When we think about nutrition and its impact on fertility, we tend to think about the many recommendations that are given to women who want to conceive. But don’t think that you’re off the hook, gentlemen! Both men and women can suffer from diet related fertility issues, and both can increase their chances of conceiving simply by eating more of the right foods, and fewer unhealthy ones. We’ve already taken a look at how the right diet can help optimize a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. Now it’s time for any hopeful fathers-to-be to consider if they’re meeting these six nutritional recommendations:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce isn’t just good for your overall health – it’s also full of nutrients and antioxidants that help to keep sperm healthy. Many antioxidants help to protect sperm from potential cellular damage and chromosomal defects, while also promoting good motility; this helps increase the chances of the sperm successfully reaching a woman’s fallopian tubes, and also means the sperm will likely contribute to a healthier pregnancy overall. The best way to take advantage of these benefits is to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, so that you get plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E – three key nutrients for boosting both sperm health and motility.
- Actively include foods with folic acid in your diet. While folic acid is a B-vitamin and could fall under the “eat fruits and vegetables” category, it’s so important that it’s worth mentioning separately. Folic acid is best known for helping to reduce the risk of certain birth defects when it’s taken by women. Now research also suggests that it’s important for the production of healthy sperm. In fact, one study found that folic acid can actually lower the risk of sperm abnormalities by 20 to 30 percent. To be safe and to take full advantage of folic acid’s benefits, we recommend that men eat or drink 400 micrograms of it each day. Fortified breakfast cereals, leafy greens, legumes, and orange juice should be enough to help you do this – and if you’re still worried that you need more, a multivitamin supplement can’t hurt!
- Don’t forget the zinc. Zinc is a must-have nutrient when couples want to ensure that their reproductive systems are working properly. Zinc is a critical part of cell division; without it, men are more likely to experience difficulties producing healthy sperm. Eating plenty of zinc, on the other hand, can improve a man’s sperm count and help ensure those sperm are strong, fast and healthy. To help keep your zinc levels up, you should add more oysters, beef, poultry, dairy, eggs, whole grains, beans and nuts to your diet.
- Eat less of the wrong kinds of fat – and more of the right kinds. You’ve likely heard before that there are both good and bad fats that can affect your heart and overall health. It turns out that the reproductive system is also affected by the amounts of, and kinds of, fats that you consume. Research has found that men who ate a diet high in saturated fat experience a drastic reduction in sperm count; in one study, the count fell to 43 percent lower than average. Ouch! On the other hand, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and plants such as flax seed have been found to increase the production of healthy sperm. So if you’re hoping to father a child, reducing the amount of fatty meats and fast food burgers you consume – and replacing them with fresh fish, particularly salmon – may be one of the simplest and healthiest things you can do to increase your natural fertility.
- Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink – or skip it entirely. Passing on the alcohol isn’t just for expecting ladies. Research has found that too much alcohol can reduce your testosterone levels and your overall sperm count, and may even affect the overall health of your sperm. The good news for men is that an occasional drink is generally considered safe; in other words, one or two glasses of beer or wine a week is probably a-ok. But getting drunk is definitely not a good idea when you’re looking to conceive!
- Add a multivitamin tablet to your day. Multivitamins can help ensure that couples who are trying to conceive are getting all of the nutrients they need. Keep in mind, however, that a multivitamin alone will never replace the benefits of eating a balanced, healthy diet. It can, however, give you what might be an extra dose of any vitamins or minerals that you need during the day, and can work alongside your dieting efforts to meet your nutritional needs – and address diet-related fertility issues.
Good nutrition clearly isn’t just for women who want to start a family; the natural fertility of men who are trying to conceive is also affected by nutrition and diet. So if you’ve thought about having children in the near future, now is the time to begin making adjustments in your diet and ensuring that you’re eating a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. An early start will ensure that your sperm have time to reap the benefits of what you eat!
*Please speak with your Healthcare Provider about your specific diet needs when trying to conceive. Not to be taken as medical advice.