Planning on making a baby sometime soon? Preconception health isn’t just important for women — men also need to ensure that they’re doing everything they can to provide the healthiest genetic material possible. Sperm cells take up to 75 days to mature, making the three months prior to conception a key time to shore up your nutrition and health habits. 1 Follow these simple tips to make sure you’re getting enough of these key fertility-boosting nutrients.
The Fertility Nutrients
1. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 helps keep the body’s blood and nerve cells healthy, and also helps make DNA.2 Vitamin B12 deficiencies in men can result in reduced sperm counts and lowered sperm motility, as well as some cases of recurrent miscarriage. Some evidence suggests that B12 supplements may improve sperm count and activity.3
Where to get it: Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products like meat, milk and cheese, so vegans need to be especially careful to ensure that they aren’t deficient. Vegan B12 supplements are available.
Folate is a water-soluble B-vitamin that is needed in the synthesis of DNA and is necessary for the production of new cells. According to a new study from the University of California, men with lower levels of folate in their diets have higher rates of chromosomal abnormalities in their sperm. 4
Where to get it: Folate occurs naturally in liver, leafy greens, legumes and citrus fruits.
3. Vitamin K2.
Fat-soluble vitamin K2 is essential for male fertility. Osteocalcin, which stimulates testosterone production and is required for sperm production and survival, depends on vitamins D and K2. Vitamin K2 is also key in healthy facial and dental development.5
Where to get it: Natto (a fermented soybean dish popular in Japan) is a good vegan source of vitamin K2. Other sources include grass-fed ghee, liver and egg yolks.6
4. Vitamin E
Oxidative stress can have a major negative impact on sperm function, so antioxidants like vitamin E have been shown to be very helpful in preventing and treating male infertility.7
Where to get it: Sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach and other greens are all good sources of vitamin E. Other antioxidants such as vitamin C have also been shown to be helpful.8
L-carnitine is an amino acid that may be helpful for sluggish sperm. In a recent study, men who took an L-carnitine supplement daily temporarily improved sperm motility. 9
Where to get it: Meat and fish are the richest sources of L-carnitine, but it’s also available in tempeh and avocados. 10
Although I have focused on specific nutrients here related to fertility, we can’t forget that stress-management, good sleep, water, and exercise, are also important for male fertility. These are what we might call “the fundamentals,” which are critical for the nutrients to actually work.