The Male Fertility Diet: A Q&A with Dietician and Author Lauren Manaker

“What should I eat to boost my sperm count?”

We get this question a lot at Trak. It’s well known that a man’s nutrition plays a vital role in both his fertility and overall health. It makes sense, right? After all, your body relies on food intake as fuel for maintaining healthy cellular growth, and this is especially true with the delicate processes involved with making sperm cells.

If you start googling this topic you’ll find a whole lot of information (and misinformation) related to diet and sperm health. Are walnuts good for sperm? What about soy? Is keto the way to go? It can be tough to sort through the noise and separate facts from fiction (and from total nonsense).

Well, someone has finally combed through the scientific data and written the book on this topic. Lauren Manaker, a Registered Dietitian, is the owner of Nutrition Now Counseling and the author of the new book Fueling Male Fertility – Nutrition and Lifestyle Guidance for Men Trying to Conceive.

We sat down with Lauren to learn more about her research, her book, and to get her thoughts on how men can optimize their diet for their fertility.

 

What inspired you to write a book about the link between men’s nutrition and fertility?

I started my own nutrition counseling and consulting business with a focus on female fertility. Over and over again, I noticed that the women who were coming to see me with a diagnosis of unexplained infertility were making so many changes to their diet and lifestyle, and their male partners were not following suit.  Over time, I learned that it was not due to a lack of motivation, but rather a lack of knowledge.  The man’s side of the equation is not discussed as often as the women’s role, and as a result, many women carry the stress of making a baby on her shoulders.  I wrote this book to provide couples with evidence-based ways that the man can be a bigger player in the journey.  The most simple first-step is for a man to learn more about his body, either from a semen analysis or by using a home testing kit like Trak.

Lauren Manaker
Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC – Dietician and Author of “Fueling Male Fertility – Nutrition and Lifestyle Guidance for Men Trying to Conceive

You have almost as many letters after your name as in your name itself (MS, RDN, LD, CLEC). Can you describe your expertise in this area in more detail (and please feel free to brag!)?

I will be happy to brag because I worked hard for that alphabet soup behind my name!  I am a registered and licensed dietitian-nutritionist, and also a certified lactation educator-counselor.

I have worked in many settings including hospitals, industry, and public health before I entered the entrepreneurial world. Nutrition is an exciting world to work in because there is always new research that comes out about different health topics.  We are always learning.

Fertility is a newer area that is finally getting more attention in the research world.  I am looking forward to what we learn over the next few years now that researchers are digging deeper into causes and treatments of the disease.

 

In this book you open up about your personal struggles with infertility. After going through it yourself and then doing all the research for this book, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?

Sadly, I wish I knew that a man plays such a large role in fertility!  Even as a registered dietitian, I intuitively thought that fertility fell on the woman’s shoulders.  I turned my world upside-down trying to become pregnant, but it never resonated that his diet and lifestyle may play a role as well.  Hindsight is 50/50 I suppose…

 

Are there specific links between fertility and nutrition that you wish could get a lot more attention and research? 

Absolutely.  I see so many couples spending a ton of money on nutritional supplements with lofty promises to help a couple become pregnant.  Research on supplementation could be stronger in my opinion. I would love to see more concrete recommendations on nutrients in supplement form so couples aren’t purchasing pills blind.

 

We often get asked what is the best diet for men trying to conceive. Can you give us some menu recommendations for a fertility-focused breakfast, lunch, and dinner? 

Over and over again, research suggests that the best diet for men trying to conceive is the Mediterranean diet.  Adherence to the Mediterranean diet is significantly associated with higher sperm concentration, total sperm count and sperm motility.  Dietary patterns characterized by high intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and low intake of meat are associated with better semen quality.

A Mediterranean diet is a general term for the diet followed my many people who live near the Mediterranean Sea. There are slight variations, but for medical purposes, certain guidelines remain consistent. As mentioned above, those that follow a Mediterranean diet may have more positive fertility-related symptoms.

Below are the basic principles of the Mediterranean diet:

  • high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread and other cereals, beans, nuts and seeds
  • olive oil is predominantly used (an important monounsaturated fat source)
  • fish and seafood are consumed at least two times a week
  • dairy products and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts
  • eggs are consumed zero to four times a week
  • wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts
  • red meat and sweets are rarely eaten

I also like for men to give a special focus on antioxidant-rich foods (fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains). Certain choices, like tomatoes, are a great option because of the lycopene antioxidant concentration that they have.

SAMPLE MENU

Breakfast Greek yogurt topped with fruit and a drizzle of honey. Black coffee.

Snack Handful of walnuts and a piece of fruit. Water

Lunch Tuna on a mixed salad of lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber. Vinaigrette. Whole-grain crackers. Water.

Snack Carrots and hummus. Water

Dinner Small chicken breast over quinoa. Sauteed vegetables. Water.

Don’t forget to check out Lauren’s new book, Fueling Male Fertility – Nutrition and Lifestyle Guidance for Men Trying to Conceive!