Diet, Fertility, and Sperm Count: 6 Ways to Improve Your Fertility

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Diet, Fertility, and Sperm Count: 6 Ways to Improve Your Fertility

Diet impacts fertility, especially sperm count and quality. Most notably, a diet heavy in meat and dairy is shown to decrease the quality and quantity of sperm, as well as increase infertility risk among women. But research shows that healthful lifestyles may positively affect conception. While processed meat products cause low-quality sperm, carrots and other vegetables can actually boost fertility and decrease the risk of infertility in women.

1. Eat your fruits and veggies.

A study from the University of Rochester showed that eating fruits and vegetables can improve fertility in men. Infertile men were twice as likely to have a low intake of fruits and vegetables (less than five servings per day) compared with fertile men. Also, men with the lowest overall intake of dietary antioxidants had lower sperm motility than men with higher intakes.

Lewis V, Kochman L, Herko R, Brewer K, Andolina E, Song G. Dietary antioxidants and sperm quality in infertile men. Paper presented at: Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine; October, 2006; New Orleans.


2. Ditch the dairy.

Cheese consumption is related to lower sperm according to a longitudinal study published in Fertility and Sterility. Another study in the journal found that men who eat more fruits and vegetables have better sperm quality than those who eat more processed meat and full-fat dairy.

Afeiche MC, Bridges ND, Williams PL, et al. Dairy intake and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic. Fertil Steril. 2014;101:1280-1287.

Mendiola J, Torres-Cantero AM, Vioque J, et al. A low intake of antioxidant nutrients is associated with poor semen quality in patients attending fertility clinics. Fertil Steril. 2010;93:1128-1133.

3. Skip the meat.

Replacing animal protein with plant-based protein can reduce infertility risk in women, according to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Frequent consumption of meat, on the other hand, led to a decrease in successful pregnancy, according to a study in Fertility and Sterility. Another study found that successful pregnancy and fertilized egg implantation outcomes are decreased in patients reporting a more frequent intake of meat.

Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, et al. Protein intake and ovulatory infertility. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008;198:210.e1-210.e7.

Braga DP, Halpern G, Figueira Rde C, Setti AS, Iaconelli A Jr, Borges E Jr. Food intake and social habits in male patients and its relationship to intracytoplasmic sperm injection outcomes. Fertil Steril. 2012;97:53-59.

4. Increase your nonheme iron by adding more lentils and spinach to your diet.

Consumption of nonheme iron—the kind found in lentils and spinach—has been shown to lower risk of ovulatory infertility by 40 percent, compared to women who consume little or no nonheme iron.

Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. Iron intake and risk of ovulatory infertility. Obstet Gynecol. 2006;108:1145-1152.

5. Cut your cholesterol.

Higher cholesterol levels have been shown to prevent or delay pregnancy, according to a study led by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Couples with higher total cholesterol levels showed lower pregnancy rates or took longer to become pregnant, compared with those who had lower levels.

Schisterman EF, Mumford SL, Browne RW, Barr DB, Chen Z, Louis GMB. Lipid concentrations and couple fecundity: the LIFE study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014;99:2786-2794.

6. Lower your saturated fat intake.

A recent Harvard study found that increasing saturated fat intake—found primarily in meat and dairy products—just 5 percent was associated with a 38 percent lower sperm count.

Attaman JA, Toth TL, Furtado J, Campos H, Hauser R, Chavarro JE. Dietary fat and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic. Hum Reprod. 2012;27:1466-1474.