Trying to conceive? Fertility expert and nutritionist Isabelle Obert reveals 10 ways to increase male fertility through diet – boosting those swimmers’ quality – even if his sperm count is low
A good diet is so important for healthy sperm development, not only what you take in but also what you reduce and/or avoid completely. A great deal of interest is growing in the research of sperm quality and viability. Quality is more important than quantity and it is now believed that men with a comparatively low sperm count can still be fertile if the sperm is in good condition.
it is now believed that men with a comparatively low sperm count can still be fertile if the sperm is in good condition
Sperm is particularly vulnerable to free radical damage known as oxidative stress. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are linked with cellular destruction and high levels endanger sperm function and viability. Causes include poor nutrition, pollutants such as smoking, environmental chemicals and poor detoxification processes by the body.
Semen normally contains antioxidants to protect sperm against free radicals and if in some way this natural defence system is impaired, the effect on sperm can be extremely damaging. Therefore it is essential both to remove potential causes of free radical damage and to eat a diet high in antioxidants.
8 foods to eat more of…
Tomatoes are one of the best food sources of the antioxidant lycopene. There have been several studies undertaken on lycopene and male fertility and it has been found to significantly improve motility (the sperms ability to swim), activity and structure of sperm. Lycopene is more available in cooked or processed tomatoes, so use tomato puree for a real hit and add olive oil to aid absorption of this fat-soluble antioxidant.
Walnuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and according to a study by the Society for the Study of Reproduction eating 2.5 oz or around 75g of walnuts (about a handful) daily is linked with increased sperm vitality, motility and morphology. They’re a great way to add flavour and crunch to salads or as a nutritious mid afternoon snack to help manage blood sugar levels.
Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which plays an important role in sperm development and testosterone production. They are also rich in several other essential minerals and vitamins. Choose raw, organic pumpkin seeds for optimal nutritional value and sprinkle into cereals, salads and smoothies.
Lentils are one of the richest food sources of folate (natural folic acid) which is just as important for male fertility as it is for female fertility. It has been found that men who have a lower intake of folate from their diet have higher rates of chromosomal abnormalities in their sperm. Lentils are also a great vegetarian source of protein and fibre. Try Asian spiced lentils with grilled cod … a delicious and nutritious combination.
Blueberries are wonderful source of powerful, anti-inflammatory antioxidants including quercetin and resveratrol. Studies show that quercetin can help in maintaining healthy sperm parameters including motility and quality and resveratrol has been found to improve sperm count and motility. Include a handful of blueberries daily, they’re delicious whizzed up in a smoothie or sprinkled over Greek yoghurt and topped with a little good quality granola and some chopped walnuts.
One of the simplest ways of improving sperm count and quality is to drink enough water. Semen is water based and increasing liquid consumption can help increase the ejaculate and improve sperm production. Ensure it is more water that you are consuming, caffeine is a diuretic and soft drinks may be linked with lowering sperm counts.
pomegranate causes surges in testosterone, improves sperm quality and increases sex drive
Pomegranate has long been considered a superfood due to its high antioxidant content which can improve blood circulation, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower inflammation. Research shows that pomegranate causes surges in testosterone, improves sperm quality and increases sex drive and mood in both sexes. A Turkish study showed that rats fed pomegranate juice daily for seven weeks showed an increase in the production of antioxidants that help protect the vulnerable fatty acids in sperm against oxidation. Drink a glass of good quality, 100 per cent pomegranate juice daily.
8. DARK CHOCOLATE
Dark chocolate is a rich source of the amino acid L-arginine which studies show can increase the volume of ejaculate and improve sperm count and motility. The darker the chocolate, the better – try the delicious bittersweet 85 per cent dark chocolate … a little goes a long way.
…and 2 things to give up
Although studies seem to show that caffeine does not adversely affect sperm count, the ability to swim or the shape of the sperm, an American study found that higher caffeine consumption appears to reduce the chances of a clinical pregnancy during IVF. So (both partners) try and keep to one (decent) cup of coffee daily.
2. DIET DRINKS
Research shows that aspartame (sweetener widely used in diet drinks) is linked with lower sperm count and can contribute to sperm DNA damage. Don’t rush out and buy the full fat version though as the high sugar content is not good news and research shows that men who consume more soft drinks of any kind tend to have lower sperm counts.
More from Isabelle
Isabelle Obert is a nutrition consultant who has worked at Zita West — one of London’s leading fertility clinics — since 2005, and has helped thousands of couples with her holistic approach to fertility. After her own struggle with fertility, she founded NutureMe with former client Abby Parkes in 2014. The service offers nutritional support for women and couples trying to get pregnant by providing personalized consultations and delivering supplements