The Healthy-Living Dad-To-Be Guide (Diet for Dad)
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The lifestyle I lead can't be that important can it?
It can be easy to think that what you eat, drink and get up to every day has very little effect on your fertility. However, there has been medical research showing that your diet and lifestyle are very important and have a real impact on your ability to make a baby - bad eating habits and heavy drinking affect the strength, quality and quantity of your sperm.
When it comes to nutrition, the good news is that a healthy, well-balanced diet will help maintain a good sperm count and give you the best chance of conceiving a healthy baby. And, if you get into good habits now, these will stay with you for your life as a dad.
What should I be eating and drinking?
You hear doctors, the newspapers and celebrities constantly talking about eating healthily, but what does that actually mean? A healthy, well-balanced diet should include all of the main food groups:
- Fruit and vegetables - aim for 5 portions a day to lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and osteoporosis.
- Carbohydrates - to give you lots of energy and nutrients. Carbohydrates are found in starchy foods. Try to eat wholemeal bread and wholegrain rice, pasta and cereals.
- Protein - to help your body grow and repair itself. Protein comes from meat, fish, eggs and beans. Aim to eat mainly lean meats with the occasional red meat indulgence (such as a juicy steak, which is rich in iron).
- Dairy - choose low-fat milk (skimmed or semi-skimmed), unsweetened yogurts and small quantities of cheese.
- A very small amount of foods that are high in sugar and fat.
About one third of your daily diet should be made up of carbohydrates and another third should be fruit and vegetables. The final third should be made up of protein and dairy foods.
To maximise your fertility, you want to make normal sperm rather than abnormal sperm, so make sure your diet includes:
- Folic acid - found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, sprouts, papaya and jacket potatoes.
- Foods that are rich in antioxidants - a glass of orange juice for vitamin C is a quick and easy antioxidant fix.
- Zinc - found in extra-lean minced beef, dark chicken meat and baked beans.
What else will help my fertility?
If you're a coffee drinker, don't give it up. Caffeine has been found to improve sperm's swimming ability.
Cut down on your drinking. While having the occasional beer or glass of wine is considered to be safe by experts, alcohol in excessive amounts has been found to have a real impact on the quality of your sperm. It is known that heavy drinking of beer, wine or spirits reduces the levels of the hormone testosterone in your body, and less testosterone means a lower sperm count. Not only will your semen have fewer sperm but it will have a larger number of abnormal sperm in there too, so there will be less sperm with the ability to reach and fertilise the egg. Your sperm have a tough enough job to do so you need to give them all the help you can!
The Department of Health recommends that men drink no more than three to four units of alcohol per day:
- 3 to 4 units = just over one and a half pints of 4 per cent lager.
- 3 to 4 units = just over one and a half 175ml glasses of wine.
For more information on alcohol and to work out your how much you drink a day, take a look at the Drink Aware website www.drinkaware.co.uk.
The benefits of exercising regularly are endless. Think about going for a half an hour walk every day; it not only does your heart and waistline good but it clears your head too. Now might be the time you decide to get fit. After all, you're going to need to be 'fighting fit' if you become a dad and have to run around after a rolling, crawling and walking baby.
Lastly, if you're a smoker, what better time to quit then when you are hoping to become a father? When you smoke, you damage your sperm, reducing its quality and quantity. Plus, scientists have found that it takes longer for a passive smoking woman to become pregnant, so you shouldn't smoke around your partner. If your partner also smokes during her pregnancy the health risks for her and your unborn baby are even higher. How about you and your partner try to give up together? There is a lot of support out there to help you quit - why not take a look at the NHS SMOKE FREE website for more information? http://smokefree.nhs.uk/
The fact that you've read this article shows that you are already taking your role as a dad-to-be seriously. Living a healthy lifestyle means you'll be in great shape to adapt to your role as 'Daddy'.