Male Fertility Diet: 8 Things to Eat (and Avoid) when TTC
When it comes to a male fertility diet, it really is a case of you (and your swimmers) are what you eat. The truth is, your chances of conceiving can be massively impacted by what you put into your body and if you are trying for a baby, there are some important foods for sperm health you want to include and some unhealthy eating habits you should drop.
Changing your diet overnight isn’t easy – and a drastic approach makes it harder to stick to. It’s always better to get informed about the benefits of different fertility foods for men and make sustainable changes that you can maintain.
In this post we will lay out the key factors of an effective male fertility diet so you can start to include foods for sperm health in your meal plan!
Can a healthy diet increase male fertility?
The short answer is yes – in most cases.
Sperm regenerates every 72 days – so every few weeks you have a whole new batch of swimmers to play with. That means if you boost your diet with sperm friendly nutrients, you could see a great improvement in a relatively short space of time.
There are, of course, some conditions that mean sperm health can not be improved by lifestyle or dietary changes alone. For guys dealing with azoospermia (no sperm at all in the semen) they may require assisted fertility treatments to become parents. Likewise, if your issue is blockages caused by varicoceles or other physical conditions – you may need more than a dietary overhaul to improve their fertility chances.
However, if you’re struggling to conceive – or do an at-home fertility test and find your sperm is a little low on count or motility – healthy foods could help you out.
The ins and outs of a male fertility diet
So where do you start? First, let’s look at the fertility foods for men that you should definitely be putting in your shopping cart.
Foods to eat for male fertility
We all know that eating our greens is important for our overall health, but when it comes to male fertility – it’s crucial.
Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale are some of the best foods for male fertility. They’re bursting with essential nutrients for healthy conception – including folate. Folate (aka folic acid) is well known to help reduce the risk of birth defects when women take it before or during pregnancy. However it can also help improve sperm production – leading to faster, healthier swimmers – and more of them!
Fruit & vegetables
It’s not only dark leafy greens that are great vegetables for male fertility. You want to try and include as many fruits and vegetables in your diet every day, as they will all have benefits for your sperm health. The list is pretty much endless (aka eat all the fruit and veg you can!) but here are a few sperm superfoods to look out for…
- Bell peppers – a top source of vitamin C and carotenoids.
- Avocados – contain healthy fats, magnesium and potassium.
- Bananas – have lots of vitamins that help the body manufacture healthier and stronger sperm cells.
- Pomegranates – full of antioxidants.
The list goes on!
Oily fish is an incredible source of Omega-3 – one of the most important nutrients for sperm health. It not only protects your sperm from oxidative stress, but it can also improve the morphology and motility of your swimmers.
A great way to remember which fish to include in your male fertility diet is the acronym SMASH – Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring. These are some of the most naturally fatty (good fats!) fish out there and will really help give your Omega-3 levels a boost.
If there’s one thing you add to your male fertility diet – make it nuts. They are a seriously healthy snack that can keep you going on the go, and are absolutely bursting with fertility boosting vitamins.
Most nuts contain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, selenium (a natural antioxidant) and other vitamins that could improve sperm quality. Research has shown that adding nuts into your diet could have an incredible effect on everything from sperm morphology, to motility and even DNA damage. Walnuts, brazil nuts and almonds are some of the best nuts for male fertility but the majority of tree nuts will pack a sperm boosting punch!
Oysters have long had a reputation for spicing up your sex life by being a natural aphrodisiac. However, they are also an important food for male fertility – and that’s mainly down to their zinc content. Studies indicate that low zinc levels can be linked to poor sperm motility, volume and low testosterone – so you want to keep them topped up.
Whilst zinc can be found in a number of foods, including meat and eggs – oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food – making them a great fertility food for men!
Foods to avoid for male fertility
Now you know what you want to fill your plate up with, here are a few food groups that you want to cut down on or avoid altogether when trying to conceive.
This will come as no surprise, but processed foods are pretty bad for you (and your sperm). Research has shown that eating too much processed meat could have a negative impact on sperm morphology (the shape of your sperm). Even vegetable based ready meals aren’t great for you. The chemicals and preservatives not only suck all the nutrients out of the veggies, but they often contain a lot of saturated fats – which sperm do not like.
A good rule of thumb is to try to eat foods that are in their natural state. Swap sausages and burgers for lean meats, and that microwavable packet of mac and cheese for a home-cooked brown pasta dish.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but sugar is one of the worst foods for sperm health. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever treat yourself, but if you know your sweet tooth can occasionally get out of control – it might be time to address it.
Studies have shown that men with high sugar diets suffer from low sperm quality – as well as being more prone to other conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Try to cut down on anything with excess sugar instead curb your cravings with naturally sweet fruits like strawberries and grapes.
It’s rare to find an adult that doesn’t depend on a coffee first thing to get them going – and you don’t have to give up your cup of joe altogether. However, research indicates that intense coffee drinking (aka more than two cups a day) could damage fertility and even increase the risk of miscarriage.
But remember, caffeine isn’t only found in your morning flat white. Energy drinks and soft drinks like Coke all contain caffeine – so make sure to limit how much you’re drinking or considering swapping to a decaf alternative.
Supplements for male fertility
Whilst it’s a good idea to try and get most of your nutrients from your new and improved male fertility diet – you might also want to boost them with supplements created with sperm health in mind. Supplements definitely don’t replace the need to eat healthily – but it can help support your sperm health as well as your overall well being.
Whilst oily fish is the best natural source of omega-3, you may not fancy eating sardines 3 times a day. Taking an omega-3 supplement is a great way to protect your sperm from oxidation and DNA damage.
The best way to keep your Vitamin D levels topped up is to get out in the sun. However, the vast majority of people in the Northern hemisphere struggle to get enough sunlight and many suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Studies have found that men with a Vitamin D deficiency are more likely to experience fertility issues and that high levels could help improve sperm production and motility – su supplementation is crucial!
It’s not just important for women to take folic acid ahead of pregnancy – it’s also a great thing for men to do too. Try to make sure you’re getting plenty of folate from natural sources like kale and spinach but consider topping up with a folic acid supplement for extra impact.
Zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin E
There are many other nutrients that you want to ensure are consistently topped up through both diet and supplementation. Zinc, Vitamin C and Vitamin E are all great for improving your sperm count and quality – and protecting sperm cells from damage.
Lifestyle improvements for male fertility
There are plenty of important fertility foods for men – but that’s only one side of the coin. Adopting a healthy lifestyle overall is the best thing you can do for your long term sperm health and we’ve found three things you should try and do alongside your male fertility diet plan.
Exercise is such an important element of a healthy lifestyle – and your fertility. Upping your fitness regime can not only help you reach or maintain a healthy weight but it also has a bunch of other benefits.
Workouts involving weights have been proven to increase your testosterone levels, whilst cardio-vascular exercise is great for getting your blood pumping. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what exercise you do – as long as you are moving your body and keeping fit.
Speak to any fertility expert and they’ll tell you that smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your sperm health.
Studies have proven that guys who smoke had lower sperm motility and count compared to men that don’t. The chemicals in cigarettes can also seriously damage the DNA within the sperm cells, which can lead to decreased fertility – as well as risk of unhealthy pregnancy and even miscarriage. The good news is that if you stop smoking ahead of trying to conceive, your sperm can recover and become healthier in just a few months.
Reduce alcohol intake
While women are generally advised not to drink at all whilst trying to conceive, the jury is still out on the exact guidance for men.
However, most researchers agree that heavy alcohol consumption is not good for male fertility and can decrease the number of healthy looking sperm cells. If you know you want to try for a baby soon, try to limit yourself to a couple of drinks a week or try giving up altogether!
Alcohol is also associated with other unhealthy habits – like smoking and eating junk food – so cutting down will likely have a positive affect on your overall health and fertility.
Where to start with your male fertility diet plan
A diet overhaul can feel a little overwhelming but there are a few ways to ease into an improved male fertility mindset.
- Get into cooking – Learning to love the process of cooking and creating healthy meals, will also help you enjoy eating them. You’ll also find that once you swap takeaways and ready meals for home-cooked dishes, you’ll start eating more whole, healthy foods without even realising it.
- Eat the rainbow – A great way to make sure you’re including a diverse range of vegetables in your male fertility diet is to make your plate as colourful as possible. Try and eat a vegetable from each colour of the rainbow and you’ll soon hit your 5 a day target!
- Make easy swaps – Rather than cutting out something completely try and make a few swaps each day. Trade in your lunchtime cake for a banana or yoghurt, and swap your espresso for a green tea.
- Track your progress – When you see that the changes you’re making are having a positive impact, it gives you the motivation to keep going. You can use the ExSeed at-home test to analyse your sperm every 3 months – and watch your motility and sperm count go up!