Exercise is a fundamental cornerstone in maintaining a healthy lifestyle to ensure efficient sperm production. As the saying goes “abs are made in the kitchen”, diet is a crucial element in sperm production. Many different vitamins and minerals interact in order to facilitate spermatogenesis, some chemical components may actually hinder sperm production and therefore affect male fertility. This blog post will explore the key vitamins and the food sources in which they can be obtained.
Diet is often a neglected aspect of life in our modern day and age due to the easiness and readiness of food available on demand, following the countless stages of processing and adding chemicals. These foods must be avoided in general to reduce the risk of diseases, but must be critically avoided if you are having troubles conceiving. Diets containing foods rich in micronutrients (such as vitamin C, E, folate, and zinc) and antioxidants, can boost the quality of DNA contained within sperm. The list of sources of these vital nutrients is endless so I shall hand-pick some that I found interesting:
(Image sourced from- http://www.zitawest.com/top-nutrients-male-fertility/)
Vitamin A– a lower than average consumption of vitamin A has been linked to lower sperm motility and therefore lower fertility. Sources of this vitamin include carrots, oats, spinach, and broccoli.
Vitamin C– In men aged 44 and above, men who consumed more vitamin C had 20% less sperm damaged compared to men of the same age consuming less vitamin C, as well as a positive effect on sperm viability and motility. Vitamin C protects sperm from oxidation and has been shown to reduce sperm ‘clumping’. Sources of vitamin C include fruit, yellow vegetables, and asparagus.
Zinc- diets deficient in zinc have been linked with reduced testosterone levels, and therefore reduced sperm counts. Zinc content is often lost or damaged when foods are cooked or processed, therefore modern diets are lacking this essential nutrient. Sources of zinc include beef, lamb, oysters and seeds.
Fatty acids- men who consume more omega-3 fatty acids tend to have higher quality semen than those who consumed less. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, walnuts, and other fatty fish.
Folic Acids- diets deficient in folic acids have been linked with an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities which could increase the risk of miscarriage or genetic disorders such as Down’s syndrome. Sources of folic acid include kidney beans, spinach, and asparagus.
As well as maintaining a balanced diet, incorporating as many of the above nutrients as possible, it is important to stay adequately hydrated to ensure healthy sperm production.
Consumption of processed red meats such as hot dogs, bacon and burgers has been linked with a decrease in sperm quality, this could be due to chemicals added, reduced zinc content or increased saturated fats. However, it is worth noting that processed meats in moderation won’t render you infertile, so don’t feel extra guilty about those pigs in blankets over Christmas. Another common diet issue is a high sugar consumption, which can in turn lead to type 2 diabetes and obesity which have disastrous consequences for sperm health. Most microwave ready meals and convenience foods have excess added sugar, therefore home-cooked meals are suggested if conception is proving difficult.
In conclusion, moderation within the modern diet is key to the successful fertilization of the egg. Nutrients cooperate to facilitate the composition of key proteins, enzymes and protective components of the sperm cells. Healthy changes to a ‘Western’ diet will not only have benefits for male fertility, but also with general health and protection against many diseases.