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Dads to be: Diet changes to boost your fertility

We talked about fertility and women’s diet, how diet affects women’s probability to get pregnant. What about a fertility diet for men, does it affect conception?
Nutrition has a direct effect on the effectiveness of sperm. Having a poor diet can decrease the quality and quantity of sperm and make conception more difficult. What a man eats during the preconception stage is just as important as what the woman is eating, especially if you are experiencing fertility issues.

Why the three-month lag time?
Changing your eating habits at least 3 months before conception can help you create healthy sperm. Sperm are formed in a 3-month cycle; what you eat today creates the sperm you will be using 3 months from now.

Is the fertility diet for men different than the woman?
The way that men have to eat in preparation for conception and to increase sperm count is not that different from women but there are some nutrients that they need more than women do, so ensure to include those foods in your diet.

The important nutrient that affects men’s fertility
– Zinc. Considered one of the most important trace minerals for male fertility. Increasing zinc levels in infertile men have been shown to boost sperm levels; improve the function, form, and quality of male sperm, raise testosterone, and decrease male infertility. Zinc deficiencies are some of the most common deficiencies found in both women and men. The reason for this is that zinc can be damaged when foods are processed or cooked. So it is necessary to eat a diet that is at least 50% raw. Food sources: Calf liver, oysters, beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, turkey, yogurt, green peas, and shrimp.
– Vitamin C and other antioxidants. These nutrients help prevent sperm defects and improve motility especially if you smoke. Aim to get a minimum of 90 mg a day and more if you smoke (at least 125 mg). A glass of orange juice has around 124 mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C is another nutrient that is sensitive to cooking and processing so it is necessary to get it from eating foods raw. Drinking store-bought orange juice will not aid to increase your vitamin C levels as it has been pasteurized at high levels and lost its entire DNA protecting abilities; orange juice has to be consumed fresh-pressed only.
– Folic acid. Men with low levels of folate had higher risks for sperm that contained too little or too many chromosomes. If an egg is fertilized with one of these abnormal sperm it can result in a birth defect such as Down’s syndrome, or an increase in miscarriage. You may be able to get the daily minimum of 400 micrograms from bean, spinach, asparagus, leafy greens, fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice.

Dietary changes dads-to-be can make to boost their fertility
Here are some fertility diet tips to add in your current diet which will help you get all the nutrients needed for healthy male fertility. You will start to have more energy, create a stronger immune system as well as promote healthy fertility.
– Diet rich in fruits and vegetables: Benefit from the antioxidant, the hormone balancing properties of green vegetables and fiber.
– Eat at least 1 large green salad per day: Eating a large salad that contains many different varieties of vegetables will help to provide your body with the nutrients it needs for optimal health and DNA protection. Add a bit of raw sesame and pumpkin seeds on top for added zinc.
– Eat 1 dark leafy green vegetable a day: Kale, broccoli, collards and spinach are packed with nutrition.
– Fish and whole grains: A healthy diet including plenty of vegetables, fish, and whole grains means more active sperm.
– Nuts and seeds daily: Use them in your smoothies or on top of salads.
Drink plenty of water

Food to avoid
– Avoid dairy products or at least keep it to a minimum: Dairy contains hormones (mostly estrogen) which can have a bad impact on testosterone levels. You can replace milk with protein and nutrient-rich nut milks.
Soy foods: Soy foods are one more estrogen-mimicking food that should be avoided.
– Trans fat: a diet high in trans fats may decrease the number of sperm in semen.
– Nonorganic food: Eat only organic; pesticides have been shown to be one of the major reasons for the declining fertility in men. They mimic estrogen in the body which can cause testosterone to decline.
– Genetically Modified foods: GMO can be a cause of infertility. It is becoming a real problem when it comes to fertility, leading to an influx in worldwide infertility rates.
Check this article to know the truth behind genetically modified foods.

Other factors that affect men’s fertility
– Smoking: It can reduce sperm production and damage DNA.
– Coffee: Whether drinking coffee helps or harms your fertility is less clear. The safest bet is to drink no more than a cup or two per day.
– Alcohol: Serious drinkers risk damaging their sperm. In case you drink, have no more than 1 or 2 drinks a day. An occasional drink is usually considered safe, but drinking beer, wine, or hard liquor daily can reduce testosterone levels and sperm counts and raise the number of abnormal sperm in the ejaculate.

Christelle Bedrossian
Beirut, Lebanon

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Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian