We all know (or should know by now!) that what we eat affects our overall health. And our overall health affects our fertility, for both men and women. So why do so many of us (I am guilty as well) continue to rely so much on the junk food options as our nutrition sources???
For this article, I define “junk” as the ultra-processed foods, industrial seed oils, trans fats, caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, cigarettes, etc. All the thins that have very little, if any, inherent nutritional value. We could theoretically refer to them as “anti-nutrients” because in actuality, they deplete nutrients as your body metabolizes them instead of replenishing them the way that our bodies need.
In this 3 part series, I’m going to take an in-depth look at some of the top offenders in the junk food arena. Today, we take a look at refined flour, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods.
Even if a food is derived from a real food source, it doesn’t mean that it is healthy by the time it gets to the consumer. Flour and sugar are two examples of this. Processing strips them of their naturally occurring nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are then added in afterwards to prevent deficiencies through a process called fortification.
Flour actually starts out as wheat. Through modern technology and processing procedures, the individual kernels are stored, separated, cleaned, ground, bleached, enriched and/or fortified before being stored once more for distribution.
In Canada, the fortification of certain foods is mandatory. The sale of unenriched white flour (or products containing it) is prohibited. In the U.S., the FDA has developed a fortification policy including strict labeling requirements for any products that are listed as “enriched”. Even the government knows that processed flour has no nutritional value, and regulations have been enacted to prevent nutrient deficiencies in the population.
Sugar comes from two possible sources: sugar beets and sugar cane. Whether sugar comes from sugar beets or sugar cane, the purification process is similar for each plant, and the result is the same pure sucrose. One difference in processing between the two plants is that sugar beets are refined at a single facility, a sugar beet factory and sugar cane at two facilities: processing starts at a raw sugar factory and finishes at a sugar refinery.
Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened soda and sports drinks has been shown to reduce your chances of conceiving and carrying a pregnancy to term by more than 20 percent.
Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes are found in a variety of food and beverages marketed as “sugar-free” or “diet,” including soft drinks and baked goods. Sugar substitutes are sweeteners that you use instead of regular table sugar (sucrose). Artificial sweeteners are just one type of sugar substitute. Some manufacturers call their sweeteners “natural” even though they’re processed or refined. Stevia preparations are one example. And some artificial sweeteners are derived from naturally occurring substances — sucralose comes from sugar.
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. But they may be derived from naturally occurring substances, such as herbs or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than sugar.
Artificial sweeteners can be attractive alternatives to sugar because they add virtually no calories to your diet and you need only a fraction of artificial sweetener compared with the amount of sugar you would normally use for sweetness. But they can cause a variety of health issues.
Aspartame, one of the most common artificial sweeteners, breaks down into phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and menthanol when ingested. As such, synthetically derived sweeteners (including asparteme, sucralose, and saccharin) are linked to a variety of nasty reactions including memory loss, headaches, dizziness, increased susceptibility to seizures, depression, anxiety, and the list goes on.
“Processed food” includes food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying, preserving or preparing in different ways. Any time we cook, bake or prepare food, we’re processing food.
Processed food falls on a spectrum from minimally to heavily processed:
- Minimally processed foods — such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts — often are simply pre-prepped for convenience.
- Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna.
- Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes.
- Ready-to-eat foods — such as crackers, granola and deli meat — are more heavily processed.
- The most heavily processed foods often are pre-made meals including frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners.
The consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates is associated with weight gain, type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, and a number of related health issues.
Replacing processed foods with real food alternatives is an important step toward improving your cycles (and your overall health).
Make sure you grab a copy of my FREE guide Trying To Conceive Language & my FREE Self-Care Mini Course. You can access either one by clicking on the title. These are packed full of information that you can begin implementing today to put yourself one step closer to getting pregnant, naturally.
If you’re looking for a group of like-minded women with which to share your fertility wellness journey, be sure to check out my Whole Body Fertility & Wellness Facebook group today!
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