By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Busy in the week but want to eat well? Why not start batch cooking a few nutrient dense recipes to pull out on those busy days starting with this delicious One Pot Chicken Casserole with Apricots.
Chicken is a healthy lean meat and besides being an excellent source of protein, chicken also contains a special amino acid, L-carnitine, which is necessary for sperm cells to function normally. L-carnitine was found in studies, to assist in normalizing sperm motility, which is a crucial component to male fertility. Chicken contains all of the B vitamins which help the body form red blood cells and also produce energy and a healthy nervous system. Folate (vitamin B9) is important in the prevention of neural tube defects in the developing foetus. Chicken is also high in zinc, iron, potassium and phosphorus, all important to health and fertility.
Sweet potato is a great source of beta carotene (which forms vitamin A) and iron. Vitamin A is essential for growth and development of the foetus and in the production of enzymes. Also needed for infection resistance, fat metabolism and red blood cell production. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant which helps prevent damage to cells and helps to keep DNA healthy. Vitamin A is crucial for women about to give birth, as it helps with postpartum tissue repair.
Apricots are a great source of beta carotene and iron too. They are also high in the antioxidant vitamin C which is important in the prevention of free radical damage to the egg and sperm cells and their DNA. In studies it has been found to help improve sperm quality and motility and help prevent agglutination of sperm.
Leeks and onions have been used medicinally for many years due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Leeks are traditionally known as aphrodisiacs and have been linked to supporting ovulation. They are packed full of vital vitamins when it comes to fertility including vitamin A, C, E and along with many B vitamins (including vitamin B2, 3, 5,6 and folate). Folate (vitamin B9) is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division and also in the prevention of neural tube defects. They also contain important minerals which are important for fertility. Leeks and onions are also prebiotic foods and so have an important role to play in gut health which plays an important role in absorption of food, immunity and mental health.
Celery is low in calories, has a low Glycemic load (GL) (great for those wanting to reduce BMI and balance blood sugar levels), is packed full of vitamins and minerals and plays an important role in reducing inflammation and also in detoxification- important factors for fertility and certain conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS. Celery oil has been shown, in combination with vitamin E, to boost sperm count and motility. Celery contains aldosterone, a metabolic product of testosterone, and vitamin E reduces oxidization, creating the best possible environment for the sperm to mature. More research is being conducted in this area.
One Pot Chicken Casserole with Apricots and Mashed Sweet Potato
(Make 4 portions)
6 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
4 medium sweet potatoes
1 large onion
2 large leeks
2 celery sticks
4 fresh apricots (halved with stone removed or 8 dried apricots)
1 heaped tablespoon of plain flour
1 handful of fresh thyme and oregano or 2 tsp of dried mixed herbs
¾ pint of chicken stock
Pinch of turmeric
Place the chicken thighs into a casserole pot and sprinkle over the flour and herbs and give it a good stir.
Next, chop the onions, washed leeks and celery and place into the casserole pot along with the apricots.
Pour the chicken stock over and stir well together. Place into a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 1.5 hours (take out half way through and give it a stir and add the kale).
Meanwhile, peel and chop the sweet potatoes and boil in a pan until soft. When the casserole is ready, mash the potatoes, with a splash of milk of your choice and a spoonful of butter until smooth. Season as required.
Spoon out the potato onto a warmed plate and place the casserole on top or by the side.
This recipe is also fantastic in the slow cooker if you have a busy day ahead. Simply chop the ingredients the night before and place all into the slow cooker first thing in the morning. Easy to double up and freeze. The potato can be frozen too.
Want to read more?
Kooti et al (2017) The effect of celery (Apium graveolens L.) on fertility: A systematic review. J Complement Integr Med. 2017 Oct 6 Published online 2017 Oct 6. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2016-0141
Chavrro et al (2006) Iron Intake and Risk of Ovulatory Infertility. Obstetrics & Gynecology: November 2006 – Volume 108 – Issue 5 – p 1145-1152