Research to Reader: fertility science
What’s the secret to improving the quality and quantity of your little swimmers (aka sperm)? Well, there is not really any secret – just eat a healthy, well balanced diet (and getting the right amount of exercise of course). It is an easy answer but not so easy to implement!
What we Know Improves Fertility Outcomes
A recent meta-anlaysis (a scientific way of looking at the outcomes of all studies in a particular area) of observational studies confirms that healthy diets rich in some nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, some antioxidants (vitamin E, vitamin C, β-carotene, selenium, zinc, cryptoxanthin and lycopene), other vitamins (vitamin D and folate) and is low in saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids are associated with improved semen quality . Conversely, diets rich in processed meat, soy foods, potatoes, coffee, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets have been detrimentally associated with the quality of semen in some studies. It is clear though that a high intake of alcohol, caffeine and red meat and processed meat by males has a negative influence on the chance of pregnancy or fertilization rates in their partners [1, 2].
Your diet influences not just your chance of conception but can leave a legacy influencing the health of your offspring.
Unfortunately no one ‘super food’ is going to rescue your sperm from a high fat diet or a diet high in processed foods. Making healthy choices will give you the best chance of success.
What Could you Include in Your Diet?
Some of the best minerals and vitamins (as whole foods) to incorporate in your diet include:
Vitamin B12: eggs, milk and cheese are great sources of B12. If you are partial to seafood then shellfish such as clams, oysters, muscles and crab, and salmon are loaded with B12. Eating sufficient B12 will boost your sperm parameters .
Vitamin D: Getting some sun is the best way to soak up some Vitamin D but if live far from the equator you may need some additional sources, particularly during winter. One third of Australians are vitamin D deficient! If you are not getting sun then you can obtain some vitamin D (and your B12) from salmon. Fortified dairy and cereal products containing added vitamin D can also be a way to up your intake. You can get your vitamin D levels checked through your doctor with a blood test and if you are just at or below the normal range a vitamin D supplement would be recommended. Vitamin D deficiency impairs the development of sperm and fertility index so make sure you are getting enough !
Zinc and Selenium: Zinc and Selenium are significantly lower in poorer quality sperm  so boosting your diet with whole foods containing these minerals is beneficial. A handful of brazil nuts is a great source of selenium while lean beef delivers selenium and zinc. Fortified multigrain bread and low sugar cereals are also a good source of zinc.
Antioxidants: These powerful free radical quenching vitamins are best sourced by eating a diverse range of fruit and vegetables. A mixed berry smoothie, lots of leafy green vegetables (a great time saver is a supermarket readymade kale-slaw), capsicum, citrus fruit and raw onion are loaded with antioxidants. Make a super quick salad for lunch and a stirfry for dinner to boost your veggie intake for the day. At a minimum aim for 2.5 cups of veggies a day.
Snacks to Get you Through the Day
1.Salas-Huetos, A., M. Bullo, and J. Salas-Salvado, Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: a systematic review of observational studies. Hum Reprod Update, 2017. 23(4): p. 371-389.
2.Fu, L., et al., Vitamin D deficiency impairs testicular development and spermatogenesis in mice. Reprod Toxicol, 2017.
3.Najafipour, R., et al., Effect of B9 and B12 vitamin intake on semen parameters and fertility of men with MTHFR polymorphisms. Andrology, 2017. 5(4): p. 704-710.
4.Nenkova, G., L. Petrov, and A. Alexandrova, Role of Trace Elements for Oxidative Status and Quality of Human Sperm. Balkan Med J, 2017.