Food for thought: A nutritionist reveals the foods that can feed fertility for men – Happiful Magazine

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With infertility impacting 1 in 7 couples in the UK, knowing how to support the body when trying for a baby is a helpful step. Here, Jenna Farmer chats to a nutritionist about foods that feed fertility for men

Trying for a baby is an exciting time for many couples. But, for others, it can be a harder journey. Infertility can be extremely difficult to live with, but it’s also not uncommon, with the NHS estimating that around one in seven couples have difficulties conceiving. When this happens, there can be a range of different causes, and for a quarter of couples that reason is never actually identified. However, in other cases, it can be down to things like poor-quality semen.

“Sperm counts among men in the West have more than halved in the past 40 years, and are currently falling by an average of 1.4% a year,” says nutritionist Isobel Baillie Hamilton. “Most male infertility reflects abnormal sperm count (oligospermia) or quality of sperm, and natural barriers in the female reproductive tract allow only 40 of 20 million ejaculated sperm to reach the vicinity of the egg.”

It’s important to note that not all of these problems can be improved by diet and nutrition (for example, these could also be caused by certain medications) but, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, diet can affect male fertility, and a healthy balanced diet can also help increase chances of conception. So, let’s take a closer look at fertility foods for men.

Think Mediterranean

The Mediterranean diet, which centres around fish, wholegrains, and veggies (and eliminates things like processed foods) has been linked to a whole range of health benefits, from heart health to longer lifespan, but a recent study, published in the journal Nutrients, found it also increased a couples chance of conception, specifically due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

“Following a Mediterranean diet can provide us with essential antioxidants such as zinc, vitamins C and E, as well as fish oils/omega-3 and selenium (found in Brazil nuts). All of these beautiful nutrients have been shown to boost sperm count and improve the sperm’s ability to wiggle to where it needs to be for successful conception,” Isobel explains.

Swap to organic

You don’t need to eat organic all of the time, but swapping certain foods for organic versions may be more beneficial than others when it comes to overall health benefits.

“Pesticides and chemicals can negatively impact sperm quality and quantity, not to mention those that have been directly linked to azoospermia (when a man’s semen has no measurable sperm),” Isobel says. “I recommend my clients familiarise themselves with the ‘Clean 15’ and ‘Dirty Dozen’ lists. The top 15 foods with the least pesticides are called the ‘Clean 15’, while the 12 foods with the most pesticides are called the ‘Dirty Dozen’. These lists are fantastic to take with you on your shopping trips to know when to buy organic, and when it’s OK to buy conventional!”

Make sure you get enough vitamin C

Whether it’s a glass of OJ each morning or a brightly coloured salad packed with broccoli and peppers, foods rich in vitamin C are an easy fertility food to add to your diet. For the most impact, it could be worth opting for a high-quality supplement. In fact, one study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, on infertile men showed that taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C supplements twice a day for up to two months garnered impressive results. It increased sperm motility by 92%, and sperm count by more than 100%. It also reduced the proportion of deformed sperm cells by 55%.

Ditch the alcohol

It’s not just about food swaps, but drink swaps, too. Alcohol is often the first thing people ditch when embarking on a fertility journey, and there’s science to back it up!

“Excessive use of alcohol can reduce sperm count, and eliminating this from your diet can drastically improve your chances of successful fertility,” says Isobel. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have the occasional beer or glass of wine. One study, published in the journal Fertility Research & Practice, found that men who consumed a low amount of alcohol had no difference in semen parameters, suggesting that, like most things, it really is all about moderation.

Tuck into high-zinc food

Several studies have shown zinc is important in male fertility, helping with sperm quality and normal sperm function. The good news is that lots of everyday foods contain zinc – from shellfish to eggs and nuts – so incorporating more of these in your diet is a great place to start. Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc, so there’s never been a better excuse to splash out on a fancy seafood restaurant.


Don’t forget to de-stress

While making healthy food choices is really important, there’s little point in reaching for the foods on this list if you’re not working on lifestyle changes, too. All the veggies in the world can’t compensate for a high-stress lifestyle, so looking at how you can de-stress is one of the most important things you can do.

“Cortisol is most well known as being our ‘stress hormone’. In cases of acute and chronic stress and trauma (physical or emotional), this hormone is released, and other important fertility-friendly hormones are suppressed,” Isobel explains. “It is therefore essential that we gather the tools to temper our stress and cortisol levels, seeking help from counsellors and professionals where necessary. Don’t be put off if you don’t have success with therapy the first time – it usually takes trial and error to find the right course for you – but it’s important to know that there are people out there who can help!”

While the food choices on this list may not be the complete solution for fertility problems, they can give you a good place to start. And remember, if you have any concerns about your health, your fertility, or trying to conceive, it’s always important to reach out to your GP.

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