5 Anti-Nutrients men need to avoid

Fertility solutions are big business and medical intervention is very expensive. Food and its impact on health outcomes has now emerged as one of the major players in achieving a pregnancy.  

The role of the male in conception is sometimes understated but very important.  There is a steep increase in males presenting with sperm issues.  The focus on sperm quality and the genetics of this raw material is comprehensive and responds best to dietary intervention and adopting positive lifestyle behaviours.

Dietary changes will prevent genetic damage and help improve sperm quality.

New sperm is generated in the body approximately every 74 days. There are no drug treatments available to correct poor quality sperm, low sperm count, sperm that has damaged DNA, poor mobility or poor motility. Consuming nutrients that support sperm production and is the most effective way to influence sperm quality.  Dietary changes will prevent genetic damage and help improve sperm quality.

Anti-nutrients are nutrients that are bad for the body. 

Sperm production is dependent on good quality nutrients.  Avoiding anti-nutrients is just as important as eating good quality food and taking a high quality supplement.  The following foods and behaviours damage the manufacturing of sperm in the body.


Possibly the biggest anti-nutrient consumed in Ireland is alcohol. Alcohol is detrimental to sperm health.  Alcohol causes cellular damage to the body and increases oxidation and free radical production. Male sperm is particularly affected by the amount of alcohol consumed. Alcohol is rapidly converted to glucose in the blood.  Excess circulating glucose damages sperm cells and causes weight gain. Furthermore, alcohol destroys a vital B vitamin called folate in the body — this vitamin is necessary for healthy DNA replication in sperm.

 Mid abdominal fat

Being overweight decreases your chances of conception in both the male and the female. Many fertility clinics will not treat couples who are over-weight. They are advised to lose the weight before treatment can begin.   At the clinics, their body mass index (BMI) is calculated.  It is not necessarily a good indicator as to what is happening internally.  A better measure is to measure mid abdominal fat. This excess fat is lapped around the ovaries, uterus and male reproductive areas.  These fat cells disrupt the functioning of the sex glands and interfere with hormonal harmony.  To reduce tummy fat, reduce processed carbohydrates and aim to eliminate all sugars and foods containing processed fats.  

Avoid adrenaline

When stressed, the body produces greater amounts of adrenaline.  Adrenaline is a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands.  Prolonged exposure to adrenaline is not conducive to conception.  Excess adrenaline switches off all non-essential life processes and can inhibit conception.  Drinking caffeine and sugar laden caffeinated drinks increase the production of adrenaline.  Aim to avoid or reduce coffee while trying to conceive and eliminate caffeinated sugary drinks.  Adrenal glands can become burnt out from excess stress.  Support them by taking some vitamin C daily and foods or supplements high in magnesium.


Male and female hormones are made up of fats.  Fats are hugely important raw materials that are components of both the sperm and all sex hormones.  Cell membranes are made from the various fats and consumed in the diet. A diet high in processed fats known as trans-fats interfere with the delicate signalling that occurs on these membranes.  These are artificial fats made from margarine or re-heating polyunsaturated fats.  Aim to eliminate donuts, white bread, certain pizza, chips, deep fried foods, pastries, biscuits and cakes unless they are made from butter.


Sugar is ubiquitous.  It is in all processed foods.  It is difficult to completely eliminate it from the diet.  Semen contains abundant fructose.  Fructose gives the sperm vital fuel for it to swim.  However,in excess, it causes damage to the cell membranes.  Aim to reduce your consumption of sugar daily.  Eliminate fizzy drinks, fruit juices, cakes, biscuits and bars.  Do however continue to eat 2 pieces of fruit per day as it contains good nutrients

Gaye Godkin, Health Nutritionist, MPH Nutrition (Hons) DipNT cNLP