In many African homes, not having a child in the first few months or years of marriage can lead to untold pressure on the couple, especially the woman by their immediate families.
In fact, childlessness is one of the main factors that lead to the break-up of many couples.
In some cases, women have been the subject of harassment by their husbands and in-laws should there be a delay in having a child. More often than not, men are spared of the insults and embarrassment that trail childlessness in homes.
However, with more exposure today, it is a known fact that men can sometimes be the cause of childlessness in a home. But the good news is that there are tons of natural and medical solutions that men – as well as women – seeking children could explore.
According to experts, one of such solutions is found in the diet that one consumes.
A fertility expert and dietitian at the Reproductive Medicine Associates, New York, United States, Dara Godfrey, said diet and nutrition were essential factors in getting the body ready for making a baby, stressing that fertility diets were not just for women, but also for men.
She said certain foods could potentially increase sperm count and quality, while others could cause damage to sperm count and quality.
“And if you didn’t know, a man is considered to have a low sperm count if he has fewer than 39 million sperm total per ejaculation or fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre. It sounds like a lot, but considering how far they have to travel, it’s not that many.
“The point? It’s important for him to evaluate his diet, so it won’t interfere with the chances of conceiving,”
she wrote on mother.ly.
Godfrey and other fertility experts recommended the following 20 foods that men should add to their diets when trying to conceive:
“Dark chocolate contains arginine, an amino acid that can improve sperm count and quality over time,” Godfrey said.
A Bangalore, India-based obstetrician and gynaecologist, who is also a member of the Royal College Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Sabiha Anjum, also said the consumption of dark chocolate could boost sperm count and quality in men.
“The cacao beans that make up the chocolate are full of antioxidants. Dark chocolate also contains an enzyme called L-Arginine which helps increase the volume of sperm. You and your partner can share a piece of dark chocolate after dinner, instead of having a filling dessert,”
Anjum wrote on parenting.firstcry.com.
Anjum said, “It’s no secret that eggs are the basic superfoods for increasing sperm count. Eggs are rich in Vitamin E and protein, which help in the motility of the sperm.”
She said consuming eggs also protects the sperm from free radicals, thereby doubling the chances of fertilisation.
“Eggs are also a rich source of zinc, which is known to improve sperm motility. Eggs can be consumed in umpteen ways to increase your sperm count,”
A Lagos-based obstetrician, Dr Oyepeju Adeoti, said bananas were the obvious choices for increasing sperm production.
“Bananas are rich in Vitamins B1 and C and magnesium, and these are elements that can increase the mobility of the sperm and help in sperm production,”
she said. She added that bananas also contain an enzyme called Bromelain, which could help boost sperm count and motility.
“Bananas can also regulate the sex hormones and cheer your mood. So if you love eating bananas, you have enough and more reasons to continue eating bananas,”
Garlic helps prevent cancer as well as enhance the production of sperm in the scrotum, Anjum said.
“Garlic contains allicin, which is required for stimulating blood circulation to the right parts. The blood flows freely to the sexual organs and protects them from any damage. Selenium, which is another important enzyme found in garlic, helps to improve sperm motility,” she said.
Godfrey said eating leafy vegetables like spinach is good for health as they help regulate a lot of activities in the body.
“Leafy greens can especially help in sperm production. Spinach is rich in folic acid, which is essential for the development of the sperm,” she said.
According to Anjum, walnuts are well-known as brain food, but they also help increase the sperm count. Being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts improve the vitality of sperm, she said.
Oysters are a great source of zinc, which helps improve sperm motility. So eat oysters – they will stimulate the reproductive system by providing glycogen and taurine, Anjum wrote.
Adeoti said ginseng is a great aphrodisiac that has been used for cooking purposes for ages.
“Ginseng not only increases testosterone but also helps in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. It is available in fresh or dried form and can be consumed in the form of tea,” she said.
Experts at London-based organisation, Emma’s Diary, stated that whole grains such as oats, brown rice, whole wheat and quinoa were great to boost male fertility.
“These whole grains are complex carbohydrates and so not only give you lots of energy by releasing sugar into your blood slowly and evenly, but also contain an abundance of B and E vitamins that are essential for cellular reproduction, hormonal balance and the production of healthy sperm,”
Also, salmon, mackerel and sardines are said to be the best source of essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, which are important for regulating reproductive functioning, improving blood flow and enhancing sperm quality and mobility.
For those who don’t eat fish, flaxseed oil is said to be a good alternative to essential fatty acids.
This food has for centuries been considered a fertility-boosting superfood, according to Emma’s Diary experts.
“It’s incredibly rich in the minerals and amino acids that nourish the reproductive system,” they said.
This provides a rich source of vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant and an essential fertility nutrient that improves the viability of sperm. It is also said to be an excellent source of unsaturated fats.
According to Anjum, pomegranates are known to increase sex drive. “Being a rich source of antioxidants, they help increase the level of sperm and quality of sperm production as well. You can consume pomegranates in raw form or in the form of juice every other day,” she said.
Anjum wrote, “These seeds are rich in antioxidants, phytosterols, and amino acids which enhance fertility in men. Pumpkin seeds can also help in increasing sperm count, motility, and virility overall. You can add them as salad toppings or consume them raw as a snack.”
Carrots, which can be consumed as a snack or as a vegetable, are said to be a rich source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant which maintains the health of the sperm by protecting it from free radicals. This, in turn, aids mobility of the sperm thereby helping it to reach the egg.
According to Anjum, red meat such as beef is also a great source of zinc. “Beef is also a rich source of folic acid and selenium, which helps improve sperm health. If you like meat, consume beef – it will assist in sperm production and mobility,” she said.
The consumption of olive oil is said to regularly help improve sperm count and quality of sperm. It is said to help keep the bad cholesterol levels low, increase the flow of oxygen to the testicles, and help in the formation of healthy sperm.
Tomatoes are great fertility food. They contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant known to improve the structure and activity of the sperm. Regular consumption of tomatoes can increase fertility in men, experts said.
Be they raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, or blueberries, berries are said to contain powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients such as quercetin and resveratrol, which help in increasing the quality and production of sperm.
Loaded with the healthy monounsaturated fats that support the reproductive system, as well as Vitamin E and other vitamins and minerals, snacking on almonds is said to be a great way to boost fertility in men.
Five foods to avoid or reduce intake of
For men seeking to improve their sperm count and quality, experts advised them to cut back on or eliminate the consumption of the following foods:
- Fried foods: These hard-to-resist foods can decrease the quality of sperm.
- Full-fat dairy: Full-fat dairy contains oestrogen and can lower healthy sperm.
- Processed meats: Processed meats (including bacon, ham, sausage, hot dogs, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat and meat sauces) can lower sperm count, experts said.
- Caffeine: Researchers have linked caffeine consumption by both men and women in the weeks leading up to conception to an increased risk for miscarriage.
- Alcohol: One or two alcoholic drinks are okay, but more than 14 mixed drinks in a week can lower testosterone levels and affect sperm count.
Other tips to improve male fertility
Apart from consuming the above foods, Anjum advised men to also incorporate some lifestyle changes to improve their sperm health.
- In order to improve your fertility levels, you must quit smoking. Smoking affects fertility levels in men, so it is important that you quit smoking.
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time as it can increase your scrotal temperature, which can affect your fertility levels. Also, do not take hot tub baths for long.
- If you want to have a baby, have sex frequently. Having sex with your wife when she is ovulating will definitely increase her chances of getting pregnant, but having sex frequently will improve your fertility levels.
- If you are overweight or obese, work harder to bring your weight to healthier levels. As being overweight or obese disturbs the hormonal balance, it lowers the sperm count as well.