Romance is in the air as valentines draws near with food being on the top of list for the most romantic gesture to get in the mood for love and baby making.
However, for some guys with fertility issues, valentines romance can be the turn off rather than the turn on.
Infertility is on the rise in our modern world. According to statistics, there has been almost a 20-30% rise in infertility in the last five years.
In men, the quality of semen is the main reason of failing to impregnate the partner with 35% of male infertility issues are due to low sperm count and motility.
35% of male infertility issues are due to low sperm count and motility.
Common reasons for male infertility are low sperm concentration (oligospermia), poor sperm motility (asthenospermia), and abnormal sperm morphology (teratospermia). The exact reason for the decline in semen quality is not clear, but environmental, nutritional, socioeconomic and other factors are starting to come into focus, but what can you do to help improve your sperm health?
Stockup on fruits and vegetables:
A study conducted by the Harvard University found that eating yellow and orange coloured vegetables and fruits had a profound effect on the health of the sperm. Yellow and orange colour in fruits and vegetables have an abundant amount of “carotenoids” including beta carotene which is converted to Vitamin A in the body. It is one of the most potent antioxidants. Sweet Potato and melon were found to improve both the quantity and quality of sperms while red vegetables particularly tomatoes, which contains lycopene, improved the quantity of abnormally shaped sperms by 8-10%.
Break on the processed food:
Processed and take away fast foods are known to be detrimental to our health. A young men’s study carried out at the University of Rochester took a group that was fed a diet high in processed and red meat, refined grains, fast foods, high energy drinks and fast food.
Another group were put on a healthy diet of chicken, fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legume beans. It was no surprise that those on the healthy diet had better sperm motility which has been supported by various studies of the positive role of diets high in whole grains, legumes, fruits vegetables and fatty acids on sperm health and fertility.
Convert those sperm sinkers to become sperm swimmers
Manage the cholesterol: We have seen that couples with a high levels of cholesterol levels take longer to conceive. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism concluded that couples or either of the partner with high cholesterol found it difficult to conceive as compared to other couples. So, ensure to get in those fibres, whole fruits and lean plant proteins into your daily diet and keep a check on your lipid profile.
Ditch saturated fats:
Saturated fats do not only have an adverse effect on your heart and waist line but are also major contributory factors for low sperm count. Studies have suggested that even a 5% increase in saturated fat intake could result in a decrease in sperm count.
Protect against oxidative stress (OS):
OS is directly related to cellular damage which is caused by free radicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS). Small amounts of ROS are needed for functioning of the sperms, however when their number increases, and our antioxidant defences are overwhelmed impacting on the quality of sperm.
Spermatozoa are unable to undo the damage caused by OS as they lack the repair systems required. Vitamins E, C and carotenoids (Vitamin A) are known to neutralize ROS, protecting the sperms. While supplements can be used when required, preventing a build-up of ROS can be achieved by following a healthy life style including stopping smoking, avoiding alcohol and eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
Increased BMI is associated with low levels of Testosterone
Weight in check:
Obesity is a health target for the NHS, and research has shown that obesity has an impact on reproductive health with reducing sperm concentration and delaying conception.
Increased BMI is also associated with decreased levels of testosterone and an increase in oestrogens – causing low sperm counts and infertility. Keep that weight in check not just for your own health but also for giving your child the most healthful start.
Nutrition can be a minefield when it comes to fertility which to some can be overwhelming with the marketing of supplements. It’s important to reiterate that to maintain health, a varied and balanced diet is key. However, certain nutrients have been shown to increase sperm count, motility and quality which include;
Vitamin A deficiencies have been linked to sluggish sperm and motility issues. Eat plenty of red peppers, oats, carrots, dried apricots, sweet potatoes, spinach and broccoli to give you a vitamin A boost.
Vitamin C, found in good amounts in strawberries, asparagus, fruit and yellow veggies, has a positive effect on sperm viability and motility (the swimming ability of sperm).
Vitamins C, E and B12are also great antioxidants that can help boost sperm production and motility by fighting harmful free radicals.
Inadequate levels of zinc can cause lowered sperm counts. Natural sources of this mineral can be found in oysters, eggs, turkey, seafood, pumpkin seeds, liver, beef, oats, lamb, yoghurt, nuts and barley. Selenium is also thought to be beneficial to sperm motility and health. You can get it by eating Brazil nuts, red meat, cottage cheese, poultry and eggs. If you don’t think you are getting enough zinc or selenium, a multivitamin may help. However, be sure to stick within the recommended dose, as high levels of both these minerals can become toxic.
Studies have shown that fertile men’s sperm tend to contain greater amounts of polyunsaturated fats (many unsaturated fats), specifically omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, than that of infertile men. They’re found in walnuts, chia seeds, omega-3 supplements like krill oil but can be found in oily fish like anchovies, sardines and salmon.
Folic acid and Zinc can increase Sperm count as much as 70%
It is well known now that women should take folic acid when preparing for pregnancy. This I believe should be extended to men as I see in clinic which is also supported with recent research that some men who have been taking dietary supplements containing folic acid in combination with zinc have experienced increases in sperm counts of as much as 70% and research suggests that men with low folic acid levels tend to have more sperm cells with chromosomal (genetic) abnormalities. Keep your levels up by eating leafy green veggies, whole grain foods, avocados, beans and fruit.
Lycopene, has been shown to help increase sperm count. Can be found in tomatoes, carrots, watermelons and paw paw fruit.
Many of us get caught up with such busy lifestyles that water intake can be forgotten. However, drinking plenty of water throughout the day you can counteract dehydration, which is one of the main factors associated with low semen volume. A good tip is placing a bottle of water on your desk or carry one around, so you can see how much water you have drunk during the day.
Cooking and presenting food that is not only appealing but tastes great can be challenging, and many couples had often asked for advice on how to cook the foods recommended in my clinics. It was through this concept and my love of cooking I created Fertile Foods cooking workshops. These workshops help encourage the understanding of nutrition in all areas of reproductive health and have helped couples embrace nutrition to add splash of fun in the pan.
Add a Splash of Fun to the Pan and increase your Sperm Health
Here are some recipes to help boost sperm and most of all taste great.
Persian Pomegranate Chicken
Try this tasty recipe with walnuts and pomegranate which are great for sperm health. Walnuts are bursting with essential omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants to help in boosting sperm volume and production by increasing blood flow to the testicles. Whilst the delicious pomegranate fruit is known as a powerful food that helps in increasing sperm count and improves semen quality. It is full of antioxidants that help in fighting against free radicals in the blood stream.
1 to 2 large yellow onions, chopped, (3 cups)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
5 Tbsp pomegranate molasses(simmer 1 cup of pomegranate juice until it reduces to 5 Tbsp of syrup)
1/2lb walnut halves (about 2 cups)
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts, trimmed of excess fat, cut into medium size pieces, patted dry and salted
2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp plus 2 teaspoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh pomegranate arils for garnish (optional)
You can toast the walnuts in one of two ways. You can either spread them out in a single layer in a large skillet, and toast them on medium high heat, stirring frequently until lightly toasted, OR you can spread them out in a single layer in a baking rimmed baking sheet, and toast at 350°F in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
In either case, once toasted, remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, pulse in a food processor or blender until finely ground.
In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat.
When the butter has melted, pat the chicken pieces dry again and place the chicken pieces in the pan, working in batches if necessary to not crowd the pan, and cook until golden brown on all sides. Sprinkle the chicken with salt while they are cooking.
Remove the chicken from the pan, set aside. Add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil to the pan. Lower the heat to medium low. Add chopped onions to the pan and sauté until translucent, stirring on occasion to release the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Return the chicken pieces to the pan with the onions. Pour 2 cups of chicken stock over the chicken and onions. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Stir in the ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses, sugar, and spices. Cover and cook on very low heat for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so to prevent the walnuts from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Remove from heat and adjust sugar/salt to taste. At this point the chicken should be fall apart tender.
An original recipe created in New Orleans that has seen many variations, however the main ingredients consist of oysters and green veg which is a great the combination for sperm health. Dark, leafy-green vegetables, such as spinach, are loaded with folic acid that helps in overall sperm health and motility. The combination of Vitamin C and spinach is found to have a positive effect in increasing sperm count.
Oysters are a rich source of zinc which is an essential mineral that plays an important role in improving testosterone levels as well as sperm production
1 garlic clove
2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach
1 bunch watercress, stems trimmed
1/2 cup chopped green onions
3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Pernod or another anise-flavoured liqueur
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1lb rock salt (for salt baking)
24 fresh oysters, shucked, shells reserved
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 450°F. Finely chop garlic in processor. Add spinach, watercress and green onions to garlic. Process, using on/off turns, until mixture is finely chopped. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.
Combine butter, breadcrumbs, Pernod, fennel and hot sauce and mix in a blender and process until well blended. Return spinach mixture to the blender and use intermittent blends until mixtures are blended. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover; chill.)
Sprinkle rock salt over large baking sheet to depth of 1/2 inch. Arrange oysters in half shells atop rock salt. Top each oyster with 1 tablespoon spinach mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until spinach mixture browns on top, about 8 minutes.
Ginseng has been known for its health benefits and is a powerful herb known for improving male fertility by increasing the number of sperms, sex drive and also enhances the sexual performance. It also helps in fighting erectile dysfunction, increasing semen volume and sperm production.
Garlic contains a chemical compound called allicin, that helps in improving the flow of blood to the genitals and boosts the strength and endurance of the sperm. They are also power-packed with selenium and vitamin B6 which helps in preventing sperm damage and hormone regulation.
This recipe combines ginseng and garlic in this tasty chicken ginseng broth soup.
4 cups boiling water
5 oz Korean red ginseng tea
2 small chickens (poussin) or Cornish hens, (about 2lb each)
4 large cloves garlic
15 goji berries
3 pieces dried Korean red ginseng, optional
2 cooked chestnuts, peeled, optional
1 cup uncooked sweet rice
2 pinches dried chili threads
Handful fresh pea shoots
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
Freshly ground black pepper
Brew the ginseng tea by mixing together the boiling water and the ginseng tea until dissolved. Set aside. Rinse the chickens with cold water. Place 2 of the garlic cloves, goji berries, 1 piece of ginseng, a chestnut, and 2 tablespoons of rice into the cavity of each bird. Skewer each closed with a toothpick. Place the remaining rice in a double layer piece of muslin or cheesecloth with of the remaining ginseng and date. Tie the cloth closed tightly but leave a little bit of extra space for the rice to expand. Place the chickens and rice bag into a large wide heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with the tea, and top off with water to cover, if necessary. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, occasionally skimming away any fat that comes to the surface, until cooked through, about 2 hours.
When done, the chickens should be very soft and fall apart easily when tugged at. Carefully transfer the chickens to two bowls and divide the broth between them. Top the chickens with chili threads, garnish with pea shoots, and a sprinkle of black sesame seeds. Drizzle with sesame oil. Unwrap the rice package in a separate bowl and sprinkle with black sesame seeds, if you like. Serve with salt and pepper on the side.
Dark Chocolate Banana Cake
Every now and then it’s okay to indulge in a little treat especially during a stressful fertile journey. However, this chocolate banana cake is light and healthy, so you won’t feel so guilty for eating it.
Dark chocolate is a powerful aphrodisiac that contains an amino acid called L-Arginine HCL which is known to increase semen volume and sperm count and improves the intensity of the orgasms.
Banana have a rare enzyme called Bromelain which helps in regulating sex hormones. They are a rich source of vitamin A, B1 and C, which will increase stamina and sperm productivity.
In this recipe, instead of oil, there are bananas and applesauce, which make this cake tender and moist.
3 medium – banana
3/4 cup – brown sugar
1/2 cup – applesauce, unsweetened
1 teaspoon – vanilla extract
1 large – egg
1 cup – flour, all-purpose
1/2 cup – cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 teaspoon – baking soda
1/2 teaspoon – salt
1 cup – chocolate chips, semisweet
1/8 cup mini chips