The research is robust; men’s fertility is on the decline. Big time. Sperm counts have dropped significantly in the last few decades. Sperm are highly delicate and can easily be damaged by many different factors including alcohol, caffeine, cigarette smoke, drugs, chemicals, heat and environmental toxins. Thankfully, unlike women, who are born with all of their eggs, men generate new sperm every 72-76 days. This means that men have an incredible opportunity to completely change the health of their sperm, and therefore the health of their future children, prior to conceiving. Some of the most important nutrients involved in healthy sperm production are as follows:
Perhaps one of the most important nutrients for male fertility, zinc is essential for healthy sperm count, motility (the movement of sperm) and the number of live sperm – increasing overall sperm quality significantly. Zinc deficiency is also correlated with low testosterone levels and low semen production.
Food sources of zinc include oysters, shellfish, seafood, beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds/pepitas, sesame seeds, tahini and cashews.
Selenium is a very strong antioxidant which is present in high quantities in semen, but is lost in ejaculation. It is required for sperm count, sperm motility, sperm DNA, sperm morphology (healthy shape of sperm) and fertilisation. Selenium is also involved in detoxifying heavy metals which can be damaging to fertility in both men and women.
The highest source of selenium are Brazil nuts. Other sources include oysters, seeds, chicken, lean meats, brown rice and quinoa.
Folate is the natural form of folic acid found in food. Folate is essential for the production of sperm as well as the synthesis and protection of sperm DNA.
Food sources include FOLIAGE: dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, baby spinach, silver beet/chard, roquette, Asian greens such as bok choy and pak choy, as well as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, avocados, oranges and berries. Folate is also found in legumes and liver. NB: there are different types of folate supplements, individuals require different forms. Synthetic folic acid supplements should be avoided. Please speak to your health practitioner before supplementing with any sort of folate.
Vitamin C is essential for the health of sperm, protecting it from oxidative stress and free radical damage. Vitamin C also prevents sperm from sticking together (agglutination) which would otherwise reduce sperm motility (swimming) and therefore reduce male fertility.
Food sources of vitamin C include brightly coloured fruits and vegetables – especially peppers, kiwi fruit, strawberries, cranberries, rosehips, guava and green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, rocket, baby spinach, bok choy, pak choy, choy sum etc). Note that vitamin C is destroyed by heat.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant which is required for adequate sperm count, DNA quality, motility and fertilization. Vitamin E deficiency can cause low sperm count.
Food sources of vitamin E include dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, brussels sprouts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds/pepitas, almonds, olives and olive oil, avocado and avocado oil.
Ubiquinol (Coenzyme Q10)
CoQ10 is an amazing antioxidant and is found in the mitochondria of every cell, playing a major role in energy production. CoQ10 in the form of Ubiquinol has attracted a lot of research for its role in enhancing male fertility and sperm health. Ubiquinol has been shown to reduce DNA damage and oxidative stress in the sperm, thus improving motility (swimming) and the shape of sperm.
Food sources include beef, liver, salmon, sardines, mackerel, poultry, spinach, cauliflower and broccoli.