How Food Affects Your Testosterone Levels: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Your diet affects almost every area of your personal health and well-being, so it should come as no surprise that it can play a part in keeping your T levels in check as well.

Put simply, some foods contain certain macronutrients that have been shown to naturally increase testosterone levels in the body over time.

Conversely, others have been shown to do the exact opposite, lowering T levels and causing issues with its production and regulation.

Understanding which foods have these effects is a critical first step towards managing your testosterone naturally. In the sections below, we’ll take a closer look at 10 foods that have been shown to alter T levels in the body, paying special attention to what causes them to do so.

Foods That Can Increase Testosterone Levels

Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, Kale & More

Also known as “green, leafy vegetables,” this class of food includes broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and arugula.

Dr. Elke Cooke, a doctor of functional and emergency medicine, says this type of vegetable contains an ingredient called indole-3-ethanol that helps your body break down estrogen.

“It helps change our genetics when it comes to estrogen metabolism,” Cooke said. “When a guy thinks his testosterone is low, it’s about the balance between estrogen and testosterone.”

Clean Proteins: Grass-Fed Beef

Cooke went on to say that proteins – beef included – are excellent for your testosterone production as long as they’re “clean,” which means something that hasn’t been treated with hormones or been fed grains.

“The amino acids in these proteins are such that the body can utilize them to initiate the biochemical processes in the body and makes hormones,” Cooke said.

Amino acids are important because one of them, D-aspartic acid, helps build Leydig cells, Healthline points out, which are found in the testes and responsible for creating testosterone.

“Initial research in animals and humans has found that as little as 12 days of D-aspartic acid seems to increase luteinizing hormone as well as testosterone production and transportation around the body,” Healthline’s Rudy Mawer pointed out.

Fish with High Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Salmon

Most of the fat in the American diet, Cooke said, is slathered in omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, which contribute to internal inflammation and pull the body’s resources away from creating testosterone and other hormones.

To avoid this, stick with food that is high in omega-3 fatty acids. An excellent example of a food that meets this requirement is wild-caught salmon.

» For Further Reading: Mediterranean Diet: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

According to an article from U.S. News & World Report, wild-caught salmon has the highest range of omega-3 fatty acids of all the fish that are typically accessible at your local grocery store.

However, keep in mind that not all fish are good sources of omega-3’s. For example, USNWR points out that tilapia and cod, two of the more affordable fish, are low in omega-3’s, as are crustaceans like shrimp, lobster, and crabs.

Potatoes

Back in 1987, a team of scientists wanted to know if high-carb diets were any better or worse at raising testosterone levels than a high-protein diet. Here’s what they found:

“Testosterone concentrations in seven normal men were consistently higher after ten days on a high carbohydrate diet than during a high protein diet.”

Potatoes are an excellent source of carbohydrates and, therefore, have the potential to boost your T. Remember, though, that capability is best served, according to the study we referenced, in a high-carb diet. Eating a potato here and there amid a high-protein diet isn’t necessarily going to work wonders.

Also, Cooke noted that you have to be discerning about the carbohydrates you eat. For example, she warns against eating a lot of sugar on a regular basis. In the long-term, this can lead to insulin resistance and, eventually, low testosterone.

In fact, WebMD points out that, for men over 45 with diabetes, you’re twice as likely to have low testosterone levels.

Foods That Can Decrease Testosterone Levels

Mint

Peppermint and spearmint are extremely popular today across a wide range of foods, as well as in medical, personal hygiene, and other types of products. They are well-loved by many, but some data points to the conclusion that these products may actually have an adverse effect on free testosterone levels in the body.

A study from 2008 illustrated that spearmint in particular suppressed testosterone production in male rats, and another similar study showed that it caused a reduction in T levels by a massive 51 percent. As of yet, human trials in males have not been carried out, but one study noted that women saw an average of a 31 percent decrease in free testosterone after drinking a cup of spearmint tea twice daily for five consecutive days.

Alone, this isn’t enough to definitively state that mint products will lower your T levels, but the evidence is certainly mounting in favor of this argument.

Alcohol

Amongst a lengthy list of adverse effects associated with alcohol consumption is its ability to significantly lower T levels in the body due to a wide variety of reasons.

Namely, the poison disrupts many of the critical bodily functions that regulate testosterone. However, it seems that the dosage amount plays a critical role in determining just how much damage the substance can do.

While heavy drinking has been conclusively shown to have substantial negative effects on testosterone regulation, moderate consumption of alcohol–say, two glasses of red wine every so often–has been shown to be much less severe.

Certain Vegetable Oils

High-PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty-acid) vegetable oils can have a marked impact on your testosterone levels, especially if they contain omega-6 fatty acids. A clinical study from the 1990’s illustrates this clearly, showing that while saturated fatty-acids can increase T levels, these polyunsaturated fatty acids have the opposite effect in men.

The vast majority of the vegetable oils commonly used in the US are packed with PUFA’s.

Cooke pointed out that refined canola oil and margarine are some of the worst offenders when it comes to omega-6 and-9 fatty acids.

“In our society, that’s just the way we eat,” she said. “We’re much more heavy on omega-6 and omega-9 and they both contribute to inflammation.”

» For Further Reading: Anti-Inflammatory Diet: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

Trans Fats

Trans fats are foods that commonly use partially hydrogenated oils, which are synthetic in nature. These include common foods like donuts, cookies, cakes, frozen pizzas, and many different fast foods.

According to the American Heart Association, trans-fat rich foods can increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, as well as type 2 diabetes.

In addition, these fats also promote general inflammation within the body, which as we’ve already covered above is linked to lowered T levels in the body.

They have been shown to lower the amount of “good” HDL cholesterol in the body (which is essential to testosterone synthesis). Finally, increased trans-fat consumption has been directly linked to lowered T levels and sperm counts in otherwise healthy young men.

Soy-Based Products

Soy products have been the center of various debates for several years now, and when it comes to its effects on testosterone production in the body, the situation is no different. Though some conflicting research exists, many studies show that soy products have sperm-blocking and T level-lowering qualities.

Specifically, one study found that out of 99 men, the one who ate the most soy products had the lowest amounts of sperm when measured. Still, as we mentioned above, trials like this one carried out in 2008 seem to illustrate that there were no observable effects in relation to lowered testosterone levels.

Additional Testosterone-Boosting Lifestyle Changes

Carefully managing and maintaining your diet is one of the most crucial steps to take when looking to naturally raise your testosterone levels, Cooke said.

In fact, when men come to her looking for advice on how they can boost their testosterone levels, she starts with the diet.

“Cleaning up their diet is the number one thing,” she said.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as clean proteins, are two of the key foods you can eat to help boost testosterone levels. You can avoid hurting your T levels by avoiding processed foods and refined oils.

But, remember, diet is just part what needs to be a holistic approach to raising your testosterone.

Once you’ve got your diet straightened out, there are a number of other activities outside the scope of your diet that can have a measurable impact on how much testosterone your body is able to produce.

Things like exercising regularly, getting enough sleep at night, and reducing stress whenever and wherever possible all have great potential to help you boost your T levels and feel more in-balance with yourself in general.

In the end, there isn’t one single quick-fix for increasing your testosterone levels naturally. It takes a combination of lifestyle, dietary and mindset changes in order to reach your goals in the long-run.

For Further Reading:


Tyler Cooper

Tyler Cooper is a journalist with a keen interest in personal health, experiential travel and self-improvement. Tyler draws on his experience in the travel and wellness industries to report on products, concepts and initiatives that aim to make the world a better place to live.


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