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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Fertility Diet: For MEN

All of you women out there know how important it is to eat a healthy diet while trying to become pregnant (and of course once you are pregnant, too!). But did you know that the diet and other lifestyle choices of your man can also affect fertility and potentially the health of your baby? And of course, writing about babies allows me to post a picture of my little boy, Basil. He is nine months tomorrow!

I just read an interesting article about folic acid and it's importance for men's fertility. We have known for a long time how important folic acid is for women and the prevention of neural tube birth defects. All women of childbearing age are advised, whether you are planning on becoming pregnant or not, to be on a 400 mcg folic acid supplement. Now it sounds like we should be advising this for men, too! Most general multivitamins contain at least 400 mcg of folate. This new study found that folic acid may help men reduce their children's risk of birth defects such as Down's syndrome. This study actually found levels of 700 mcg per day were most beneficial. Since folic acid is fortified into grain products, I still think that a 400 mcg vitamin plus food is likely sufficient (as long as you are not following a low carb diet).

Other tips to improve fertility and the health of your offspring:

  1. Do not smoke. Smoking can decrease the number and motility of sperm and may lead to health problems in children.
  2. Limit alcohol consumption, especially 3 months before trying to conceive. Having more than 2 drinks per day for men has been linked to lower birth weight babies.
  3. Do not use drugs. I don't think I need to go into further detail with that one!
  4. Moderate caffeine intake. The research is split on caffeine, some shows it actually helps sperm and some shows it hurts it. I think moderation is the answer. Two cups of coffee or other caffeinated drinks per day is likely fine, but don't down 10 per day.
  5. Exercise daily. The healthier your heart, the better your circulation....all over your body!
  6. Don't use steroids. Even though this one might also seem obvious, this is the most prominent cause of infertility in men.
  7. Keep blood pressure under control. Certain BP meds can affect sperm, so check with your doctor.

Healthy nutrients for men trying to conceive:

  1. Folic acid (also called folate). Folic acid is found in grain products (refined and whole grain), asparagus, oranges, beans, green leafy veggies (spinach, kale, romaine, broccoli, etc)
  2. Antioxidants. Antioxidants help to keep sperm healthy, preventing defects and increasing motility. All fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants like Vitamin C and beta carotene. Get plenty of whole grains and nuts and seeds to get selenium and Vitamin E.
  3. Zinc. Some studies show that even short term deficiencies of zinc can reduce sperm volume and affect testosterone levels. If you are meat eater, you are likely getting enough. If not, beans (especially baked beans) are going to be your new friend.
  4. Calcium and Vitamin D. You may think this is only for women, but think again. Make sure you get three servings of milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified foods every day.
  5. Omega-3's. They are good for everything else, so why not sperm, too?

While I am normally a food first kind of gal, I think it is really important to make sure you are getting at least the RDA of your nutrients if you are trying to conceive. I recommend eating a healthy diet with the addition of a multivitamin and 1000 mg omega-3 from fish oil. The vitamin does not have to be a mega formula, but a regular Centrum or Men's One A Day will be just fine!

Enjoy the photo of my healthy and happy boys!

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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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