The well-being of your sperm may not be something you have given a lot of thought to, but if you are planning to become a parent anytime soon, you might as well do whatever you can to ensure that your tiny bundles of genetic propagators are plentiful and healthy.
There are a number of treatment options to improve the health of your sperm and your fertility, including fertility drugs, surgery and assisted reproductive technology. But before you resort to these there are many simple things you can do to give your reproductive cells the best chance of doing their job by eating a diet of sperm boosting foods and avoiding things that are detrimental to sperm health.
Healthy sperm food
For plenty of happy and viable sperm, include the following in a balanced diet:
Deficiencies in vitamin A have been linked to sluggish sperm and lowered fertility. Eat plenty of red peppers, oats, carrots, dried apricots, sweet potatoes, spinach and broccoli to give you a vitamin A boost.
Vitamin C, found in good amounts in strawberries, asparagus, fruit and yellow veggies, has a positive effect on sperm viability and motility (the swimming ability of sperm).
Vitamins C, E and B12 are also great antioxidants that can help boost sperm production and motility by fighting harmful free radicals.
A good multivitamin supplement is a great idea if you feel that you are not getting enough of the sperm supporting vitamins from your regular diet.
Inadequate levels of zinc can cause lowered sperm counts. Natural sources of this mineral include eggs, turkey, oysters, seafood, pumpkin seeds, beef, oats, lamb, yogurt, nuts and barley.
Selenium is also thought to be beneficial to sperm motility and health. You can get it by eating Brazil nuts, red meat, cottage cheese, poultry and eggs.
Studies have shown that fertile men’s sperm tends to contain greater amounts of polyunsaturated fats, specifically Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, than that of infertile men. They are found in walnuts and fish like anchovies, sardines and salmon.
Some men who have been taking dietary supplements containing folic acid in combination with zinc have experienced increases in sperm counts of as much as 70% and research suggests that men with low folic acid levels tend to have more sperm cells with chromosomal (genetic) abnormalities. Keep your levels up by eating leafy green veggies, whole grain foods, avocados, beans and fruit.
Lycopene, a bright red carotene found in tomatoes, tomato sauce, carrots, watermelons and pawpaw, has been shown to help increase sperm counts.
By drinking plenty of water throughout the day you can counteract dehydration which is one of the main factors associated with low semen volume.
Foods to avoid
Pesticide-laced fruit and veg
Chemical pesticides which are liberally sprayed onto many food crops and residues of which may remain on the vegetables and fruit you buy at the shop, are known to have detrimental effects on sperm health and fertility. Always wash your fresh produce thoroughly before eating it, or better yet, go organic.
Bisphenol-A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical found in some plastics has been linked to decreased sperm health and many researchers believe that our biggest exposure to it comes from food packaging. The insides of many food and beverage cans are coated with BPA-containing resin and especially high levels are found in canned acidic foods including certain fruits and tomato sauce. Choose fresh food and food bottled in glass containers rather than canned items.
Excessive alcohol consumption can damage sperm. Keep your intake to moderate levels when you’re trying to be fertile.
Research suggests that a diet high in saturated and mono-unsaturated fats, such as those found in bacon, processed meats, sausages, ham and butter, can lead to poor sperm health.
Assorted sperm killers
There a number of other every-day substances and practices that are no good for your sperm, such as:
A number of drugs, both recreational and medicinal, are known to have harmful effects on sperm. These include opiates, steroids and cytotoxic drugs used in cancer treatment.
Smokers have been shown to have diminished fertility compared to non-smokers.
Sex toys made of vinyl are potential sources of phthalates, plastic-softening chemicals linked to, among other things, infertility. Vinyl shower curtains and some scented cleaners, shampoos and soaps also contain phthalates.
Frequent hot baths
They’ve been shown to lower sperm counts. Rather take a shower.
Tight underpants, especially ones made of synthetic materials have been linked to infertility. Wear baggy boxers made of cotton instead.
(Andrew Luyt, Health24, March 2011)