You are what you eat, as the saying goes, and so too is your sperm! And if you're planning to start - or grow - your family, it's important to know the sperm-boosting foods to stock up on and the ones to avoid.
Worryingly, there has been a global decline in sperm count and health over the past six or seven decades, and this can lead to fertility issues.
Declining sperm health
It's not known exactly what is causing the declines, but researchers have cited one cause as exposure to environmental toxins such as plastics, pesticides and air pollution.
While it can be difficult to eliminate or avoid all risk factors, one thing you can control is your diet.
And here are some foods to stock up on - and ones to avoid - for healthier sperm.
- Fish - Eating more fish can improve sperm motility. This is likely due to the high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in fish. But it's important to avoid high-mercury fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and marlin as these can impede fertility.
- Fruits and vegetables - There's probably nothing fruit and veg aren't good for, but they're particularly key while trying to conceive (and during pregnancy). Eating lots of fruit and veg, particularly green leafy vegetables and beans, helps raise sperm count and improve sperm motility. This is because plant-based whole foods are high in anti-oxidants such as co-enzyme Q10, vitamin C, and lycopene. Stock up on mangoes, avocados and green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli for vitamin E, find vitamin C in oranges, tomatoes and grapefruit, and incorporate leafy greens and beans which are high in folate, a B vitamin with antioxidant properties that may help keep sperm free of chromosomal abnormalities. Pumpkin seeds contain zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, and flaxseed, chia seeds and sunflower seeds are also great sources of omega-3's.
- Watermelon - Watermelon helps male fertility since it contains lycopen—an antioxidant that helps sperm motility.
- Oysters - You probably knew oysters are good for getting you in the mood but did you know they contain more zinc per serving than any other food? And foods high in zinc may help with male fertility by increasing sperm volume and motility.
Foods to avoid
Just as there are foods to stock up on to increase fertility, there are foods you should avoid when trying for a baby.
- Processed meat - These can reduce sperm count and quality, so cut back as much as you can. Lean beef and white meat like chicken and turkey are healthier alternatives.
- Junk food - You should limit your intake of fatty, fried and sugary foods for your overall health and wellbeing, not just when you're trying for a baby. But in terms of fertility, these foods can damage your chances.
- Alcohol - Excessive alcohol lowers testosterone levels and sperm quality and quantity in men. It can also reduce libido, and cause impotence, and these can all affect your chances of getting pregnant.
- High-fat dairy - Full-fat dairy foods can negatively impact sperm count and motility. So it's best to swap these for low-fat or skim alternatives, or nut milks.
- Caffeine - Drinking too much coffee, tea, and energy drinks may decrease sperm count.
- Soy - Although the science is inconclusive, some research has linked diets high in soy foods with a lower sperm concentration.