The health of the sperm begins with the health of the semen, which contains 22 different nutrients and is rich in minerals — notably calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, and vitamins B12 and C. Every man should ensure his diet provides a good intake of these vital nutrients. Proteins contain amino acids that are essential building blocks for sperm protein is also an excellent fuel source. Red meat, such as steak, is abundant in an amino acid called L-arginine, which produces nitric oxide NO in the body.
Those rich in proteins including L-arginine are fish, poultry and red meat, and dairy products. Once in the body, this amino acid helps to produce nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and improves circulation. Better circulation to the groin boosts sperm health and increases sperm motility their ability to swim properly. L-arginine also plays an important role in cell division, immune function and the release of hormones, and good levels may even improve sperm count.
Folic acid a B-vitamin found, for example, in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas and chickpeas is just as important for men as it is for women.
This is because it protects the sperm from DNA damage, including having too many or too few chromosomes known as aneuploidy. A number of nutrients help to improve the quality of sperm. Chicken contains large amounts of L-arginine - an amino acid which plays an important role in cell division, immune function and the release of hormones, and good levels may even improve sperm count Vitamin D may boost motility, while zinc improves the quality of the seminal fluid, and increases sperm count, motility and fertilising capacity.
It also decreases levels of DNA damage, structural abnormalities and antibodies to sperm that can impair sperm quality. One study showed that an omega-3 rich Mediterranean-style diet boosted the chances of successful pregnancy in previously infertile couples by a staggering 40 per cent In order to provide sperm with all the energy they need to make their epic journey, men need a good intake of L-carnitine.
This amino acid carries high-energy fat compounds into mitochondria cells, where they are burned to release their energy. Vegans should be aware that plant foods contain no L-carnitine, so must supplement. Co-enzyme Q10 is another important nutrient for the conversion of food to energy in the cells. It is also boosts sperm motility, because the mid-piece of the sperm needs this nutrient specifically to get the sperm moving and sustain energy to the tail to drive the sperm onwards.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for sperm health for several reasons. They give the sperm flexibility, helping the head to penetrate the egg. In addition, sperm cells must have specific membrane characteristics in order to be able to bind to the membrane of an egg and produce a living embryo.
Men with poor sperm quality or sperm counts may typically have low levels of omega 3s, or low ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fats in their semen and sperm-cell composition. Studies indicate that supplementation with omega-3s can improve total sperm count and concentration.
One study showed that an omega-3 rich Mediterranean-style diet boosted the chances of successful pregnancy in previously infertile couples by a staggering 40 per cent. Finally, antioxidants are a must — a good intake protects the health of the head of the sperm which contains the DNA. Lifestyle and free-radical damage Free radicals are dangerous oxygen molecules said to have a hand in everything from ageing to diabetes and cancer.
Sperm actually need low levels of free radicals in order to function and this is why free radicals are generated naturally as the sperm make their way to the fallopian tubes. But higher levels will damage the sperm cells.
In order to give the sperm the best possible chances of being strong enough and having enough energy to make their journey into the fallopian tube - and of fertilising an egg successfully when they get there - avoiding excess oxidative stress as much as possible is essential.
Causes of free-radical damage in men are: Jacuzzis, tight underwear, heated car seats, mobile phones in pockets and laptops on laps all raise the temperature of the testes, which hang outside the body for the very reason that sperm are damaged by heat!
The following foods are antioxidant superstars and should feature in your diet as often as possible. Keep the list somewhere where you can both see it — because it is important for both of you. Berries, citrus fruits; leafy green vegetables, red peppers Vitamin E: Nuts and seeds and their oils Co-enzyme Q Beef, chicken, pork; salmon, trout; broccoli; oranges Selenium: Lamb, turkey; cod, halibut, salmon, sardines, tuna; Brazil nuts N-acetylcysteine: Chicken, duck, pork, turkey; dairy, eggs; broccoli, onions, red peppers Lycopene: Guava, grapefruit, Sharon fruit, tomatoes, watermelon Zinc: Beef, chicken, lamb, pork; spinach; oysters; pumpkin seeds, nuts, wheatgerm, cocoa Eat Yourself Pregnant: Ms West has written a book of recipes designed to optimise nutrition, and the chances of conceiving a child.