top of page

10 ways that sperm health is influenced by nutrition

So often it's the female who is focused on improving her fertility through diet and lifestyle changes, yet male factor fertility is 50% of the picture. So what does the research actually highlight when it comes to the impact of diet and lifestyle on male fertility? Here are some key points for you:

Improve sperm quality with antioxidants:

  • Diets rich in antioxidants (vitamins C and E, selenium, and zinc) have been shown to improve sperm quality by reducing oxidative stress.

  • Men who improve their antioxidant intake can see a significant improvement in sperm motility and morphology, which are crucial for fertilization and a successful pregnancy.

  • Reference: Eskenazi B, Kidd SA. Effects of antioxidants on male fertility. Hum Reprod Update. 2003;9(4):331-45.

Sperm count and quality are influenced by body weight:

  • Obesity in men is associated with lower sperm count and quality. This is most likely due to body fat specifically rather than weight itself. Aiming for a healthy weight and healthy level of body fat prior to conception is important to enhance sperm count and quality.

  • Reference: Hammoud AO, Gibson M, Peterson CM, Meikle AW, Carrell DT. Impact of male obesity on infertility: a critical review of the current literature. Fertil Steril. 2008;90(4):897-904.

The impact of paternal alcohol intake on future mental health:

  • Men who consume more than 14 drinks per week are at risk of having children with a 20% higher likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.

  • Of course cutting back on alcohol is important for reducing oxidative stress an improving sperm count and quality, but the benefit extends far further into the health of your future children.

  • Reference: Lundsberg LS, Illuzzi JL, Belanger K, Triche EW, Bracken MB. Low-to-moderate prenatal alcohol consumption and the risk of selected birth outcomes: a prospective cohort study. Ann Epidemiol. 2015;25(1):46-54.e3.

Reducing processed meat and transfats can reduce DNA damage in sperm

  • Diets high in processed meats and trans fats can increase DNA fragmentation in sperm. This can unfortunately lead to a greater risk of miscarriage.

  • Reference: Attaman JA, Toth TL, Furtado J, Campos H, Hauser R, Chavarro JE. Dietary fat and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic. Hum Reprod. 2012;27(5):1466-74.

Adequate folate intake can reduce the risk of chromosomal abnormalities

  • Men with low folate intake are more likely to have sperm with chromosomal abnormalities. This is important in ensuring that your baby is healthy during pregnancy and reduces the risk of miscarriage.

  • Reference: Young SS, Eskenazi B, Marchetti FM, Block G, Wyrobek AJ. The association of folate, zinc, and antioxidant intake with sperm aneuploidy in healthy non-smoking men. Hum Reprod. 2008;23(5):1014-22.

Pesticide exposure has been linked with lower sperm counts

  • Pesticides often consumed through residues left on produce like fruit and vegetables, have been associated with lower sperm counts. Choosing organic options or washing produce thoroughly is a key way to reduce exposure.

  • Reference: Chiu YH, Afeiche MC, Gaskins AJ, Williams PL, Petrozza JC, Tanrikut C, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and their pesticide residues in relation to semen quality among men from a fertility clinic. Hum Reprod. 2015;30(6):1342-51.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids for boosting sperm count and motility

  • Higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with improved sperm count and motility. Include sources of omega-3s frequently in the diet, such as fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts. If you aren't a frequent consumer of fish then definitely consider an omega-3 supplement to provide you with the EPA and DHA fatty acids associated with positive fertility outcomes.

  • Reference: Safarinejad MR, Hosseini SY. Effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on semen profile and antioxidant status in infertile men. Int J Fertil Steril. 2011;5(1):24-31.

Sperm count and motility can be affected by high intakes of caffeine

  • Caffeine intake of more than 300 mg per day can negatively affect sperm count and motility. To put this into perspective, 1 double shot coffee= ~200mg and 1 instant coffee is ~100mg. It's very easy to consume high intakes of caffeine well above this safe limit for optimal fertility.

  • Reference: Jensen TK, Swan SH, Skakkebaek NE, Rasmussen S, Jorgensen N, Toppari J, et al. Caffeine intake and semen quality in a population of 2,554 young Danish men. Am J Epidemiol. 2010;171(8):883-91.

Inadequate Vitamin D Levels has been linked with higher rates of infertility

  • Getting vitamin D status checked is a commonly missed step in the preconception health check process. Not only is it important for female fertility, it's also proven to play a significant role in male fertility as well.

  • Get vitamin D levels tested and ensure adequate vitamin D through sunlight exposure, diet, and supplementation when necessary.

  • Reference: Blomberg Jensen M. Vitamin D and male reproduction. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2014;10(3):175-86.

Overall improved chance of conception and healthy pregnancy through diet

  • A healthy paternal diet can increase the chances of conception by up to 40% and reduce the risk of miscarriage.

  • Reference: Fleming TP, Watkins AJ, Velazquez MA, Mathers JC, Prentice AM, Stephenson J, et al. Origins of lifetime health around the time of conception: causes and consequences. Lancet. 2018;391(10132):1842-52.

A great place to begin when looking to improve your diet or male partners diet for fertility is with my FREE fertility checklist. This freebie is available HERE and is a super simple guide to checking off some of the most crucial aspects of fertility nutrition.

As one of the few qualified fertility dietitians worldwide, I want to make sure that you get the best possible information when it comes to improving your fertility. I have therefore put together a FREE fertility nutrition masterclass for you to access right now on the top 5 mistakes that I see being made when it comes to fertility nutrition. Go ahead and register to watch the masterclass right now!


bottom of page