It takes two to make a baby, which means that the health of dad-to-be is just as important as the health of mom-to-be.
The good news is that there are many ways to improve male fertility, starting with what you eat (and what you stay away from).
Here are ten great foods to boost sperm health, which isn’t just good for dad, but for a healthy pregnancy and baby as well.
Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. Zinc deficiencies have been associated with low testosterone levels, poor sperm quality and an increased risk of male infertility. The good news is that foods high in zinc may actually increase semen volume and sperm motility.
If oysters aren’t your favourite, beef, poultry, dairy, nuts, eggs, whole grains and beans also contain zinc, although not quiet as much of it.
2. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds contain high levels of zinc as well as omega-3 fatty acids. We’ve seen how important zinc is, but omega-3 is also a great way to boost sperm quality. Flaxseeds, almonds and fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, can also add omega-3 to your diet.
3. Cooked tomatoes
Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect sperm from cellular damage. This keeps them strong and speedy, both essential traits when they need to race through the fallopian tubes towards an egg.
Other fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants include dried fruits, pomegranates, cranberries and collard greens, such as broccoli and cabbage.
4. Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are high in protein, fibre and folate. Fibre and folate help the body maintain healthy hormone balances and lentils, in particular contain high levels of the polyamine spermidine, which may help sperm fertilize the egg.
Include chickpeas, cannellini beans or black beans, and add yellow lentils, red lentils or black lentils to stews or soups.
5. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, an essential nutrient shown to boost sperm count and sperm motility. They are also jam-packed with folate and selenium, both of which are important for fertility and hormones, and are a good source of omega-6 fatty acids, with small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. You can also find vitamin E in most nuts and vegetable oils. These healthy seeds make a great snack, or you can add them to dried fruit and nuts to create a trail mix or add them to breakfast cereals and yoghurt.
6. Citrus fruits
Oranges and grapefruits are two of the best sources of vitamin C. Both vitamin C and E are essential antioxidants that protect the body’s cells from damage caused by oxidative stress and free radicals. Vitamin C, in particular contributes to the maintenance of healthy sperm by protecting the sperm’s DNA from free radical damage. It’s also the most abundant antioxidant in the semen of fertile men. Both oranges and grapefruits can be enjoyed on their own, in smoothies or as fresh fruit juices. You can also boost your vitamin C levels by adding more broccoli and tomatoes to your diet.
7. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are power veggies that are packed with vitamins C, E and folate. They’re a great source of starch and fibre as well, and because they’re rich in beta carotene, which is an antioxidant, they protect sperm from cell damage. So, start swapping out regular potatoes for their sweeter cousins, and serve them up roasted, on the braai, or added to stews.
8. Mature cheeses
That’s right, aged cheddar and parmesan can boost your sperm health. That’s because mature cheeses are high in polyamines, a protein naturally found in plants and animals (including humans) and which helps sperm to fertilize eggs. Cheese is high in saturated fats however, so keep your portions small.
9. Egg Yolks
Egg yolks are extremely nutrient dense – they contain iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin A and vitamin B12. They are also a great source of lean, low calorie protein, which has been found to boost fertility in both men and women, plus, free-range eggs are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Enjoy them hard-boiled, scrambled, poached, or fried.
Asparagus is nature’s nutrient-packed superfood. It’s a powerful little veggie that delivers everything – it’s low in calories, will fill you up, and gives your sperm a healthy dose of nutrients. From just one regular serving you’ll get your full daily value of vitamin K, 60% of your daily value of folate, and over 20% of other essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and the B vitamin thiamine.
In with new, healthier habits and out with the old
Healthy sperm isn’t only the result of good eating habits – it’s limiting a few bad habits as well. Smoking can reduce the quality of sperm, cause a lower sperm count and affect general motility (how well sperm swims). Too much alcohol has a similar impact on sperm quality and quality, and it reduces testosterone levels.
If you’re serious about getting your body into peak fertile shape, limit your weekend beers, quit smoking if you’re a smoker, and hit the gym. The fitter and healthier you are, the better your chances of producing great quality sperm.