While infertility is commonly thought of as a female problem, men too can experience fertility problems. Male infertility can have numerous causes, such as abnormal sperm production, genetic defects, undescended testicles, or certain health problems like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or HIV. In some instances, the underlying cause of poor sperm count or sperm quality cannot be determined. According to Mayo Clinic, a low sperm count (oligospermia) occurs when you have fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Having a low sperm count can significantly reduce the chance of one of your sperm fertilizing your partner’s egg, which is necessary for a successful pregnancy.
Lycopene and Its Effect on Male Fertility
A recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Sheffield states that the red pigment compound found in sun-ripened tomatoes can increase sperm count by up to 70% while providing other key benefits for male reproductive systems. About one in every six couples have difficulty conceiving. It is believed that poor sperm quality is to blame for about half of these cases. Lycopene, the red pigment found in tomatoes, has the potential to raise sperm quantity and quality.
Lycopene is a type of carotenoid, a naturally-occurring pigment that gives some fruits and vegetables their red color. You can find lycopene in watermelons, red carrots, and papayas, but not in certain red crops like cherries and strawberries. It is particularly present in high amounts in tomatoes. In fact, tomatoes offer about 80 percent of the lycopene in the typical U.S. diet. One serving of fresh tomatoes provides between 4 and 10 mg of lycopene, while one cup of tomato juice has about 20 mg. Lycopene can also be found in supplement form, although the raw product is easier for the body to use.
Adding Lycopene to Your Everyday Diet
If the thought of eating tomatoes for every meal sounds repulsive, don’t fret. There are many delicious ways to increase the amount of lycopene in your diet without having to eat raw tomatoes at every meal. Like any nutrient, lycopene should not be overconsumed. Currently, there is no official recommended amount for daily intake of lycopene. However, in a report published in International Urology and Nephrology Journal in which men with impaired fertility were given 2 mg of lycopene twice a day, 66 percent saw improved sperm concentration and 53 percent had improved mobility.
There are countless ways to incorporate more lycopene into your diet, such as:
- Fresh-squeezed tomato juice
- Tropical fruit smoothie with fresh tomatoes
- Homemade pizza sauce
- Spaghetti sauce served over whole grain pasta or eggplant
- Tomato slices added to sandwiches or salads
- Bruschetta created with freshly chopped tomatoes
- Pureed tomato in soups or stews
- Homemade salsa spooned over scrambled eggs
- Baked stuffed tomatoes with meat and cheese
The Sperm Count Regeneration Cycle
It is important to understand that eating tomatoes for a few days will not instantly solve your fertility woes. Although you produce new sperm every day, it takes time for the reproductive system to complete a full sperm regeneration cycle, a process known as spermatogenesis. During spermatogenesis, the testicles regenerate new, functional sperm. In addition to consuming more lycopene-rich foods, you can improve the quality and quantity of your sperm by exercising regularly, limiting smoking and alcohol intake, wearing loose-fitting underwear and clothing, and maintaining a vitamin-rich diet.
DISCLAIMER: All content provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, and/or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional.