Some diets recommend eating ‘Superfoods’—foods that contain antioxidants and have supplemental health benefits. These foods are supposed to be good for your overall wellness, with the potential to help treat certain conditions or symptoms. But what you don’t normally hear is how these antioxidant-rich foods can help your reproductive health.
When molecules in your body become oxidized, free radicals are released. These free radicals roam the body and cause chain reactions that end up damaging and killing cells. Antioxidants are the antidote. Not only can they stop these harmful chain reactions in their tracks, they can also prevent molecules from becoming oxidized in the first place1.
Antioxidants and Fertility
Free radicals aren’t all bad. A certain level of free radicals is normal, and even necessary, in the body. For men, normal sperm function requires the presence of free radicals. But an excess of these molecules can negatively impact sperm function and subsequent fertilization. In fact, some data suggests that high levels of free radicals contribute to 30-80% of cases of male infertility2. And not only can these free radicals make conception challenging, but the damage they do to sperm can result in birth defects, disease, pregnancy loss, and other complications if your partner does get pregnant3. Antioxidants reduce the levels of free radicals in your body, in turn reducing the damage they do to your sperm’s DNA and improving sperm motility.
Antioxidants are relatively easy to come by. Your body makes some of its own, but you can boost your internal supply. Many dietary supplements contain antioxidants, but it is ideal if you go right to the source: fresh foods. Examples of antioxidant-rich foods include:
- berries and red grapes
- broccoli, spinach, and artichokes
- beans and legumes
- whole grains, nuts, and seeds
1. Sies, H. (1997). Oxidative stress: Oxidants and antioxidants. Experimental Physiology, 82 (2), 291–295. Retrieved from http://ep.physoc.org/content/82/2/291.long
2. Agarwal, A. & Allamaneni, S. S. (2011). Free radicals and male reproduction. Journal of the Indian Medical Association, 109(3), 184–187. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22010591
3. Gharagozloo1,P & Aitken, R. J. (2011). The role of sperm oxidative stress in male infertility and the significance of oral antioxidant therapy. Human Reproduction, 26(7), 1628–1640. Retrieved from http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/26/7/1628.long