Maintaining a healthy metabolism is another signal to your body that there is no scarcity of food, and that it’s safe and healthy to reproduce. To achieve the optimal metabolic balance, a moderate intake of carbohydrates seems to be important. “safe starches” get bad press among low-carb advocates for the very same reason that they’re so important for reproductive health: they raise the metabolic rate. The attitude of Dr. Ron Rosedale, a diehard low-carbohydrate advocate, is revealing in this respect. Rosedale explicitly claims that a very low-carb diet is “unnatural” because it isn’t in line with our evolutionary imperative to survive and reproduce. His diet is designed to optimize longevity, but at the expense of fertility. A moderate level of dietary carbohydrates, on the other hand, promotes healthythyroid function (important for fertility because thyroid dysfunction often affects the reproductive system), raises your metabolic rate, and boosts reproductive function.
Adequate calories, high levels of micronutrients, and plenty of carbohydrates and healthy fats signal to your body that food is plentiful, and that you have enough energy to spare for reproduction. For women especially, it’s also helpful to avoid intermittent fasting, since it can be a serious stressor on your metabolism. The potential dangers of IF don’t seem to be as severe for men – possibly because successful reproduction doesn’t require men’s bodies to be as well-nourished as women’s – but if you’re having trouble conceiving on IF, it’s always worth a try.
Although a moderate carbohydrate intake is very beneficial for fertility, it’s also important not to go too far in the high-carb direction, because reproductive disorders and metabolic syndrome are very closely related. In men, excess body fat can lower testosterone levels and negatively affect sperm production. In women, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome are linked to PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a hormone-related disease that causes infertility and menstrual irregularity). In fact, the connection is so strong that some researchers speculate that PCOS and diabetes might be nothing but two sides of the same insulin-resistant coin.
The metabolic upshot for fertility is that, as in so many other areas of life, moderation is king. Some carbohydrates are helpful – and possibly even necessary – for peak fertility; too many can lead to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, which can impair reproductive health just as much as starvation.
Fertility and Nutrition: Micronutrients
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