Let’s face it, when we think of healthy pregnancies and growing healthy babies, most of us think it’s the woman’s job to be healthy and reduce stress and get all the right nutrients for a growing baby. Because after all, she is the one growing the little baby inside of her for 9 months. We don’t often think about the man’s role, unless there are known issues with fertility. But the father is contributing half of the DNA, and the health of his sperm is far more important than we realize.
Sperm regenerates itself approximately every 75 days – which means it takes roughly two and a half months to grow new, healthy sperm. This is assuming that there are no severe toxicities or nutrient deficiencies that have to be corrected, as this will take a bit longer.
So what does it take to grow healthy sperm? There are certain nutrients that are particularly important and beneficial, including zinc, selenium, folate, vitamins E and C, and antioxidants.
Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for men’s fertility (and in fact, fertility for women as well, and the development of babies – it is all around a very important mineral). Zinc keeps sex hormones in proper balance, enhances folate absorption in the body, and increases sperm production. Adequate levels of zinc can also prevent sperm abnormalities from developing. A deficiency in this mineral can even cause infertility all on its own.
Some things that block the absorption of zinc in the body are too much fibre, and phytic acid in grains and nuts and seeds that haven’t been properly prepared. Sugar, trans fats and stress can all deplete a persons zinc levels – so avoid these as much as possible.
The absolute best source of zinc is oysters. The next best is liver, then crustaceans, beef and cheese.
Selenium is also a very important nutrient for sex hormone balance as it aids in the production of testosterone. If testosterone levels are too low in a man, this can lead to low sperm counts.
Selenium also helps eliminate toxic mercury from the body. This is especially important as mercury has many adverse effects on our hormone systems and is the third most toxic heavy metal in the world.
Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, eggs and meat and seafood (including oysters!) are great sources of selenium.
The mineral folate is widely known to help prevent birth defects when women take it as a part of their prenatal supplement regime. But did you know it is also important for men? Folate helps to regenerate and build new DNA and RNA – in essence, it keeps your genes healthy and strong.
Leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus and avocado all have lots of folate, include them in your diet daily for a good dose.
Vitamins E and C
These vitamins work together to keep a mans sperm healthy. Vitamin E is absolutely essential for sperm production, motility and proper form, and can even help prevent miscarriages. Vitamin C protects vitamin E and prevents its oxidation. Eat lots of bell peppers, broccoli and papaya for vitamin C, and avocados for vitamin E.
Speaking of oxidation, antioxidants are vital to sperm protection. There are often higher levels of damaging free radicals in sperm than elsewhere in the body. Free radicals can cause cell damage, alter DNA, and can contribute to any number of diseases. Antioxidants are the enemies of free radicals. All of the nutrients we have covered already are powerful antioxidants, so they all serve double-duty. Coenzyme Q10 is another important antioxidant that can help to protect sperm. The highest levels of coQ10 in food comes from chicken and beef hearts. If you are cringing right now and saying to your computer “Sheryl are you crazy?! I can’t eat animal hearts!”.. have no fear, you can also get adequate amounts in meat, poultry and fish (just don’t overcook it).
On a side note, I just have to say that if you have never tried heart meat, you really ought to, it tastes like steak – I’m not joking, it is the mildest of all the organs, and I usually recommend people start with heart if they are new to organ meats. But anyway, I digress..
Aside from these important nutrients, there are a couple of other things that men can do to optimize their sperm quality and quantity…
1. Put your cell phone on airplane mode when it is in your pocket, or use a protective EMF reduction cover for your phone (although I can’t vouch for how effective these are). The electromagnetic waves coming into and out of cell phones are surprisingly dangerous to men’s little swimmers and it is best to minimize this as much as possible.
2. Avoid taking long hot baths or saunas. Sperm are very heat-sensitive, which is why they live outside the body. Even a slight increase in temperature can spell trouble, so for the few months before you are planning to conceive, stay out of saunas, hot tubs, and the bathtub.
3. Stay away from agricultural pesticides and chemicals. Obviously if you are a farmer this may be quite difficult, but do the best you can as these substances are quite toxic and can cause sperm abnormalities and decreased fertility.