By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Carrots are one of the most nutritious root vegetables. They are one of the richest vegetable sources of carotene (this gives them their vibrant orange colour), high in fibre and packed full of the antioxidants beta carotene, vitamin C and E and also the minerals calcium and potassium – all great nutrients when it comes to supporting fertility. Beta carotene, also called ‘plant’ vitamin A, is a carotenoid, which is converted into vitamin A by our liver. Beta carotene is generally considered to be safer than retinol which is fat soluble (stored in fat cells and tissue, liver cells and skeletal muscle).
Beta carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A) helps to keep the tissues in the reproductive system healthy, along with ensuring the normal growth and development of embryos during pregnancy. It also helps with tissue repair in the mother after birth has taken place. Beta-carotene also helps to produce the female sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). These hormones are important for ovulation and for the regulation of the menstrual cycle.
A study by Harvard researchers printed in the Journal Fertility and Sterility (2013) found that vegetables such as carrots, spinach and lettuce rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene can improve sperm motility (its ability to swim toward an egg). They discovered that men who ate the most carrots saw improved sperm performance by 6.5 to 8 percent. The Harvard researchers attribute the boost to carotenoids, powerful antioxidative compounds in carrots that help the body make vitamin A. Further research needed in this area.
The nutrients provided by carrots have also been linked to offering the following important health benefits:
Cleansing and flushing toxins out of the body
Help reduce anxiety
Helps protects against heart disease and strokes.
Carrot and Sweet Potato Mash (makes 4 portions)
• 500g carrots, peeled and chopped
• 500g sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
• Splash of milk of your choice
• 3 garlic cloves peeled and chopped (add more if you wish)
• 25g butter
• Seasoning to taste (salt and pepper).
Place the carrots, sweet potatoes and garlic in a large pan of water, bring to the boil and cook for roughly 10-12 minutes. Drain the water. Add the butter and seasoning, roughly mash, then serve. Enjoy!
Important note: When trying to conceive it is important to avoid consuming too much vitamin A in the retinol form – as this may increase the risk of birth defects – this is why it is best to avoid pate and liver products pre-conceptually. If you are unsure ask your health care provider such as GP or Qualified Nutritional Therapist/Dietician
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