For most couples, trying for a baby automatically means upgrades in the nutrition department. Organic-geared shopping lists, nutrient-rich meals, carefully cooked superfoods, the works!
For the most part, it's the woman who helms the preconception ship, crafting well-thought-out meal plans, laying off the occasional Rosa, staying true to the doctor's orders. And that's just the top of it. What is often forgotten is that while female nutrition is instrumental in determining conception and a healthy pregnancy, male nutrition plays an equally important role. A nutrient-rich diet can promote sperm health, reverse sperm damage and enhance mobility and motility. But as with every story, there are two sides to the nutrition narrative. Just as good nutrition can have a direct bearing on the health and potency of sperm, there are some foods and habits that are thought to be detrimental to sperm integrity. Tobacco and alcohol, for instance, are known to lead to compromised sperm production, sperm damage and poor sperm quality. And while those are just the obvious candidates on the fertility damage leaderboard.
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Processed meat refers to meat that has been preserved by salting, curing, smoking, canning or drying. If you're fond of weekend brunch binges that brim over with hot dogs, bacon, salami, sausages and ham, you may want to reconsider the order on your plate. Research suggests that men who regularly eat processed meat carry 23% less sperm than those who consume it in moderate quantities or not at all. Why? Well, processed meats are chock-full of hormonal residues that disturb the reproductive ecosystem.
Before you reach for your next slice of pizza, consider this. At least two portions of full-fat dairy products like cheese and whole milk, per day, can hijack sperm motility, especially in young males. If you're young and have an affinity for full-fat dairy, review your eating habits and try ways of toning down your fat intake. Swap out whole for skimmed, ration your weekly intake of cheese and be careful with your choices.
Not all seafood is harmful, but fish with a high mercury composition can erode the body's omega-3 reserve, in turn affecting fertility. King mackerel and tuna, although some of the most popular fish in India, have a notoriously high mercury level and are best avoided. Instead, pick healthier alternatives like shellfish and salmon.
Sugary sweet beverages aren't good for anyone - more so if you're trying for a baby. Studies show that more than one serving of soda per day can compromise sperm motility. This is because sugar can increase insulin resistance, resulting in oxidative stress-led sperm damage.
Excessive caffeine and alcohol = low sperm count. Like with aerated beverages, when the body is flooded with alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, it struggles with oxidative stress. In light of this, it is advisable to limit your caffeine and alcohol intake to a maximum of two helpings per day.
Of course, there are other foods that score little or no brownie points on the nutrition scale. Junk foods for instance, don't just exploit the digestive system and heart, they also impair male fertility and restrict the growth of sperm cells. Likewise, illicit drugs can hamper fertility by lowering sperm count while anabolic steroids can shrink testicles and affect sperm production.
There's a gamut of nutrition considerations to be made on the lead up to conception. Take the time to chalk out healthy options with your partner and make sustainable meal plans that you can practise together. With wholesome meals, you're securing your future baby with nutrients for the best start to life.
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