In Part 1 of Diets and Women’s Health we provided a wealth of resources for the following diets:
Click here to check out that blog if one of those diets is on your mind, and find some great information for how it could be impacting your health.
There are even more diets than these that are popular and that many women are buying into.
Dieting for Women’s Health
Most diets contain a variety of claims and caveats. And all of them should. While many diets offer great things, no one diet is perfect for everyone. The benefit of living in an era and culture of plenty is that we do get to choose what we eat. While this is a benefit, it can also be a drawback. Like looking at a wall of very similar running sneakers, you may be left running: “What do I choose? Does it matter?”
At Fertility4Me, we are passionate about cutting through the clutter of messaging. We believe in research-backed sources. There is research being conducted, and increasingly made public, about how diet impacts women’s health and fertility. Below is a review of even more popular diets with links to valuable resources for more study.
Soy was a popular substitute for other proteins, including meat, for many years. When it was discovered that soy contains estrogen, some people chose to reduce or eliminate it. More commonly, people with soy allergies have to lead a soy free diet.
Soy is found in:
Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
People who are on a soy-free diet will sadly discover that there is soy in many unexpected foods, too, like cereal, vegetable oil, baked goods and even baby formula. The Mayo Clinic posits that soy allergies can begin during infancy due to exposure to formula.
Terms to look out for if you are cutting out soy are:
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Soy allergies can cause:
Wheezing or breathing issues
People who go soy-free may also do it as part of a gluten-free diet. Some people who aren’t allergic still feel that soy contributes to skin issues or an overproduction of mucus. Other people avoid soy because the non-organic versions have GMOS.
Soy Free Diet Resources:
Read this article from the Journal of Pediatrics about the association of soy-based formula and cow’s milk allergies.
Read this article from Harvard Health about soy and estrogenic effects in the body.
Read an article on the pros and cons of soy for women.
Read this peer-reviewed article on how soy affects premenopausal women.
Whole 30 Diet
Whole 30 is actually a brand but the diet itself has had many spinoffs and iterations. The essence is to eat whole food for at least a month. The foods that must be avoided include:
Sugar (even natural sugars)
MSG, sulfites or carrageenan
Most typically, Whole 30 is a temporary measure to accelerate weight loss. However, many people benefit so significantly from cutting out these items that they extend their time in the diet. In addition to weight loss, Whole 30 can have positive and negative effects. Many people feel negative effects that could be toxins leaving the body. These include:
The challenge of this diet is that it is restrictive. Some people retain portions of it for a season or interminably. Positive impacts can include:
Less sugar and processed foods
Lower cholesterol or blood pressure
Elimination diets aren’t intended to be permanent, unless you have an allergy. However, some people feel the Whole 30—or a modified version—are sustainable and beneficial.
Whole 30 Diet Resources:
Read this article that answers basic questions about the Whole 30 diet.
Read this blog from a food scientist who tried Whole 30 to relieve PCOS symptoms.
Read this article from a nutritionist on the pros and cons of the Whole 30 diet.
The foundational concept of the paleo diet is to eat in a way that hunter-gatherers did in ancient times. The heart of the diet is a low-carb, high-protein approach to eating. On Paleo, you will eat:
Healthy fats and oil
On Paleo, you will avoid:
Most grains are avoided, unless they are in whole form. A huge benefit of paleo is that it naturally reduces the consumption of processed foods. A drawback is that it does increase fat intake. Some modified versions of paleo allow for rice or even grass-fed butter. For the most part, people who eat a paleo diet don’t entirely restrict grains or dairy and may follow it more as a guide than as a hard and fast rule.
Paleo Diet Resources:
Read a comprehensive blog about the paleo diet and fertility.
Read an op-ed from a medical journal about paleo and women’s fertility.
Read this article about the paleo diet and menstrual cramps.
Read this peer-reviewed article about the paleo diet and type 2 diabetes.
Raw diets consist of 75% or more of raw food. Raw is defined as unprocessed as well as uncooked. Raw food diets are popular for many reasons but exclude many food groups. On raw diets, many people lose weight and feel their bodies detox from refined sugars and processed foods. However, it could be a challenge to subsist on primarily fruits and vegetables and to live without any warm or cooked (to over 118*F) food.
Raw diets exclude:
As an alternative to cooking, many people who eat raw use juicing, blending, dehydration and sprouting to treat food before consumption. Some raw food diets are vegan while others include raw eggs or dairy. Raw food diets typically discourage supplements.
Some people find real benefit from raw food diets, including decreased symptoms from chronic diseases and overall health improvements.
Raw Diet Resources:
Read a blog from Stanford Medicine about raw food.
Read this peer-reviewed article on raw food diets impact mental health.
Read this peer-reviewed article about protein intake and ovulatory fertility.
Veganism has become more popular through the accessibility of meat alternatives and with increased care about environmental impact. People who choose to eat vegan either mostly or entirely refrain from any animal products. Most vegans do not eat:
Meat, including fish
Some vegans also exclude things like honey, which are the result of animal labor. While some people find full veganism too restrictive, others enjoy “part-time” veganism where they eat like this only on certain days of the week. Better understanding of the nutritional value of plants and nuts have increased the prevalence of this diet, even among competitive athletes.
Vegan Diet Resources:
Read this peer-reviewed article about the effects of the vegan diet during pregnancy.
Read this peer-reviewed article about vegan nutrition for mothers, lactating women and children.
Read this article about how food can impact menstrual pain.
Read this article on a study of how veganism impacted menstruation.
Read this article about a study of the correlation between veganism, fruit consumption and fertility.
Read this article about the benefits of a vegetarian diet.