Diet and lifestyle choices can affect the health of a man's sperm, so use the following information to guide you in making healthy choices.
Eating for Fertility
Get Folate from Fruits and Vegetables
Folate and vitamin C are important vitamins for normal, healthy sperm and enhancing fertility. Since the majority of fruits and vegetables contain folate, color your plate with at least 2½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day: leafy greens, purple and yellow vegetables, apples, oranges, kiwi, blueberries and melon.
Zinc supports sperm health. To add more zinc to your diet, eat lean red meat, such as sirloin steak, deer or elk meat, bison burger, and pork. Zinc’s also found in oysters, crab, and chicken. Some great plant sources of zinc include kidney beans, chickpeas, spinach, lentils, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and cashews.
The type of fat a man eats can affect fertility. More specifically, saturated and trans fats have been linked with decreased sperm quality. Eating the right types of fat is important, and necessary for membrane fluidity and flexibility (3). Recommendations: limit meats, full-fat dairy products, and fried foods. Replace them with healthy fats.
Ways to include healthy fats:
- Snack on an ounce of walnuts or almonds each day
- Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on roasted vegetables and salads,
- Add avocado to your sandwich.
- Try a new type of nut butter, such as walnut butter or sunflower seed butter, which is so tasty!
Other Healthy Lifestyle Choices for Conception
Don't Drink Too Much Alcohol
Over-consuming alcohol is linked with poor production of normal, healthy sperm (1). If you drink alcohol, follow these guidelines for men: no more than two drinks a day (one drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1½ ounces of spirits).
Avoid Cigarettes and Marijuana
Tobacco use is linked with low sperm counts and slow moving sperm; smoking marijuana over a prolonged period of time can result in low sperm counts and poorly developed sperm (1).
Research has shown that overweight and obesity can lead to fertility problems by creating hormonal disturbances. Men with a BMI greater than 35 are more likely to have a lower sperm count and higher numbers of sperm with DNA damage compared with normal-weight men (2). Eat right and balance calorie intake with exercise. By eating fewer processed foods and more whole foods — such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins — there's less room for mindless eating and empty calorie consumption. On the flip side, being underweight has negative effects on sperm, such as decreased count and poor function (4).
Aim to exercise five days a week for 30 minutes. Too much exercise has been shown to decrease testosterone, which can indirectly lower sperm counts. Avoid steroid use; it can affect fertility by causing testicular shrinkage.
Stress can interfere with certain hormones needed to produce sperm, and severe or prolonged emotional stress can affect your sperm count. Look into the adaptogen ashwagandha. It's a calming adaptogen meaning it provides the body with what it needs to adapt to physical and psychological stressors.
As you can see, nutrition has a significant impact on a male’s reproductive function. Most of these tips are simple to implement too, so it’s worth a try.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
1. Denny, Sharon MS, RDN. How a Man's Diet Affects Fertility Too. Nov. 19, 2014.
2. Chavarro JE, Toth TL, Wright DL, Meeker JD, Hauser R. Body mass index in relation to semen quality, sperm DNA integrity, and serum reproductive hormone levels among men attending an infertility clinic. Fertil Steril. 2010;93(7):2222-2231.
3. Robbins WA, Xun L, FitzGerald LZ, Esguerra S, Henning SM, Carpenter CL. Walnuts improve semen quality in men consuming a Western-style diet: randomized control dietary intervention trial. Biol Reprod. 2012;87(4):101.
4. Sermondade N, Faure C, Fezeu, L, et al. BMI in relation to sperm count: an updated systematic review and collaborative meta-analysis. Hum Reprod Update. 2013;19(3):221-231.