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Jul 17, 2021

Around 15% of South African couples experience fertility problems, with male factor infertility accounting for approximately 40% of couples struggling to conceive. The most common cause of male infertility is poor quality sperm.

Based on the most recent World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, experts consider a healthy sperm count to be 15 million per millilitre (ml), or at least 39 million per ejaculation.

Doctors consider a sperm count under 15 million per ml to be low. If low sperm count is the cause of the fertility problems, there may be ways to increase sperm count by making some changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Dietary habits contributing to low sperm count may include:

  • eating high quantities of red and processed meat
  • not eating enough polyunsaturated fatty acids (e.g. walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout)
  • consuming low levels of antioxidants (high antioxidant foods include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, dark chocolate, spinach, beets)
  • consuming high levels of saturated fats (e.g. cakes, puddings, biscuits, pastries, butter, fatty meat such as lamb chops and processed meat)
  • eating limited amounts of fruits and vegetables

Here are some foods and supplements that could improve sperm health.

  1. Fish

    Some studies show a correlation between higher amounts of fish consumption and better sperm motility. Fish contains higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and is a healthier alternative to red and processed meats.

  2. Fruits and vegetables

    Higher amounts of fruits and veggies, particularly green leafy vegetables and beans (legumes), have been associated with higher sperm concentrations and better sperm motility. Plant-based whole foods are high in antioxidants such as co-enzyme Q10, vitamin C, and lycopene – the micronutrients that have been linked to higher sperm concentrations.

  3. Walnuts, sunflower seeds and flax seeds

    These nuts and seeds contain polyunsaturated fatty acids which have been linked to increased sperm vitality.

  4. Vitamin D

    Research has found a correlation between improved male fertility and a higher level of vitamin D in the blood. Sitting in the sun for 15-20 minutes per day can naturally boost your vitamin D level, or you can purchase a vitamin D supplement from your local pharmacy or health store.

  5. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, or Indian ginseng, has long played a role in traditional medicines as a remedy for several forms of sexual dysfunction.

A study conducted among 46 males with low sperm counts, who took 675 milligrams of ashwagandha daily for 90 days, saw a 167% increase in their sperm count.

Should you need guidance on how to adapt your diet to incorporate more of the food groups mentioned in this article, you are welcome to consult a Tempo dietitian. Members who have completed their Health Assessment have access to three (3) consultations with a dietitian per year as part of the Bestmed Tempo wellness programme.

List of references:

Mediclinic. Available from: https://www.mediclinicinfohub.co.za/infertility/

Wijnland Fertility. Available from: https://www.wijnlandfertility.co.za/male-infertility/

UChicago Medicine. Available from: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/health-and-wellness-articles/dont-make-the-mistake-of-letting-a-diet-kill-sperm

Medical News Today. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320010

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