Procreating isn't always as easy as dimming the lights, pouring some wine, and wearing your most alluring cologne. In order to make babies, you'll need the healthy sperm required to start the process. And one of best ways to ensure your swimmers are of Olympic quality is to increase the amounts of certain nutrients in your diet. How do you do that? Eat more foods that increase sperm count as well as foods that enhance sperm quality.
In a small Fertility and Sterility study of healthy men aged 22 to 80, researchers found that those older than 44 who consumed the most vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and folate had 20 percent less sperm DNA damage (an alteration in the chemical structure of sperm that affects fertility) than those who consumed the lowest amounts of these nutrients.
A separate study of 211 men published in Fertility and Sterility also found that supplementing with zinc and folic acid, the manufactured form of folate, can increase sperm count in both fertile and subfertile men.
Thankfully, these nutrients are super common and found in a variety of foods. To help you pinpoint the best sources of these sperm-protecting nutrients, we've compiled the handy list below—consider it your new, go-to shopping guide. And while you're scanning the aisles at the grocery store for these foods that increase sperm count, health, and quality, be sure to stay away from these worst foods for fertility.
Because They're Rich In Zinc…
Lean Beef Short Ribs
If you're looking to beef things up downstairs, barbecue up some lean short ribs. They have more zinc than any other type of meat. A 3.5-ounce serving contains provides a whopping 114 percent of the day's recommended intake. To keep excess calories and fat at bay, opt for grass-fed protein. (And for more ways to dial back on your daily intake, don't miss these easy ways to cut calories.)
These mollusks have long had a reputation as an aphrodisiac, and because of their chart-topping zinc content, they'll boost the chances of having tip-top sperm. Eight medium oysters, eaten raw on the half shell, contain almost four times the recommended intake of zinc. That means you could eat just two as part of a dinner appetizer and have fulfilled your zinc intake for the entire day. Oh, and they're also a great source of inflammation-quelling omega-3s. For even more foods that can kick inflammation to the curb, don't miss these best anti-inflammatory foods!
Aside from its positive effect on your swimmers, zinc has been shown to boost testosterone levels. And when combined with the mineral magnesium, the effects on testosterone are far more potent, according to a Journal of Exercise Physiology study. Pumpkin seeds are a source of both nutrients, making them a must-eat for every man. Add them to oatmeal, use them as a salad topper in lieu of croutons, or combine them with other raw nuts for a quick and simple high protein snack.
Compared to other sources of protein, pork tends to have a bad rap—but it's totally unwarranted. A 3.5-ounce serving has nearly 25 percent of day's recommended intake of zinc and 19 grams of muscle-building protein for just 152 calories and 8 grams of fat. For some mouthwatering ways to prepare the meat, don't miss these healthy pork chop recipes.
Because They're High in Folic Acid & Folate…
A deficiency in folate or folic acid (the manufactured form of folate) can cause an increase in sperm with chromosomal abnormalities, according to University of California, Berkeley researchers so you'll want to up your intake if you're trying to conceive.
This sticky, salty yeast extract spread looks like tar and has a unique and powerful odor all its own. Even its British manufacturers admit that Marmite—which is typically spread on hot buttered toast at breakfast— is an acquired taste. But if you love the idea of passing on your genes, it's worth trying to warm up to the taste. Why? Its main ingredient is yeast extract, which is one of the top sources of folate. In fact, one small smear of the condiment packs a whopping 25 percent of your recommended daily intake of the nutrient. Once smuggled into the U.S. by the families and friends of British expats, Marmite can be found at Whole Foods and Amazon.
When it comes to increasing your intake of the folate, black-eyed peas are a no-brainer. A half-cup serving contains more than half the amount you should eat in a day. Bonus: Although called a pea, they're actually legumes, which just so happen to be one of these best proteins for weight loss. Add them to your salads, veggie burgers, and homemade soups to reap the benefits.
They may not be organic, but a fortified cereal is an easy way to load up on a host of good-for-you nutrients, including folic acid and zinc. Look for a variety that's made with whole grains and has less than 8 grams of sugar per serving. Many good-for-you brands have 100 percent of your RDA of folic acid (like Wheaties) so be sure to scan the label before tossing it into your cart to make sure you're buying the best of the lot.
Popeye shouldn't be the only dude that loads up on spinach. Thanks to its high folate content it should be a part of every daddy hopeful's weekly diet. Use a cup or two of raw leaves as a salad base (15 to 30 percent DV) or sautée some up with a bit of EVOO and garlic as a side dish. A half-cup serving packs an impressive 33 percent of the day's intake. What's more, spinach is one of the best dietary sources of magnesium, a mineral that's essential for reproductive function in men both young and old. That's one of the many reasons why it's one of these best foods for your penis!
Because They're Rich in Vitamin C
Though many people turn to the vitamin when they feel the sniffles coming on, vitamin C offers far more benefits to your bod than you might realize. Foods that increase sperm count contain vitamin C, according to a Journal of Medicinal Food study, and the nutrient has been proven to counteract stress hormones that trigger belly fat storage. Besides increasing sperm count, when vitamin C foods are paired with vitamin E, they can also ward off sperm DNA damage, according to an International Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine study.
A mere cup of this vibrant berry has 148 percent of the day's vitamin C! They're also chock full of polyphenols, powerful natural chemicals that can help you lose weight–and even stop fat from forming, which can help you feel extra confident between the sheets. For even more tips that can help you get lean and shredded, don't miss these weight loss tips from the world's fittest men.
In addition to serving up nearly two day's worth of vitamin C, this cruciferous veggie is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3s. Not only is the healthy fat pertinent to maintaining good heart health, it also raises dopamine levels in the brain. This spike in dopamine improves circulation and blood flow, triggering arousal. If you don't care for fatty fish like salmon, sprouts and other foods rich in the nutrient like walnuts and flaxseeds are important additions to your diet—and your sex life.
Red Bell Pepper
Get this: a cup of raw red bell betters has more vitamin C than three oranges, which is good news for your swimmers. Dip slices of the veggie into an Eat This-approved hummus, add the veggie to sandwiches and salads or throw some lean meat in a corn tortilla with salsa, black beans, red pepper, and onion for a Chipotle-inspired dinner.
The sweet fruit packs nearly seven day's worth of sperm-protecting vitamin C into a mere one cup serving. It also has a higher concentration of lycopene (a cancer-fighting antioxidant) than any other fruit or vegetable. Never eaten one before? You might be surprised to find the fruit overflowing with seeds. Don't bother trying to eat around them—they're edible, so just dig in! For even more foods that can ward off the big C and other diseases, too, don't miss these healthiest foods on the planet.
Because They're Rich in Vitamin E
Sunflower seeds are a potent source of both vitamin E and folate, making them on the most sperm-friendly seeds on the planet. (Not that you were on the hunt for such a thing.) Toss some seeds into a homemade trail mix or salad, or stir some sunflower seed butter into your morning oatmeal. For even more ways to dress up your morning cereal, don't miss these best overnight oats recipes.
According to the National Institutes of Health, adults should consume 15 milligrams of vitamin E each and every day. Just 24 almonds—which make a great on-the-go snack—will get you halfway there. Just don't go beyond the recommended serving size, or you could wind up with dad bod even before your lady gets a bun in the oven.
Sure, safflower oil can help protect your swimmers, but that's not the only reason we're a fan of this high-smoke-point oil. It's also been linked to lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood sugar, and increased weight loss. A tablespoon provides 4.6 milligrams or 31 percent of the day's vitamin E.
If you typically toss the green leaves that are attached to bulbous shaped beets, you're missing out on some serious nutrition. Sautée some up with some chopped onion, sun-dried tomatoes, minced garlic, salt, and pepper to get a solid hit of the day's recommended intake of vitamin E. For even more creative ways to cook with the superfood, check out these ways to use beet greens.