1. Walnuts can boost sperm quality

    Why men may want more walnuts

    Men, if you're looking for a fertility boost, you could shell out top dollars to visit a specialist... or you could just go nuts instead. A new study finds that a daily serving of walnuts can actually do what many fertility treatments can't...create stronger, healthier sperm.

    Researchers gave 58 men half a cup of walnuts a day for 12 weeks, while telling a second set of 59 men to avoid all tree nuts during that time.

    Sperm samples taken before and after found that men who got the nuts had improvements in almost every critical measure. Their sperm had better shape, movement, and vitality and fewer chromosomal abnormalities than they did 12 weeks earlier.

    Men who ate no nuts saw no changes at all, according to the study in Biology of Reproduction.

    Nuts, of course, are a great source of healthy fats, including essential fatty acids. They're especially rich in alpha-linolenic acid, the best plant source of omega-3 fatty acids around.

    We know from other research that omega-3s can play a critical role in fertility in men and women alike. And in this study, the men who ate the walnuts saw increases in omega-3 levels while those who avoided nuts saw no changes.

    The study was funded by the California Walnut Commission, so there's a conflict there worth being aware of. And all of the men in the study were healthy in the first place with no signs of fertility problems, so there's no saying how much nuts might help men with more serious issues, if at all.

    But one thing is clear from this and other studies: Diet and other nutritional approaches can play a major role in the reproductive health of men and women alike, and may in some ways be more effective than fertility treatments.

    Work with an experienced holistic physician to find a nutritional approach that's right for you.

  2. Chia seed is rich in the essential fatty acid ALA

    The surprising source of an essential fatty acid

    With fish oil now the nation's best-selling nutritional supplement, it seems like most people have gotten the message about omega-3 fatty acids.

    Too bad the message is incomplete.

    Along with the EPA and DHA found in fish oil, there's another essential fatty acid your body needs -- one it can't make on its own. It's called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, and a new small study finds a surprisingly good source of it:


    You probably remember those old commercials for Chia Pets, the terra cotta animals with fuzzy heads of grassy "hair." Now, researchers say the same seeds used to grow that hair can also raise levels of ALA and EPA, at least in older women.

    In the study of 10 normal-weight postmenopausal women with an average age of 55, 25 grams of chia seeds a day for seven weeks increased blood levels of ALA by 138 percent.

    That's impressive, even if most people don't realize that ALA plays a key role in controlling the body's inflammation levels -- which means it can help protect the heart and brain and even cut your risk of autoimmune disorders.

    In addition, your body can convert ALA into the other omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, although that wasn't quite seen in the new study. While levels of EPA rose by 30 percent, levels of DHA actually fell slightly.

    In other words, chia seed isn't going to replace your fish oil -- but if this holds up to more research, you might want to take it with your fish oil.

    Some people might even want to add it now, but not necessarily for that ALA. Chia seed is an excellent source of fiber, and I've recommended it for years for constipation relief as well as overall regularity.

    But if your digestion is normal and you want a more proven source of ALA, I recommend walnuts, olive oil, flaxseed, pumpkinseeds and leafy green vegetables.

    The only downside is you can't use them to grow "hair" on little terra cotta statuettes.

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