If you’re like many men, you may not give much thought to what you eat, but you might pay more attention if you knew that certain nutrients, such as zinc, could potentially improve the health of your sperm, and, as a bonus, the health of your prostate and heart as well. So if you’re looking to help your guys swim better, eat some oysters or a handful of cashews to up your zinc intake.

A Little About Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral, which means that your body cannot make it and you can only meet your needs through foods or supplements. It plays a number of important roles in the body, including facilitating enzyme activity, supporting immune health, making protein and helping heal wounds. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for men is 11 milligrams of zinc a day. Oysters are your best source with 74 milligrams in a 3-ounce cooked serving. If oysters aren’t your thing, beef, pork, cashews and baked beans can also help you meet your daily needs.

Improve Your Sperm Quality

In addition to supporting basic health needs, zinc is also an antioxidant that protects cells against oxidative damage, including sperm cells. Not getting enough zinc in your diet may increase your risk of poor quality sperm and infertility, according to a 2009 study published in “Nutrition Research.” This study found that men with lower levels of seminal zinc had lower sperm counts, as well as abnormal sperm morphology. The researchers hypothesized that zinc provides protection to sperm cells against oxidative damage, improving their number and quality.

Better Prostate Health

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in American men, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. A normal prostate has higher levels of zinc than any other soft tissue in the body. However, cancerous prostates have lower levels of zinc than normal prostates, reports the Institute. Additionally, men who get more zinc in their diets also tend to have lower rates of prostate cancer. As an antioxidant, zinc may protect the prostate from cell damage. Zinc is also an anti-inflammatory and helps promote the death of cancerous cells.

Good for Your Heart Too

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control, and men are 1 1/2 times more likely to die of heart disease than women, states the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. But meeting your daily zinc needs may provide your heart some protection. Replenishing cellular zinc levels helps improve heart function and prevents further damage to your heart after a heart attack, according to a review article in “Nutrition.” While zinc plays an important role in maintaining heart health after damage, more research is necessary to determine its role in prevention.

Zinc Deficiency and Erectile Dysfunction

A 1996 study showed a very clear relationship between zinc and testosterone levels. Young men were fed a diet including very little zinc so that they developed a zinc deficiency. Testosterone levels were measured and there was a significant decrease (almost 75 percent) after 20 weeks of a low-zinc diet.

The study also examined zinc supplementation in elderly men. Researchers showed that with increased zinc intake, testosterone levels in the elderly population almost doubled. This is pretty powerful evidence that zinc has an impact on testosterone production.

This particular study concluded that in males, zinc has a positive effect on arousal and maintaining an erection.

A 2013 study shows that sense of smell may actually be important to libido, especially in younger men. That means that zinc deficiency, which can reduce sense of smell, may also reduce libido. Zinc not only impacts the level of testosterone, but may cause a loss of the ability to detect subtle chemicals that induce arousal.

Natalie Fauvage

Natalie finished her degree in the ISTEC - Paris before working for Éditions Gallimard. She joined the team in 2018 and enjoys globe trotters in search of the brightest names to share their stories

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