How you eat affects your chances of making babies, says Times nutritionist Jane Clarke
CAREFUL WITH CAFFEINE
Although research is mixed, I suggest keeping caffeine intake down to a couple of cups of tea or coffee a day — especially men, because caffeine affects the mobility of sperm. (A sperm must flick its tail 800 times to move one millimetre.)
Caffeine is thought by some to delay conception — several studies say women who drink coffee find it three times as difficult to conceive within a year as those not drinking it. So give it up if you can. If you’re watching the caffeine during the day and find yourself lacking energy at night, chocolate can be an ally, since it is high in phenylethylamine, which stimulates the production of feelgood and energetic endorphins. Why not indulge in a little good-quality, high cocoa-bean content chocolate therapy?
S IS FOR SELENIUM
Over the past few years, selenium has shot to the forefront of fertility research. Worryingly, selenium levels in European soil, and consequently in most food that we eat (vegetables and vegetable-eating animals being its richest dietary sources), are far lower than, for example, in the US. Indeed, in a study of Scottish men, selenium supplements were shown to increase significantly the sperm cells’ ability to swim, indicating that they had been selenium-deficient.
However, we don’t know enough about how much selenium we need in our diet to recommend supplements (although experts think it’s about 60 micrograms a day for women and 75 men). So I’d advocate boosting your intake of the most concentrated dietary sources of selenium instead. These include Brazil nuts (254 micrograms per 100g), dried mushrooms (110 micrograms per 100g), lentils (40 micrograms per 100g cooked weight) and tinned tuna (80 micrograms per 100g).
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
Zinc and vitamin C are both linked with fertility and libido, so it’s vital to have a well-balanced diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and pulses. Zinc deficiency has been shown to cause low sperm count and mobility, which means eating plenty of fresh figs when they’re in season, seafood such as oysters, lean red meat and crumbly cheese such as Wensleydale.
Vitamin C has been found to increase sperm production, thereby improving chances of conception — so think about plenty of freshly-squeezed fruit juices; green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli; and blueberries, kiwis, pomegranates, and the aptly named passion fruit. Cook foods lightly; eat as much raw food as you can, and as quickly after cutting and peeling as possible, to minimize the amount of vitamin C lost on exposure to the air.
FAT IS A FERTILITY ISSUE
The body needs essential fats — omega 3 and omega 6 oils — which are contained in oily fish such as salmon (preferably organic or wild), sardines, fresh tuna (tinned is fine, but contains fewer omega oils), herrings and mackerel, hemp oil, nuts and seeds. They’re critical for both female and male fertility, regulating fluidity of cell membranes and allowing cells to function efficiently. Seeds and nuts (wholewheat products such as wholegrain bread, oat biscuits and porridge are other options) are also rich in vitamin E, good for ensuring a healthy blood supply to the genitals.
Conversely, hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils, trans-fats (in crisps, margarines — declared on labels, luckily) and saturated fats (in fatty meat and dairy) are to be kept low, as they block the absorption of the essential omega fats.
Full article: TimesOnline.co.uk
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