Buy organically grown fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, and eat contaminant-free, responsibly harvested fish.
Real men eat lettuce, or at least they should. Lettuce and other types of high-antioxidant fruits and vegetables have been found to improve sperm quality, according to the findings of a recent study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
THE DETAILS: The study’s authors analyzed the diets of 30 men with poor sperm quality and 31 whose quality was normal, who were attending a fertility clinic in southeastern Spain. The men answered questionnaires related to their food intake (how much meat, dairy, vegetables, fruits, vegetable oils, and alcohol they consumed) and provided semen samples at the beginning and end of the study. Men with lower sperm quality, the researchers found, had higher intakes of yogurt, meat products (especially processed meats like sausage), and potatoes, while men with high-quality sperm ate more shellfish, vegetables, apricots, peaches, and skim milk.
WHAT IT MEANS: Like Greek cuisine and some types of Italian food, Spanish food has traditionally included lots of fish, fruits and vegetables, and healthy olive oil, with little red meat or dairy. However, “there has been a change in our traditional dietary patterns towards a more westernized one,” says the study’s lead author Jaime Mendiola, PhD, a researcher from the department of reproductive biology and medicine at Instituto Bernabeu in Alicante, Spain. He writes in his study that increased exposure to estrogenic compounds that are found in meat and dairy products, as well as from synthetic chemicals like pesticides, phthalates, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), may be compromising the male reproductive system.
While it’s difficult to completely dodge all those chemicals, men who are concerned about their fertility can shift to a more sperm-friendly diet:
• Antioxidants are key. In Mendiola’s study, as well as a few others, diets high in antioxidants have been associated with improved sperm quality. Boost your intake of high-antioxidant foods like lettuce (any kind but iceberg), tomatoes, greens, blueberries, apricots, and peaches.
• Go organic. Yes, its been said a thousand times, but as Mendiola states, pesticides aren’t just hurting the planet, they could be killing your swimmers. Chemically farmed peaches and lettuce (and other soft-skinned fruits and vegetables) have some of the highest pesticide residues, so don’t negate the positive benefits of antioxidants by also consuming high levels of pesticides.
• Boost your good fish intake. Eating seafood not only improves your sperm quality, but other studies have found that it also cuts your risk for prostate cancer later in life. Search Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to find your best choices for fish that aren’t over fished but are low in sperm-damaging contaminants like PCBs.