Nutrition plays a major role in the production of healthy energetic sperm, as well as the normal functioning of the male apparatus, writes naturopath Tracy Wolf.
Men are lucky in that they can procreate throughout their lives. However, the older the man is, the higher the chance of free radical damage and/or nutrient deficiencies both of which can affect the health of the sperm.
These occur due to age, poor diet and bad living habits, such as stress, lack of sleep, smoking, too little exercise and even too much exercise.
What foods can men eat for healthy sperm?
High-zinc foods such as oysters (this is rumoured to be why Casanova was such a fabulous lover; he was said to consume three-dozen oysters a day), sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and tahini.
Every time a male ejaculates, he loses 5mg of zinc. I always check every male I see in clinic for a zinc deficiency, as it's a likely deficiency to occur.
Selenium-rich food is important, too. Selenium is a potent antioxidant. Its highest concentration (among the reproductive organs) is in the testes. Selenium protects DNA and the nervous system. It also preserves cells. Forty percent of sperm damage is due to collision with molecular fragments, called "free radicals". By mopping up and neutralising free radicals, a man can increase the quality of his sperm.
Men should also stock up on B-group vitamins. These assist with nervous system function, and are beneficial at times of increased physical and mental demand. They're also essential for the conversion of carbohydrates and fats to energy. B6 modulates the effects of hormones, including male sex hormones, and B2 assists in the production and regulation of hormones.
Lifestyle factors that influence the production of healthy sperm
A good "whole foods" naturopathic diet should start with a decrease in tea, coffee and smoking. All these deprive the body of vitamin C, so it's more difficult to detoxify the body.
Also, cigarette smoking, alcohol, caffeine and junk food have all been associated with prostate and fertility problems. Avoid these and try to eat a diet rich in whole unprocessed foods (whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds).
Reduce alcohol, especially beer. Eat more fruit and vegetables rich in phytonutrients.
Eat tomatoes: these are rich in lycopene, a chemical component released from cooked tomatoes or tomatoes in olive oil. Consumption of lycopene has been linked to a decrease in prostate problems.
Choose fish instead of red meat, especially coldwater fish which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Good examples include tuna, salmon, mackerel and anchovies.
Raw pumpkin seeds or pepitas are a valuable addition to your diet as they are rich in zinc and essential fatty acids which are necessary for healthy sperm and reproductive organs. One selenium-rich food is Brazil nuts. I often recommend ground-up sunflower seeds and tahini (ground sesame seeds) instead of peanut butter on toast.
The right conditions for conception
The best time has to be when the woman is ovulating and when the man has been eating well, relaxing and looking after his general health for at least three months prior to conception.
A fresh batch of sperm takes three months to develop, so good living needs to take place at least a month prior to conception for the best outcome a full-term, healthy baby. Sometimes a detox is recommended prior to trying to conceive if there have been conception problems or medically diagnosed "faulty swimmers".
If you are consciously trying to conceive, the day before ovulation is the best time to have intercourse. This means the sperm will be fresh, energetic, enthusiastic and strong. They will be literally waiting for the egg to be released. The strongest swimmers will be there on the front line and these are the ones we want to fertilise the egg.
A leading expert on natural fertility, Francesca Naish, taught me that preceding this, the male should spend several days building the sperm count. This means three to five days of not ejaculating, which can create a high count of healthy sperm.
Supplements for men
Blackmores Bio Zinc. Zinc plays an essential role in male reproductive health and in the production of healthy sperm and also helps to maintain healthy immune function.
Blackmores Men's Performance Multi. Supports a healthy reproductive system and production of healthy sperm.
- Oats, rye, wheat, buckwheat
- Egg yolks
- Fish, oysters, sardines, shrimp, anchovies, haddock, tuna
- Bananas, bilberry
- Butter beans, green peas, black beans, parsley
- Liver, chicken
- Brazil nuts, coconuts, almonds, cashew nuts, chestnuts, hazel nuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts, almonds
- Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
- Fennel, garlic, turnip, potato, carrot