant-based diet (like vitamin D, B12, and protein), break down my thoughts and the science on soy (and its effects on hormones and women's health), and much more.