For men, very few chemicals have such a profound effect on daily life as testosterone does. The primary male sex hormone is responsible for a slew of bodily functions, helping us to grow and mature as we age while keeping a delicate chemical balance intact in our minds.
According to Healthline, Testosterone plays a critical role in all of the following areas:
- Muscle mass and bones
- Facial and pubic hair
- Body’s development of deeper voices
- Sex drive
- Mood and quality of life
- Verbal memory and thinking ability
Healthy testosterone levels have also been associated with heart health, with several studies noting that optimal T levels were essential for lowering the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Unfortunately, according to WebMD, testosterone levels in males peak around age 40, gradually decreasing over time after this point. This means that over time, your body may need help in order to ensure that your T levels remain consistent enough to provide the myriad benefits described above.
In certain cases, testosterone replacement therapy using prescription products such as gels, patches, and injections may be recommended. This is especially likely if a blood test shows that your T levels are below the normal range, which is anywhere from 270-1070 ng/dL (Nanograms Per Deciliter) according to the WebMD link above.
That said, Healthline lists that these treatments can bring on several adverse side effects, including increased acne and urination, enlarged breasts, decreased testicular size, decreased sperm count, and increased aggressive behaviors. If you feel that your T levels aren’t low enough to warrant a prescription solution, you may instead be able to look to your diet in order to naturally increase them over time.
The question then becomes, of course: how can the foods you eat affect your testosterone levels in the first place?
How Food Affects Testosterone Levels in the Body
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.
Five Foods That Can Increase Testosterone Levels
Red grapes are packed with essential nutrients, including resveratrol, a chemical compound that has been shown to increase T levels and influence sperm motility (its ability to swim). Specifically, 500 mg (roughly the same amount found in 5-10 grams of grape skins) was enough to produce these effects in one study.
Tuna is packed with vitamin D, which is linked to increased regulation of testosterone within the body, according to Examine.com. It’s also good for the heart and other areas of the body, due mainly to its protein-rich, low-calorie makeup. If tuna isn’t your thing, healthy alternatives include salmon or sardines.
Red meat consumption has been in the news as of late, and there’s very real clinical evidence showing that over-consumption can increase the risk of developing certain cancers like colon cancer in males.
To be fair, the phrase “everything in moderation” comes to mind, as certain cuts like beef liver contain massive amounts of vitamin D, and ground beef and chuck roast often contain zinc, which has been shown to increase sperm quality and overall testosterone levels.
Beans are another food rich in zinc and vitamin D, as well as many plant-based proteins that are excellent for your heart. White, kidney, and black beans are all packed with these nutrients, and they can even be found (albeit in lesser amounts) within baked beans, as well.
Potatoes are a fantastic source of starchy carbs, which according to multiple studies (such as this one and this one) are essential for testosterone production within the body. So, why potatoes in particular? Other foods like grains have been shown to increase bodily inflammation, which itself has been linked to lower T levels in older men. Other popular starchy alternatives to potatoes include beets, squash, turnips, and parsnips.
Five Foods That Can Decrease Testosterone Levels
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.
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.
3. 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, but thankfully, there are some exceptions. Better choices to use when cooking include coconut oil, palm oil, avocado oil, and olive oil.
4. 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. In addition, 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.
5. 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. That being said, 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 more information on testosterone, be sure to check out our other guides: