You may never complain about eating a bunch of broccoli or filling up on fruits again. There's new evidence that antioxidants may be the best foods for healthy sperm and improve the ability to reproduce.

Scientists have been trying to get to the bottom of a worrying trend--the decline in the quality of semen and sperm, and male fertility in recent decades. Some theories about poor sperm quality focus on lifestyle issues, including smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity. Other research suggests that exposure of male babies to toxins and pollutants while in the womb may be a factor.

A recent study conducted at two infertility centers in Spain found that some foods may make for healthy sperm, as a diet low in antioxidants is linked to low reproductive capacity in semen. The study was a follow-up to a previous study by the same researchers that revealed that men who consume large amounts of meat and full fat dairy products have poorer quality semen compared to men who get regular helpings of fruit, veggies and reduced fat dairy.

"In this [second] study, we have found that people who consume more fruits and vegetables are ingesting more antioxidants, and this is the important point," says Jaime Mendiola, lead author of the article and a researcher at the University of Murcia.

The researchers spent the last four years investigating the connection between dietary habits or workplace exposure to contaminants and the quality of semen among men who went to fertility clinics. They wanted to know if a higher or lower intake of vitamins, which act as antioxidants, could have an impact on semen quality.

These best foods for healthy sperm--including beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium and vitamins--are abundant in vegetables and fruits such as citrus fruits, peppers, and spinach. They battle oxidation in the body that destroys cells and can affect semen quality, possibly improving sperm concentration, mobility, and morphology (size and shape).

The study involved 61 men--30 had reproductive problems and the remaining 31 acted as controls. "We saw that, among the couples with fertility problems coming to the clinic, the men with good semen quality ate more vegetables and fruit (more vitamins, folic acid and fiber and less proteins and fats) than those men with low seminal quality," explains Mendiola.

Ranking The Best Foods for Healthy Sperm

Any fruit or vegetable can increase your antioxidant intake. But some foods are richer in these nutrients than others. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture spotlighted some of the best antioxidant sources in different categories:

• Fruits - cranberries, blueberries, blackberries

• Vegetables - beans, artichokes, Russet potatoes

• Nuts - pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts

• Spices - ground cloves, ground cinnamon and oregano

If these best foods for healthy sperm aren't already a part of your daily diet, try to work them in as snacks or shakes. Not fond of vegetables? Make like Gordon Ramsay and hide them in shakes, sauces, casseroles and soups. While you're at it, shake on some spices for extra sperm-boosting benefits.

Source: Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology press release "Semen Quality Depends Upon Antioxidants"