Whenever infertility is brought up, the first thing that often comes to mind is the woman’s health and what she can do to increase her chances of conceiving. Time and again, the man’s contribution to the matter is overlooked.
Common risk factors in men
In today’s fast paced world, many unhealthy behaviors have been adopted and have had a direct or indirect effect on male infertility.
Rising stress levels, overweight and obesity, heavy drinking, high caffeine intake, substance abuse, and a sedentary lifestyle can all have detrimental effects on male sperm count and quality.
Your diet can also have a big impact. To state the obvious, junk food has been deemed bad for your heart health and your waist circumference. What you don’t know is that these burgers and fries can also contribute to a lower sperm quality and consequently decreased male fertility.
Soy has long been on the super food list for its ability in regulating blood lipid levels and preventing hot flashes in menopausal women, but it may not be as good for future dads. In fact soy, which is rich in phytoestrogens, mimics estrogen in the body and messes with the estrogen-testosterone balance in men. According to a study published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, long-term consumption of a soy rich diet may decrease male sperm count.
We’ve heard about the possible health risks of Bisphenol A on kids, commonly known as BPA. The exposure to this chemical can also effect adult men and reduce their sperm count considerably. Exposure to BPA comes from food cans and the re-use of plastic like when you refill water bottles. It is always safer to shift towards freshly prepared foods or consuming food packaged in glass containers.
Diet changes to boost fertility in dads-to-be
As a rule of thumb, a healthy, balanced and nutrient dense diet is essential for fertility. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, research indicates that a healthy diet, abundant in fish, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, means sperm is more likely to be energetic and active.
Maintaining a healthy body weight is equally important, which means neither being overweight or underweight. Check your body fat percent before trying to conceive.
Don’t forget to incorporate these fertility boosting foods:
• Dairy products, due to their high calcium content and ability in improving fertility, are essential for reproductive health. Consuming 3 servings of dairy can help you reach your Calcium needs of 1000mg.
• Fatty fish, a great source of the all mighty omega 3, have fertility boosting benefits. Fatty fish, such as salmon and sardine, promote a regulated secretion of reproductive hormones, increase the blood flow to reproductive organs, and more specifically contribute to favorable sperm morphology.
• Oysters always come on top of the list when speaking of aphrodisiacs. This is due to their high zinc content, well known for increasing sperm and testosterone production.
• Lentils, abundant in the B vitamin folic acid, can keep the sperm free of chromosomal abnormalities. Only 1 cup of lentils will provide you with your daily recommended intake of 400 micrograms folic acid.
• Oranges, rich in the antioxidant Vitamin C, keep the sperm motile and viable. A 250ml glass of orange juice has about 124 milligrams of vitamin C. Aim to get at least 90 milligrams a day and more if you smoke - at least 125 milligrams.
Racha Adib is a Beirut-based licensed dietitian who offers nutrition and wellness counseling to individuals and corporations. She graduated from the American University of Beirut with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics followed by a certificate in Essentials of Business. She is a member of the Lebanese Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics and the Lebanese League for Women in Business. She has also been frequently featured in media on MTV's “The Doctors,” LBC's “Mission Fashion,” and Orbit's “Ayoun Beirut” among others, and hosts a weekly radio program on the latest nutrition news and science breakthroughs. She can be found on Twitter: @rachaadib