Investigation usually begins with the women when it comes to fertility. There is a real focus on women’s reproductive health, with the men’s side of things playing second fiddle. Remember, it takes two people to make a baby. Whether this is with your partner or via a sperm donor, you need a healthy egg and sperm to conceive and have a successful pregnancy. This is why it’s so crucial that both parties work towards health goals together. For men, there is a lot you can do to improve your chances via nutrition and lifestyle adjustments.
There are a number of factors that play into sperm health. Common causes of sub optimal fertility include low sperm count (the number per ejaculate), low motility (slow movement) and high morphology (mis-shapen). Things that can be damaging to sperm include:
- A diet rich in processed foods, added sugars, excessive saturated and trans fats
- High alcohol consumption
- Extreme exercising (body building & taking growth steroids) & regular cycling
- Regular hot baths and saunas
- Frequently working with a laptop on your lap
- Tight clothing & briefs
There are some specific nutrients that have shown to have beneficial effects on sperm health. A healthy balanced diet should include the following:
Men have a much higher requirement for Zinc as it is one of the most crucial nutrients needed for sperm production. It is essential for keeping the DNA within the sperm intact, meaning it can improve pregnancy outcomes. Research has shown men who suffer from sub-optimal fertility can often be depleted in zinc levels. Supplementation has shown to improve both concentration and motility.
Top food sources of Zinc include -oysters, beef, pork, chicken, fish & eggs. Plant based foods such as beans, chickpeas, nuts & seeds also contain Zinc.
Co-enzyme Q10 is a potent antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage and is crucial in energy production. This is particularly important for the production of sperm and its ability to survive, swim to the egg and fertilise it. There is some research to suggest that increased levels of CoQ10 can improve overall sperm count.
Top food sources of CoQ10 include – organ meats, pork, beef, chicken, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines etc), vegetables (spinach, broccoli), fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Lycopene is another antioxidant compound which tends to be lower in infertile men. It can also have positive effects on sperm. It is fat soluble, meaning it needs to be consumed with a small amount of fat in order for our bodies to properly absorb and utilise it.
A number of fruits and vegetables contain Lycopene. However the best sources are tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, carrots and red peppers. The more concentrated the tomatoes the better, so tomato puree is one of the best options.
Just like women, folate is also an important nutrient for men when it comes to fertility. Folate is crucial for keeping cells healthy and improving their internal DNA. 50% of a baby’s genetic makeup will come from the male sperm. It’s essential this is as healthy as possible.
Key food sources of folate include – green leafy vegetables, wholegrains and fortified cereals. Food sources of folate tend to be more readily absorbed by our bodies than the synthetic supplement form of folic acid. This is why it’s so important to bulk up on leafy greens throughout the day to ensure you are getting enough.
Also read: 14 Tips for How to Get Pregnant
Selenium is needed for normal sperm function. It can contribute to both the morphology and mobility of sperm, allowing it to grow to a good size and shape as well as helping them be better swimmers. Selenium is also an antioxidant, which protects the sperm from oxidative damage during their maturation stage.
It can be a bit difficult to get adequate levels of selenium via foods as it depends on the soil quality of where the food was grown. The best way to get enough selenium into the diet is by consuming 2 brazil nuts per day, which are a very dense source.
Vitamin E is another useful antioxidant that has shown to protect the sperm’s membrane from damage and improve both count and motility.
Food sources include – sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, spinach, kale, avocado, broccoli, extra virgin olive oil, tahini
Need some more tips on male fertility? Why not book in to speak to our fertility specialist Gail for a free 20 minute consultation to discuss how a bespoke nutrition and lifestyle plan can improve your chances of conception. See below:
Written by Fertility, Pregnancy and Hormone Specialist Gail Da Silva Madalena at The Natural Balance.
If you would like to book a Free consultation with Gail to discuss your specific concerns, you can do so here.