For couples looking to get pregnant, it seems that the onus is mostly on the woman’s diet. Well-intentioned husbands come in for dietary counselling wanting to know what their wife should be eating or which supplements she should be taking to supplement her fertility diet. Instead, men should also be asking about the crucial role their diet plays in conception.
Today is part 2 of my nutriton fertility series. Please reference part 1 for what women require nutritionally prior to conception.
Overweight men are more likely to have a lower sperm count and produce poorer quality sperm according to Bridget Swinney in her book Eating Expectantly. Excess weight appears to alter hormone levels by lowering testosterone and increasing estrogen levels which negatively impact sperm.
Tip: When trying to have a baby, men should strive to reach a healthy body weight through dietary modifications and physical activity. Even a 5-10% weight loss (for example, 250 pound male losing 12-25 pounds) can improve odds of conception if overweight or obese.
Interestingly, the type of fat consumed impacts both the quality and quantity of sperm. According to a 2012 study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, a male diet higher in saturated fats (found in fatty meats, high fat dairy, processed foods, and tropical oils such as coconut oil) was related to lower sperm count. However, a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids was related to a more favourable sperm structure.
Tip: Incorporate fatty fish rich in omega 3’s such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines into your diet a couple times a week. Limit consumption of saturated fats, which are linked to heart disease and lower sperm quality.
Just as our bodies require a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients to function at our best, our reproductive system requires the same. Fruits and vegetables are filled with antioxidants, which protect sperm from oxidative stress that can cause sperm damage, deformity and possibly infertility. Folate which is emphasized for women looking to become pregnant is also important for men since it helps synthesize and repair sperm DNA.
Tip: Boost your vegetables and fruits intake to benefit from variety of vitamins, minerals to enhance fertility.
Zinc plays a vital role in fertility since it is associated with sperm count and quality. This mineral is involved in the creation of the outer membrane and tail of sperm. Men should aim to meet their recommended intake through diet before taking a supplement. If unsure if you require a zinc supplement, it is best to speak with a registered dietitian.
Tip: Incorporate foods rich in zinc such as oysters, nuts and seeds, beef, shrimp, lentils and whole grain cereals into your diet.
Alcohol can negatively affect sperm quality and can interfere with conception and implantation.
Tip: If trying to get pregnant, it is best to limit or avoid alcohol.
Diet and lifestyle have an impact on conception for both men and women. Parental diet also plays a role in the future health outcomes of the child. If looking to begin or grow your family, healthy diet and lifestyle modifications will get you off to a good start!