Male fertility: Nuts and seeds to garlic, list of antioxidants-rich foods to help men improve their sperm health | Health

Male infertility is a growing concern worldwide with 1 out of every 6 couples experiencing fertility and reproductive issues and traditionally, fertility concerns have been predominantly linked to women however, there is a growing effort to raise awareness about male fertility issues. According to recent research, male infertility occurs in 30-50 percent of cases and while there is medication available to address this challenge, there are also natural methods to enhance fertility.

Male fertility: Nuts and seeds to garlic, list of antioxidants-rich foods to help men improve their sperm health (Image by gpointstudio on Freepik)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Aswati Nair, Fertility Expert at Nova IVF Fertility at Delhi’s Rajouri Garden, shared, “Most common causes of infertility include conditions like varicocele, smoking, radiation, urinary tract infections, and nutritional deficiencies. Additionally, environmental factors and oxidative stress adversely affect one’s fertility rates. Oxidative stress affects approximately 50 percent of men grappling with infertility. A 2019 Human Reproductive Sciences study indicates that oxidative stress leads to diminished sperm motility, heightened sperm DNA damage, as well as an elevated risk of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities.”

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How does Oxidative Stress occur?

Dr Aswati Nair answered, “Free radicals unstable molecules that are formed constantly in the body and are detrimental to the DNA in the cells and tissues if the levels become too high hence linking them to various illnesses like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. While free radicals play a crucial role in supporting cell division and aiding immune cells in fighting infections, an excess of these molecules, also known as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), leads to oxidative stress (OS). The body naturally produces antioxidant compounds to counteract free radicals. However, an imbalance between ROS and antioxidants results in OS, harming sperm DNA and hindering fertilization by disrupting normal sperm function. Hence, maintaining a balance by inactivating ROS with antioxidants is crucial for normal sperm functionality.”

The Prominent Role of Antioxidants

According to Dr Aswati Nair, antioxidants are substances or compounds that neutralise free radicals, disrupting chain reactions that culminate in oxidative stress. She explained, “By restoring balance and eliminating Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), antioxidants improve motility and morphology and prevent DNA damage to sperm. These beneficial compounds are prevalent in food, particularly plant-based sources such as fruits and vegetables. Key vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium, act as antioxidants. Thus, these essential compounds are pivotal in helping the body maintain equilibrium between free radicals and antioxidants, promoting reproductive health and overall well-being.”

Dt Nisha, Consultant Dietician and Nutritionist at Motherhood Hospitals in Gurgaon, suggested the following antioxidant-rich foods which are beneficial for your sperm health –

  1. Nuts and Seeds: Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, selenium, and antioxidants, walnuts can help improve sperm quality, motility, and morphology. Whereas, almonds are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect sperm cells from oxidative damage and may improve sperm motility. Pumpkin seeds on the other hand contain zinc, essential for testosterone production and sperm formation, as well as antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium and Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium, a mineral that plays a crucial role in sperm production and motility and helps protect sperm from oxidative stress.
  2. Turmeric: A common spice in Indian cuisine, turmeric contains curcumin, a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit sperm health.
  3. Ginger: Another staple spice in Asian cooking, ginger contains gingerol, a bioactive compound with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that may support reproductive health.
  4. Green Tea: Widely consumed in Asian countries, green tea is rich in catechins, powerful antioxidants that may help protect sperm from oxidative damage and improve sperm quality.
  5. Leafy Greens: Vegetables like spinach, fenugreek, and broccoli are rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene, and lutein, which may help protect sperm from oxidative stress and improve overall reproductive health.
  6. Berries: Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and anthocyanins, which may help improve sperm quality and motility.
  7. Garlic: A common ingredient in Indian cooking, garlic contains allicin, a compound with antioxidant properties that may help improve sperm quality and protect against oxidative damage.

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