Spoiler alert: Men can contribute to infertility.
It’s not just a woman’s issue. And what you’re eating (or not eating), can affect your fertility success. Let’s dive into a couple of things that can help improve sperm parameters in men.
Fatty Acids and Fertility
The sperm cell membrane high in fatty acids, and these acids are necessary for sperm function. The membrane is pretty important when it comes to fertilization – it helps with cell maturation, penetrating and fusing with the egg.
The fatty acids that you need to do these jobs can’t be made by your body, so you need to either eat fish, supplement with fish oil, or eat nuts and seeds. Studies have shown that male fertility patients who have a higher intake of omega-3, have more normal sperm. A study looking at walnuts (which are a great source of omega 3s) have been related to higher sperm parameters – vitality, motility (how sperm move), and morphology (how sperm look). Another study showed that men’s fish intake was related to shorter time to pregnancy and a lower risk of infertility.
It is important to pay attention to mercury levels in fish, and consider avoiding fish with high mercury levels as it may impact fertility.
Soy and Fertility
Women aren’t the only ones cautious about soy. From my experience, men are pretty fearful too. When we look at the research on dietary soy and men’s health it’s pretty conflicting. While one study mentions that dietary isoflavone intake is associated with higher sperm count and motility, another says that soy intake is associated with lower sperm concentration.
Here’s the thing, if you’re vegan or vegetarian and soy makes up a large part of your diet, aim for non-GMO and organic sources.
Dairy & Meat and Fertility
Research on diary and sperm parameters is pretty mixed. One study looking at young men and dairy consumption showed that intake of dairy products (like milk) have been related to lower testosterone, FSH and LH levels.
When it comes to meat, the same results exist. Some studies show that meat is unrelated to sperm parameters, some show that processed meat affects sperm counts.
Something to consider though is your cardiovascular health. While that Double Big Mac might not do anything to your sperm, it might affect your heart health! Keep in mind that your body
Fruits & Vegetables and Fertility
Unsurprisingly, fruits and vegetables are cornerstone of good health. But, many of them are sprayed with pesticides. One study showed that consumption of high-pesticide-residue fruits and vegetable was associated with poor sperm quality in men attending a fertility clinic.
So what does this mean? Choose organic when eating foods off the Dirty Dozen list.
Overall, the review that I read didn’t go into as much detail as the female version. However, it did mention that if you’re going to abide by a diet, then the Mediterranean Diet is a good bet. It’s high in seafood, vegetables and fruits, whole grains, etc. Basically you’re not eating processed and packaged foods.
Changing a diet can be pretty difficult. I’m of the mind of taking it a week at a time, so if you’re introducing a new food or avoiding an old (but problematic) favourite, do it in weekly increments.
When I was giving up gluten, cow dairy and eggs, I picked one and committed to that for a week, then gave up another, etc. When introducing new foods like salmon, commit to eating it once a week, find different ways to prepare it, etc. Changing your habits around food don’t need to be difficult. But like all things, it does take some work.
For more information on how you can boost your fertility and improve your sperm parameters, consider working with a naturopathic doctor. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!
Nassan, F., Chavarro, J. and Tanrikut, C. (2018). Diet and men’s fertility: does diet affect sperm quality?. Fertility and Sterility, 110(4), pp.570-577.