The Healthy Sperm Diet
Male infertility is rarely discussed. But, it’s as common as female infertility. Generally, the cause of infertility for a couple is 30% a male infertility factor, 30% female, and 30% both or undetermined. Good nutrition can reduce male infertility risk, improve sperm health, and support more stable genetic material in the sperm. A whole-foods, plant-based diet, rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, and antioxidants are essential for male fertility and sperm health. A healthy sperm diet is low in processed foods, sugar, and high glycemic foods.
Male Infertility and Antioxidants
The leading cause of male infertility is oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is observed in approximately half of all infertile men. Oxidative stress occurs when the production of free radicals exceed the body’s own antioxidant defenses. The best way to combat oxidative stress is by eating more antioxidants. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, beta- carotene, and selenium, help protect cells in the reproductive system from damage by oxidative stress.
Regular intake of vitamins C and E, and the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene have been related to increase sperm motility, morphology, and count!
Foods that are high in these antioxidants include… Dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, chard, kale, beet greens) broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, raw nuts and seeds, peppers, carrots, chia seeds, shiitake mushrooms, legumes.
Zinc and Male Fertility
In addition to antioxidants, zinc plays an important role in the reduction of oxidative stress, sperm maturation, and testosterone synthesis. Men who were treated with a combination of folic acid and zinc sulphate showed a 74 percent increase in normal sperm count.
Combining foods high in zinc with vitamins C or E will increase zinc absorption.
Foods that are high in zinc include… oysters, poultry, grass-fed beef, beans, pumpkin seeds, lobster, crab, and whole-grains.
Folate For Male Fertility
We know that folate status is critical for the preconception period in women because optimal folate levels early in pregnancy can prevent fetal neural tube defects. Folate is also essential for reducing the risk of male fertility and improving sperm health. Higher levels of dietary folate in men have been related to the presence of fewer abnormal sperm than in those men with a low intake of folate.
Vitamin D, Male Hormone Health, and Sperm Quality
Vitamin D is positively associated with semen quality and androgen status. Moreover, optimizing vitamin D levels may increase testosterone levels. Men should make sure to get their levels regularly checked, and aim for optimal levels in the mid-high range of normal.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Sperm Health
Essential fatty acids, including omega-3, are abundant in sperm cell membranes. Omega-3 fats contribute to sperm fluidity, which is necessary for the sperm to penetrate and fertilize the egg. Increasing the intake of essential fatty acids, specifically omega-3, will result in healthier sperm. In fact, Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to increase sperm concentration 16.2 to 28.7 million per ml.
Foods to optimize omega-3 levels: Flax oil, salmon, fish oil, walnuts, flax seeds, sardines, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach.
Supportive Supplements for Male Fertility and Healthy Sperm
I also recommend that all men take 3000 mg daily (in 2-3 divided doses daily) for brain health and sperm health. One high quality omega-3 fatty acid supplement that also contains Vitamin D3 and K2 is this one.
**Talk to your healthcare professional before starting any new supplements.
Soy Can Deplete Sperm Concentration
Research suggests that higher intake of soy foods and soy isoflavones are associated with lower sperm concentration. Limit regular intake of soy foods such as tofu, soymilk, and tempeh.
Pesticides Deplete Sperm Counts
Choose organic fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy when possible. In a study published in the journal Human Reproduction, the men who ate the most pesticide-laden vegetables and fruits had 49% lower sperm counts and 32% more abnormally shaped sperm. For a list of fruits and vegetables highest in pesticides please visit the Environmental Working Group for the “dirty dozen” and “clean-fifteen” lists.
Other Factors that Can Impact Sperm Health
- Heavy metal exposure
- Estrogen exposures from environmental chemical exposure (DDT, PCB)
- Steroid abuse
- Electromagnetic fields exposure (Avoid carrying your cell phone on your belt or in your pocket.)
- Alcohol consumption
- Excess weight
Here’s a delicious and nourishing smoothie from our Preparing for Pregnancy Program that both men and women can enjoy while they are trying to conceive…
8 oz unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup organic pumpkin puree
1 small frozen banana (or 1/2 large)
2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of nutmeg
Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend until well-combined. Enjoy!
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN SPICE IT UP:
– add a scoop of protein powder
– frozen blueberries instead of the banana.
– coconut milk instead of the almond milk
Brown, J., E., Isaacs, J. S. (2014). Nutrition through the life cycle (5th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning
Male Factors for Fertility. (n.d.). Retrieved via http://victoriamaizesmd.com/preparing-for- pregnancy/male-factors-for-fertility/
Zareba, P., Colaci, D. S., Afeiche, M., Gaskins, A. J., Jørgensen, N., Mendiola, J., … Chavarro, J. E. (2013). Semen quality in relation to antioxidant intake in a healthy male population. Fertility and Sterility, 100(6), 1572–1579. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.08.032
Chiu, Y. H., Afeiche, M. C., Gaskins, A. J., Williams, P. L., Petrozza, J. C., Tanrikut, C., … Chavarro, J. E. (2015). Fruit and vegetable intake and their pesticide residues in relation to semen quality among men from a fertility clinic. Human Reproduction, dev064. http://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dev064
Chavarro, J. E., Toth, T. L., Sadio, S. M., & Hauser, R. (2008). Soy food and isoflavone intake in relation to semen quality parameters among men from an infertility clinic. Human Reproduction (Oxford, England), 23(11), 2584–2590. http://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/den243
Lerchbaum, E., & Obermayer-Pietsch, B. (2012). MECHANISMS IN ENDOCRINOLOGY: Vitamin D and fertility: a systematic review.European Journal of Endocrinology, 166(5), 765–778. http://doi.org/10.1530/EJE-11-0984