Father’s Day is the time to show our appreciation for dad – and if you were fortunate to be born without birth defects, dad’s diet may deserve some of the credit.

A lot of attention is focused on the role of folic acid in women’s diets to prevent birth defects.  But new basic research published in the journal Nature Communications constitutes the first study to show that the folate status of the father, not just the mother, could be equally critical in predicting healthy pregnancy outcomes.  Scientists from McGill University found that male mice with folate-deficient diets had as much as a 24% increase in birth defects, including severe facial and skeletal malformations (vs. 3% in the control group).  As lead researcher Sarah Kimmins observed, “Our research suggests that fathers need to think about what they put in their mouths, what they smoke and what they drink and remember they are caretakers of generations to come.”

Where can would-be dads find foods with relatively high folate content?  Start in the produce aisle, and load up on spinach, broccoli, beets, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes.  Beans are also top sources of folate, with one cup of lentils providing 90%, pinto beans 70%, black beans and navy beans 60% (foods which as we learned in last month’s newsletter also reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol levels).  Moreover, such plant foods are bulwarks against obesity, which in and of itself reduces the bioavailability of folic acid.

Men looking to increase fertility as well as overall health may also want to consider:

  • Loading up on red fruit such as watermelon, guava and tomatoes – all high in the carotenoid antioxidant lycopene found to help previously infertile men impregnate their wives.
  • Including more fish in the diet, as omega-3 fatty acids were found to increase sperm count in one basic study.
  • Limiting meat and full fat dairy, found to correlate with poor sperm quality

 Published June 1, 2014