There’s so much information out there about good and bad carbs, proteins and fats, that it can be extremely confusing for everyone, whether you are wanting to improve your fertility, get pregnant or just be healthy.
So I thought I’d set out an easily accessible, user-friendly guide to help get you on the right track in a relatively short time.
Good carbs are naturally occurring, unprocessed complex carbohydrates i.e. all the same examples I’ve listed above regarding anti-inflammatory foods i.e. all vegetables, whole fruits (non-processed fruits), nuts, seeds and grains.
All complex carbohydrates contain so many nutrients and important vitamins as well as natural fibre. Besides keeping us feeling full for longer, preventing constipation, and feeding those good bacteria in our gut, fibre also slows the rate of absorption of sugar in the bloodstream and hence prevents blood glucose levels from rising too fast.
Make sure you consume approximately 35g/day of fibre from vegetables.
We need to ensure our daily diet consists of 40-50% complex carbohydrates.
It is advisable to eat 5 portions of vegetables (raw and/or cooked) and 2 portions of fruit every single day – a portion is about ½ the size of a tennis ball.
It’s important to include those veggies that have a very strong colour (dark green and leafy, bright orange, yellow, red, purple, pink) – they are packed full of important vitamins, minerals and flavonoids, and are very good anti-oxidants, so they help with inflammation.
These ‘foods’ also known as simple carbohydrates, are all produced via some process or other, have no fibre and usually contain sugar and/or white flour. Some examples include sugar, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fruit juice concentrates and white flour.
Besides being inflammatory, these ‘foods’ also interfere with the body’s natural glucose metabolism and are blamed for so many chronic conditions including diabetes, heart disease as well as gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
Your (and your baby’s) body needs protein for growth, maintenance and energy. It is used to build and repair tissues, make enzymes, hormones and many other body chemicals. Protein is an essential building block of bones, muscles, blood, cartilage and skin.
In order for all these processes to occur, we need to ensure our daily diet consists of 10-30% protein. Try to make sure you eat a variety of different types of protein containing food at every meal.
We all need to consume a certain amount of fat in our diet. It provides and stores energy; it helps with the absorption and distribution of fat soluble substances including hormones and nutrients e.g. vitamins A, D, E & K and certain antioxidants eg. lycopene, beta-carotene.
Good quality fat is also important for the structure of all your (and your baby’s) cells and for optimal nerve, brain and heart function.
In order for all these processes to occur, we need to ensure our daily diet consists of 20-30% fat.
‘Good’ fats are those that are high in essential fatty acids – omega 3 and omega 6.
Good/healthy fats keep your blood sugar stable. They also help to increase your metabolism, increase your energy levels and decrease cravings – especially sugar and other simple (bad) carbohydrates.
For our overall health and wellbeing, and especially during pregnancy and lactation, it is extremely important to make sure we get a good amount of omega 3 fatty acids in our diet.
The highest amount is found in:
A variety of these good fats should be consumed on a daily basis especially before and during pregnancy.
‘Bad’ fats, otherwise known as trans fats are found in all processed foods.
They come from partially hydrogenated oils – oils that have been heated, put under pressure and have hydrogen added to change their structure in such a way that they are no longer healthy.
The reason manufacturers do this is because the process is supposed to ‘improve’ the taste, texture and shelf -life of the ‘food’ they are creating, as well as make the oil reusable for all their commercial enterprises.
These trans fats are known to contribute to increased oxidative stress and inflammation, and are associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, as well as all reproductive related inflammatory diseases.
Some examples of foods containing trans fats include: