The Mediterranean Diet and Fertility

Mediterranean Diet and Fertility

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Speak to any fertility expert or nutritionist about the best foods to eat for your preconception plan and one phrase will come up time and time again – the Meditteranean Diet.

But does this mean sipping wine in St Tropez or eating pizza in Naples? Not exactly – but it’s still pretty tasty! Here we break down exactly what the Mediterranean diet is and how it could help your sperm health.

What is the Mediterranean diet?


So when we say a ‘Mediterranean diet’ what are we actually talking about? Well, really we’re looking at the foods that are native to the regions surrounding the Mediterranean sea – such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Egypt and Lebanon. Whilst cuisine can vary dramatically between these different countries – a Moroccan tagine is obviously very different to a Spanish paella! – there are some similarities that bond them.

There is often a focus on fresh and whole foods and these regions also tend to eat every seasonally. There is an abundance of fruit and vegetables as well as whole grains, legumes and nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, and olives and olive oil.

The Mediterranean diet also tends to include a lot of fresh fish and seafood, whereas dairy-based products and red meat are slightly more limited.

Aside from the food, the ethos behind a Mediterranean style of eating is family and focus. Fast food and TV dinners are not the done thing and instead, meal times are an opportunity to gather around the table, share food and swap stories and most importantly take your time.

Why is the Mediterranean Diet a good diet for fertility?


Whilst there is no perfect specific diet for supporting fertility – a Mediterranean diet – which is full of sperm superfoods – comes pretty close – and there’s research to prove it.

Studies have found that following a Mediterranean diet can help to improve sperm health in men as well as supporting female fertility .

One of the main reasons that the Mediterranean Diet is so good for fertility is that it is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s support ovulation and egg quality and also help to protect sperm from damage as well as encourage healthy sperm production. This way of eating also includes a lot less saturated fats (which aren’t great for fertility) than the dietary habits from other countries.

The high level of fruits and vegetables consumed in a traditional Mediterranean diet is also great news for our fertility. They are not only full of vitamins and minerals needed for effective reproduction but they are also high in antioxidants. Foods rich in antioxidants help to slow down oxidative stress and cell damage caused by pollutants and toxins.

Plant-based proteins – like legumes – are another staple of the Mediterranean diet and these are more nutritious than animal meat. Whilst there is still some debate around whether a vegetarian or vegan diet is a good approach for those working on their fertility, consuming more plant-based proteins alongside smaller portions of fresh meat and fish does seem to have a positive effect.

Lastly, the slower pace of eating that is common for those adopting a Mediterranean style of dining is great for gut health. Mindful eating supports active digestion which has a positive impact on our gut health. Good gut health is the baseline for many of our bodily functions, including fertility.

Aside from fertility, there are a bunch of other benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Research has found that adopting this diet can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke and could also help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer.

How to adopt this diet


The good news is you don’t have to book a flight to the Amalfi coast to experience a Mediterranean diet – there are ways you can adopt some of the learnings when eating at home by following these simple steps.

  • Include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in your cooking. Try to mix it up and have a bunch of different colours and textures and where you can try to eat organic fruit and vegetables that are in season and sourced locally.
  • Cook with plenty of whole grains like oats, rice, quinoa and buckwheat. If you’re eating bread and pasta, try to go for wholegrain rather than processed white alternatives.
    Go all in on plant-based protein – and we don’t mean processed meat alternatives. Try to include beans and legumes like butter beans, chickpeas and kidney beans on your plate at least twice a week.
  • Aim to include around 25g-30g of nuts and seeds in your meals per day. Almonds and walnuts make great healthy snacks and you can sprinkle sunflower seeds and flaxseed on top of soups and salads for an extra fertility boost.
  • Give your food plenty of natural flavour with Herbs and spices like garlic, oregano, basil, turmeric, pepper, paprika, cumin and ginger. Many of these spices have fertility-friendly properties as well as make your tastebuds happy.
  • Moderate your consumption of dairy products and when you do eat dairy try to go for unprocessed, natural forms that are gentle on your gut – like full-fat natural yoghurt.
  • Aim for two portions of fish a week – and make sure at least one of them is an oily fish rich in omega-3s like salmon, mackerel or sardines.
  • Try to keep your meat consumption to around 2-3 times a week – and make sure it’s a lean protein like chicken or turkey breast.
  • Use olive oil instead of butter as it has much less saturated fats
  • Avoid processed meats and foods that contain lots of sugar or trans fats – like pastries and cakes.

So will you be adopting a more Mediterranean way of eating to help improve your fertility? Let us know in the comments!


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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.