How Nutrition Affects Male Fertility

The second in a two-part series on enhancing ferility with nutrition.  This week, the focus is on the guys.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #262

Omega-3 Fats. Men with higher intake of omega-3 fats tend to have healthier sperm. Trade that rib-eye for sockeye and try to eat some sort of fish two or three times a week. In addition, you can make friends with flax (or chia or hemp) seeds.  

Folate.  Women who are pregnant and trying to become pregnant are usually advised to take a folic acid supplement. Not only does folic acid protect against serious neural tube defects in the developing fetus but it seems to enhance your chances of getting pregnant in the first place. And the same appears to be true for men: Higher folate intakes are correlated to better sperm quality. As always, I favor food sources over supplements and the best food sources of folate are spinach and other dark leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus.  

Antioxidants.  Sperm are exquisitely sensitive to oxidative damage. In fact, oxidative stress may account for up to 80% of male subfertility. And what’s the antidote to oxidative stress? You got it: antioxidants. Multiple studies have shown that increasing your intake of antioxidants can improve sperm quality and help couples get pregnant. Once again, you could do this with supplements but I think you’d be better off doing it with food.  Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and other whole foods provide a broad-spectrum of antioxidant nutrition—and loading up on these healthy foods will also help you maintain a healthy body weight.

Two Parents, One Dietary Prescription

Although different nutrients are involved with male and female fertility, the good news is that one dietary prescription can cover all the bases. For both men and women, the dietary pattern that is most consistent with all the research on fertility is the Mediterranean diet. In one study, couples undergoing fertility treatment who both stuck to a Mediterranean diet improved their chances of getting pregnant by about 40%.

Just to refresh your memory, a Mediterranean diet pattern is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil, fish, and whole grains and a low intake of meat, refined grains, and other processed foods.  In addition to enhancing your odds of getting pregnant, a Mediterranean diet is also associated with lower risks of heart disease, dementia, and obesity. Sounds like a great way to start—and keep—a healthy family!

If you have questions or comments, feel free to post them below or on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page. I always love to hear from you. 

Sperm and egg and other images courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.