By Breea Johnson, MS RD
A recent published Cochrane review reported that the partners of men taking oral antioxidant supplements had significantly higher pregnancy and live birth rates than men taking no antioxidant supplements. While this may be a somewhat controversial topic in the world of fertility because a) the appropriate dosage for each man may differ and b) the advantages of "mega-doses" of antioxidant supplements are not well established the benefits of antioxidants are clear, especially from food sources. Antioxidants are vitamins (like vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and Coenzyme Q10), minerals (such as zinc and selenium) and phytonutrients (flavonoids and polyphenols, for example) that most people consume on a daily basis. If you are eating more greens and beans than the average American chances are you also are consuming more antioxidants. The best sources of antioxidants are fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds.
Antioxidants are highly beneficial for health because they prevent DNA damage from oxidative stress. Think of oxidative stress as what happens after a nail is left outside - it begins to rust and age because of lack of protection from the elements. The same thing can happen to the body - both inside and out - and antioxidants can provide the added protection. Oxidative stress also affects optimal sperm function by altering membrane fluidity, sperm motility, count and morphology.
An antioxidant-rich diet is key to quench the excess reactive oxygen species (ROS) caused by inflammation (i.e. a poor diet, smoking, alcohol, stress, chemical toxicity). Here are some easy tips to help increase antioxidants:
- Eat your green veggies. Push aside the lettuce for more nutrient-rich greens such as kale and chard.
- Try a daily green drink. We recommend our which is loaded with antioxidants such as raspberries, blueberries, goji berries, lingonberries, spirulina, green tea, astragalus, ginger, green cabbage, beets, carrots and spinach!
- Add a serving of nuts to your diet daily - try organic, raw, and unsalted almonds, cashews, walnuts and pecans!
- Red beans are one of the highest sources of antioxidants - and they are great especially added to soups and salads!
- If you are taking a multivitamin, make sure it is high quality and a great source of antioxidants.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are also protective of ROS and help keep sperm membrane fluidity - great sources are dark leafy greens, wild salmon and walnuts! Or try a high-quality omega-3 supplement.
To learn more about how nutrition may affect male sperm quality, book an appointment with a Pulling Down the Moon nutritionist by calling (312) 321-0004 or visit www.pullingdownthemoon.com and click on "Schedule an Appointment."