A Fertility Diet for Men?
Unfortunately, there are no dietary guidelines that exist for men trying to get pregnant, but here are a few general nutrition tips for optimizing male fertility.
1) Antioxidant supplementation may improve semen quality and live birth rates. However, the specific antioxidants, combination of antioxidants, or dose responsible for the observed benefits are unknown. Examples of foods high in antioxidants include fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
2) Several observational studies done in populations from different areas of the world have shown that a “healthy” dietary pattern like the Mediterranean diet is associated with better semen parameters. However, the definition of a “healthy” diet differed from study to study. In general, the studies as a whole seemed to mostly identify a “healthy” diet as a diet rich in lean meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. On the other hand, an “unhealthy” diet has been associated with unfavorable semen parameters. An "unhealthy" diet is generally defined as a diet high in red and processed meats, sweets, sweetened beverages, and potatoes.
3) High intake of saturated and trans fats is related to poor semen quality. Trans fat intake has also been associated with lower testicular volume and lower testosterone. Saturated fat is mostly found in animal-based foods, which include meats and whole-fat dairy products. Trans fat is mostly found in processed foods and hydrogenated oils. Saturated and trans fats can be replaced in the diet with healthy fats.
4) If consumed only in moderate amounts, caffeine and alcohol do not have a significant impact on the quality of semen. A moderate amount of alcohol for men is <2 standard servings per day. Examples of standard servings of alcohol are 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
Of note, it is important to keep in mind that these studies looked at clinical semen quality as the outcome measured, and associations with semen quality do not necessarily imply associations with fertility.
Jeanna Ryan MPAS, PA-C, MS, RDN, MSCIS
Physician Assistant, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Mother of 3 Daughters
Gaskins AJ and Chavarro JE. Diet and Fertility: A Review. Am J Obstet Gyncecol. April 2018; 218(4): 379-389.