1. Swap tinned vegetables and pulses for glass jars and tetra packs
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of plastics including food and drink containers and used in metal food cans to strengthen the lining. There is evidence suggesting BPA is an oestrogen-like substance and is considered a potent reproductive toxin. France has banned BPA in all food packaging, containers and utensils and in California food and drink containers using BPA are required to carry a reproductive warning. It is possible to shop around for BPA-free packaging eg water bottles although with some caution as BPA alternatives may be just as harmful. To reduce your BPA exposure choose vegetables and pulses in glass jars or tetra packs or choose tins that state they are BPA-free. This is important for tomatoes as the acidity of tomatoes may increase the risk of BPA leaking from the lining particularly when tins are damaged.
2. Swap foil for parchment paper in cooking
Don’t wrap your food in aluminium foil before cooking as it can leach into your food. The body efficiently excretes small amounts of aluminium and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has established a safe daily intake of 40mg per kilogram of body weight per day. Exposure to aluminium is a likely contribution to Alzheimer’s disease and is associated with lower sperm counts and reduced male fertility. We are exposed to aluminium from utensils and pans but provided these have not been damaged the protective layer prevents the aluminium from leaching into the food when heated. When cooking with disposable foil the aluminium leaches into food and risks being above the safe daily intake set by WHO. This risk is significantly increased when using acidic seasoning such as lemon and tomatoes. I recommend using glasswear for cooking and wrapping food in parchment paper.
3. Stop cooking with vegetable oil
A healthy diet contains a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation. The main source of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet are processed vegetable and seed oils. Another reason to avoid these oils is that they quickly oxidise when exposed to heat and light and produce aldehydes associated with increased cancer risk. Use olive oil, ghee, butter, goose fat or coconut oil for cooking. Olive oil is a good choice for roasting food in the oven at 180oC as it contains predominantly stable monounsaturated fatty acids and low levels of free fatty acids. It is also provides a high level of antixoidants and omega-9 that facilitates the use of omega-3 fatty acids in the body.
4. Avoid foods containing artificial sweeteners, stabilisers and emulsifiers
These alter the composition and diversity of gut microbes and have potentially harmful metabolic effects associated with inflammation and metabolic syndrome. They can also cause gastrointestinal side effects that include the discomfort of bloating, gas and cramping but also diarrhea reducing your ability to optimally absorb nutrients from the food you eat. By their nature, artificial sweeteners encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence. Look out for artificial sweeteners in fizzy drinks and other soft drinks, sweets, chewing gum, some medicines (eg hayfever syrups), protein shakes and tonic waters. Emulsifiers and stabilisers are hard to avoid in processed foods. When mice were given two commonly used emulsifiers at comparable concentrations to what we use in processed foods, their guts became inflamed and their gut microbiota composition significantly changed increasing species that trigger inflammation.
5. Ditch the diet books and the juicer
Switching to a diet optimal for fertility can be challenging when you have previously followed restrictive low-fat diets such as Weight Watchers and Slimming World or the many exclusion diets that are popular today. Diets such as these can trigger weight loss but the rules and classification of food does not chime with a diet that optimises fertility. Cook foods from scratch using foods as close to nature as nature intended and avoid juicing your fruits and vegetable. The nutrients are degraded and gulping food cold and raw does not help the digestion. Focus on whole nourishing foods that supply healthy nutrients to optimise health and fertility. This means following a diet that includes good sources of fish, meat, fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, beans and whole dairy and ensure daily sources of probiotic foods.