No, I’m not talking about how old you are (although we know that your age certainly has an impact on your fertility), AGEs stands for Advanced Glycation End Products. These nasty guys are formed when protein and fat combine with sugar in your blood stream BUT they can also enter your body through what you put in your mouth. Higher levels of AGES are inflammatory and are not only associated with ageing and many diseases (including PCOS and Endometriosis) but they also seem to have a negative impact on both female and male fertility in general.
Here are 7 ways you can reduce AGEs in your diet:
1. Change up your cooking methods
AGES occur naturally in some foods but are also formed through thermal processing. The cooking method you use most can have a big impact on the amounts of AGEs you consume: Grilling, baking, frying, roasting and barbequing produce higher levels of AGEs. Reducing the heat and cooking at medium, rather than high heat can reduce AGE formation by up to 50%. Avoiding dry heat and using cooking methods such as steaming, poaching, boiling, and slow cooking will also produce less AGEs
2. Load up on antioxidants
Include lots of antioxidant rich foods in your meals such as fruit, vegetables, beans and legumes, herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric and cinnamon, as these can help reduce AGEs
3. Cut down on meat
Aim to eat less meat, as meat is a big contributor of dietary AGEs. You can also marinate meat in an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice or vinegar for an hour before cooking to help reduce AGEs
4. Keep your nuts natural
Choose raw nuts over roasted – the roasting increases the production of AGEs – raw nuts are great to include in your fertility diet
5. Eat less highly processed/ultra-processed foods (like you needed another reason!)
Processed foods are generally much higher in AGEs. As much as possible aim to eat fresh whole foods and when choosing packaged foods choose those with as few ingredients as possible and limit foods with ingredients you've never heard of.
6. Cut down on the white stuff
No you don't need to quit sugar (what kind of a life is that!), but do try to reduced the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates in your diet, opt instead for high fibre and low Glycaemic Index carbohydrate options, like wholegrains, beans and legumes and fruit
7. Go Mediterranean
The Mediterranean Diet (which isn't really a diet at all, more of a lifestyle) is associated with lower levels of dietary AGEs AND improved fertility! A Mediterranean diet is characterised by a very high intake of plant-based foods: loads of veggies, fruit, wholegrains, beans and legumes; healthy fats from olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds and oily fish; less frequent intake/ smaller portions of meat.
Our blood sugar levels can also impact the amount of AGEs our body produces, so if you have issues with hyperglycaemia and Insulin resistance (very common with my PCOS clients), it’s a good idea to work with a dietitian and your health care team to help manage these.
If you’re into the science, this is a great summary on AGEs and fertility.
If you’d like more help optimising your diet to boost fertility get in touch!