White Bean Ragout and Vegetable Chili for Vegetable Protein

This week’s key diet ingredient: protein

Americans love protein, especially animal protein which tends to be the centerpiece of most meals. Beef, chicken and pork are the stars while fish runs a distant fourth. Unfortunately, data gleaned from the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study of 2007 shows that animal proteins may inhibit fertility.

Protein helps to regulate insulin function, and it’s important for early fetal development. As with iron, the source of the protein makes a real difference. While we lean toward animal sources, it is the consumption of plant proteins which increases fertility (or decreases infertility as the case may be).

Ovulatory infertility was 39 percent more likely in women from the Nurses’ Health Study who received their protein mostly from animal sources. And the reverse was true for women with high intake of plant protein; they were substantially more likely to conceive without trouble.

The researchers created a computer model whereby they introduced one serving of animal protein (beef, chicken or turkey) to women’s diets and there occurred a nearly one-third increase of ovulatory infertility. With an additional serving of fish or eggs, there was no change and when they added a serving of plant protein (beans, peas, tofu, peanuts or other) there was a modest protection against ovulatory infertility predicted by the models.

They also created computer models for many varieties of portion control. The one that afforded the best fertility outcomes was replacing 25 grams of animal protein with 25 grams of plant protein which created a 50% lower risk of ovulatory infertility.

There are delicious ways to add plant proteins to your diet. Try one of the recipes below:

Kale and White Bean Ragout with Parmesan Polenta



  • ½ tsp of salt
  • 1 c. stone ground cornmeal (polenta)
  • 1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Ground pepper


  • 1 bunch dinosaur kale (loaded with calcium!)
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 1 onion peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 cans cannellini beans (keep liquid, especially if organic)
  • ¾ to 1 cup chicken broth
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbl pitted and chopped kalamata olives

To make polenta:

  1. Bring 4-1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat.
  2. Whisk in the polenta, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until polenta is thick and no longer grainy, about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese; add pepper to taste.
  4. Set aside and keep warm.

To make ragout:

  1. Tear the kale leaves from the stems and pull off the tough veins that run down the center.
  2. Rinse the leaves well and cut into ¼ inch ribbons.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  4. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, including the juices, using a fork to break up the tomatoes into small chunks.
  6. Add the beans, including their liquid, ¾ cup broth, and the kale, cumin, and paprika.
  7. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the kale is tender, about 15 minutes, adding more broth if the ragout begins to look dry.
  8. Stir in the lemon juice and olives.
  9. Add pepper to taste.
  10. Spoon the polenta onto plates and top with the ragout.
  11. Top with fresh Parmesan if desired.

Serves 4 to 6.

Southwest Vegetable Chili


  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 tbl minced jalapeno pepper (adjust to your heat tolerance)
  • 2 tbl chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp lime juice


  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and stir frequently until onion softens, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add corn, peppers, and jalapeno and cook 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the spices and salt and cook for one minute more.
  5. Add the tomatoes, beans, and ¾ cup water; bring to a boil.
  6. Cover, reduce the het, and simmer for 20 minutes to lend the flavors, stirring occasionally.
  7. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice.

Cornbread is a nice side dish.

Serves 4 to 6

Source: Newsweek.com, Cooking to Conceive

photo by Christa Richert

Whether you are prepping for pregnancy, birth or an energetic parenthood, diet impacts your body, your mood and your success. Significant fertility issues will call for medical advice and intervention; however, a balanced diet can support optimal hormone levels and keep your reproductive organs healthy. Obesity and BMI are clearly related to regular ovulation as well, so it’s really important to maintain optimal weight. Lifestyle choices affect your health and your fertility.


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