7 foods that boost testosterone — and 4 to avoid

foods that boost testosterone

Drop your fork and go get these seven foods that boost testosterone! You don’t have to suffer from the various ills that come from declining testosterone; typically, a steadfast result of aging — for both men and women. Learn what to eat, and not to eat, to boost your testosterone.

foods that boost testosterone(Credit: AnabolicHealth.com)

There’s a darn good reason to start loving the foods that boost testosterone, and avoid those that push it down.

Fellas, if you don’t do something about it, your testosterone level will drop precipitously, starting at around age 30, potentially resulting in low sex drive, moodiness, muscle loss and a big belly.

Ladies, you don’t get off scot-free, because although you need much less testosterone than men (and more estrogen), your health can also become impaired if your testosterone falls too low as you age.

Here’s how it looks for men:

male testosterone delinces with age

Here’s how it looks for women:

Eat the foods that boost testosteroneCredit: Dr. Weston Childs

That graph up there depicting the decline in testosterone in men, just measures that — testosterone. But I purposely selected a graph for women that shows a few important hormones that decline as they age, because I want to incentivize you realize how dramatically both your estrogen and progesterone declines, typically throwing off an important ratio between them, as this graph shows:

hormone questionnaire

Just to underscore the importance of healthy testosterone levels for both men and women, consider some facts on the matter.

For men, as reported by MedicalNewsToday, low testosterone can account for:

  • Erectile dysfunction
    • Contributing factors:
      • smoking
      • thyroid-related issues
      • high cholesterol
      • stress or anxiety
      • alcohol consumption
      • diabetes
      • high blood pressure
  • Lowered sex drive
  • Reduces testicle size
  • Less muscle
  • More fat
  • Hair loss
  • Reduced bone mass
  • Less semen
  • Restless sleep
  • Mood swings

Though it’s natural for your testosterone to fall as you age (as the graphs above depict), you need not sit by and watch it happen. There are several things you can do to have higher than average testosterone levels. As the chart below indicates, there’s a broad range of testosterone levels that, in this case, men experience irrespective of age.

As you’ll soon see, choosing foods that boost testosterone, and avoiding those that push it down, can help.

 

Average Testosterone In Men by Age and Percentile

Eat the foods that boost testosterone(Read my articles about boosting testosterone naturally.)

 

For women, as reported by Dr. Weston Childs, low testosterone can cause:

  • Decreased sex drive or decreased libido (including lack of interest in sex or difficulty in getting aroused)
  • Inability to build muscle mass, inability to maintain muscle mass or “sagging” especially in the upper arms
  • Depressed mood or increased irritability
  • Inability to lose weight or increased weight gain (especially without a change to your diet)
  • Decreased energy levels or fatigue
  • Hair loss or thinning of the hair

The symptoms of low testosterone in women are often under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed. Some of the conditions that low testosterone may be mistaken for include: stress, depression, and the side effects of menopausal changes in women. Testosterone levels lower than 20 ng/dL in women aged 50 and older are considered low. (Read more about this here.)

Perhaps you’re getting the sense that tapping the brakes on age-related declining testosterone levels makes sense. How about beginning the tap dance by adding seven foods to your diet and reducing or eliminating four?

 

7 Foods To Boost Testosterone

I cherry-picked the following seven foods that boost testosterone from a MedicalNewsToday article that I deem the most healthy.

1. Dietary Fat (some kinds)

Of course, fat doesn’t describe a particular food, but one of the three macronutrients contained in food, the other two being protein and carbs. It, however, deserves special mention, because you have to thread the needle when it comes to choosing what fats to avoid in your diet should you aim to improve testosterone levels. Here, I’m going to diverge from the foods listed in the MedicalNewsToday article referenced above.

Way back in 1976, a study measuring the effect of dietary fat on testosterone concluded:

Our observations suggest that a fat-containing meal reduces testosterone concentrations without affecting luteinizing hormone. This might indicate that fatty acids modulate testosterone production by the testes.

“Luteinizing hormone” stimulated testosterone in men and triggers ovulation in women, so it’s a bit confusing to on the one hand say that dietary fat reduces testosterone concentrations, but on the other hand leaves luteinizing hormone alone, which stimulates testosterone production. Which effect is dominant? Don’t know. So, let’s consult some more recent studies on the topic.

I did just that — reviewed recent studies, and found that the type of fat consumed matters, as does the type of exercise you do.

A 2017 cross-sectional study among 209 healthy male volunteers that examined circulating reproductive hormone levels (testosterone) and testicular volume made this conclusion:

In summary, we found that omega-3 fatty acids may be positively associated with testicular function as indicated by testicular volume whereas intake of omega-6 fatty acids and trans fatty acids appear to be negatively related to it. Some of these findings, most notably those for omega-3 and trans fats, are in agreement with animal experimental data as well as preclinical and clinical data. However, because data in humans on this topic are scarce, further work is necessary to clarify the nature of these relations as well as their clinical relevance.

What this means is that consumption of omega-3 fats (fish/fish oil, walnuts/walnut oil, flax seeds/flax seed oil, hemp seeds/hemp seed oil) improves testosterone; whereas omega-6 fats (sunflower, corn, soybean and cottonseed oils) and trans fats (processed, fast foods) impairs testosterone.

What about saturated fats?

Well, how intensely do you exercise?

Here’s Nutritionist Dr. Bill Misner’s verbatim perspective on how diet influences testosterone:

Diet and caloric intake influence the amount of Testosterone produced. Diets higher in protein, cholesterol, saturated fat, and total fat content tend to maintain higher Testosterone levels. One study [J Steroid Biochem 20 (1): 459-464, 1984] showed that decreasing fat calories from 40% to 25% while decreasing saturated fat and increasing polyunsaturated fats led to decreases in both total Testosterone [-18%] and free unbound Testosterone levels [-15%]. Upon resuming the original higher fat intake, Testosterone levels returned to original values. 

Subjects in this study ate -500 fewer calories on the lower fat diet, implicating both fat selection and caloric restriction with decreased Testosterone. From this and other research, though, it’s obvious that eating an adequate amount of fat and cholesterol is necessary to maintain Testosterone levels. 

Eating large amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol is not recommended for maximizing T-levels, but during muscle growth phase, eating a diet of about 30% fat with some saturates and unsaturates, as well as cholesterol will enhance testosterone from a dietary perspective. 

What about the harm from eating too much of the “Bad” fats? Intense training may be cardio-protective against the negatives from moderate amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol foods. Research suggests that those who consume more protein have higher Testosterone.[J Clin Endocrinol Met 85 (1): 293-296, 2000] Those who eat more protein typically consume more animal foods higher in fat and cholesterol.

So, what Dr. Misner is saying is that, when it comes to fat consumption:

  • Total calories ingested count, irrespective of type of fat consumed.
  • Dietary fat should amount to around 30% of total calories consumed to support testosterone production.
  • Unless you’re pumping weights vigorously (or calisthenics) on a regular basis, don’t overload on saturated fat and cholesterol, and if you do, cycle in and out such consumption.

Now that we’ve got some basics about how dietary fat impacts testosterone, let’s look at fish and olive oils.

2. Fatty Fish and Fish Oil

Humans are harder to study than animals, but if the results of an animal-based 2016 study are applicable to us, we can expect that fish oil can increase the quality of semen and the serum testosterone levels, as it did in dogs ,by improving their fatty acid profiles. A mouse study reported similar findings.

Fatty fish may be especially beneficial because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. A person can also boost their fatty acid levels by taking fish oil or omega-3 supplements, but make sure their from a reputable company that tests for heavy metals like mercury and other contaminants. (I use Kirkland Signature Fish oil and Carlson.)

Examples of fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Atlantic mackerel
  • herring
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • trout

You’ll soon see what the science says about dietary fat and testosterone, but in the case of so-calledfatty fish”, the fat component doesn’t negate the testosterone boosting potential of this type of fish in your diet.

3. Extra-virgin, Cold Pressed Olive Oil

Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which may have many health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

This oil is rich in monounsaturated fat and vitamin E, an antioxidant. These factors likely contribute to the food’s health benefits, and differentiate it from other vegetable oils that are on the “no” list for testosterone addressed below. This is because most vegetable oils are high in polyunsaturated fat, which has been associated with decreased testosterone levels in some studies. [1]

Extra-virgin olive oil may also improve male reproductive health. Results of a small-scale study indicate that the oil may boost serum testosterone levels in healthy adult men. Participants also experienced an increase in luteinizing hormone, which stimulates cells in the testes to produce testosterone.

4. Leafy Green Veggies

Not only are vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, and kale rich in phytonutrients that are so good for you, but they’re also high in magnesium, a mineral that may increase the body’s level of testosterone.

The authors of a 2011 study found that taking magnesium supplements over a four week period prompted an increase in testosterone levels not only in the sedentary participants of the study, but of those that were athletes as well. But, as you would imagine, the testosterone increases were greater for the athletes, probably due to the positive relationship between exercise and testosterone.

Other good dietary sources of magnesium are:

  • beans and lentils
  • nuts and seeds
  • whole grains
5. Onion

If you haven’t already, I suggest you acquire a taste for onions. Onions may provide many health benefits, from supporting the heart to slimming the waistline. They are also good sources of several nutrients and antioxidants.

And, apparently, rats jack up their testosterone by eating onions.

Despite what your significant other might have to say about it, you’re really not a rat, but as I’ve said time and time again, the results of rat and mice studies can be applied to us. In a 2012 study of your favorite rodent, researchers found that a daily intake of fresh onion juice for four weeks significantly increased serum total testosterone levels.

Note: skip the onion juice (gag), eat the whole onion (sauteed of course).

6. Ginger

People have used ginger for medicinal and culinary purposes for centuries. I tend to have strips of ginger off a hunk of ginger root with a carrot peeler and add it to just about anything I’ve got in the pan or Instapot. I use ginger powder as well in my protein smoothies.

Happily, for men seeking fatherhood, research indicates that this root may improve their fertility. According to the findings of a 2012 study, taking a daily ginger supplement for three months increased testosterone levels by 17.7% in a group of 75 adult male participants with fertility issues.

Authors of a study from 2013 report that ginger increased testosterone and antioxidant levels in diabetic rats in just 30 days. Yep, them rats again.

7. Pomegranate

The pomegranate is an age-old symbol of fertility and sexual function. The ancients were on to something.

Results of a 2012 study indicate that pomegranate may boost testosterone levels in both men and women. Sixty healthy participants drank pure pomegranate juice for 14 days, and researchers tested the levels of testosterone in their saliva three times a day.

At the end of the study period, both male and female participants displayed an average 24% increase in salivary testosterone levels. They also experienced improvements in mood and blood pressure.

Not only is pomegranate a good choice to boost testosterone, but consuming it could also improve your capacity to neutralize free radicals and chronic inflammation [2].

 

4 Foods That Lower Testosterone

I’m going to continue with my cherry-picking exercise. This time, I’m going to grab four of the foods that a Healthline article reviews as having the effect of lowering testosterone — certainly, these are not foods that boost testosterone. Just the opposite.

I’ve left certain foods off the list, because, on balance, they’re more good than bad:

  • Mint/peppermint is off the list, because it’s good for digestion and has a minimal testosterone impact [3]
  • Licorice root is off the list, because it contains health-protective flavonoids and is also good for digestion [4]. (just stay away from the candy).
  • Flax seed is off the list, because it’s packed with heart-healthy fats, fiber and various important vitamins and minerals. Those healthy fats are omega-3s, and a vegetable source at that, an important consideration for vegans.

What about soy?

Yep, I also left soy off the list. This deserves special mention, because it’s on many lists of foods that lower testosterone; however, the bulk of evidence from recent research shows that soy does not have this effect of lowering testoserone.

OK, that said, I suggest you pare down your consumption of the following four foods that lower testosterone.

1. Dietary Fat (some kinds)

I know we covered dietary fat’s impact on testosterone already, but I’ve included it the “don’t eat” list to underscore that the kind of dietary fat you eat matters specifically to testosterone, as well as your overall health.

As you’ll soon see, various vegetable oils and trans fats should be avoided.

2. Vegetable Oil

Up there in the “foods to boost testosterone” I recommended that you forswear all vegetable oils that are not organic, cold pressed olive oil. Many of the most common vegetable oils, including canola, soybean, corn and cottonseed oil, are loaded with polyunsaturated fatty acids.

These fatty acids are usually classified as a healthy source of dietary fat, but they may also decrease testosterone levels, as several studies have suggested.

One study of 69 men showed that frequently consuming polyunsaturated fats was associated with significantly lower testosterone levels. Another study of 12 men looked at the effects of diet on testosterone levels after exercise and reported that polyunsaturated fat intake was linked to lower levels of testosterone.

Although it’s true that these sample sizes were small, but at least they weren’t rats.

3. Processed Food

Trans fats, sodium, sugar, preservatives — what more could you want for a scrumptious meal! You can get all that and more with your favorite processed food, and various convenience meals, frozen foods and pre-packaged snacks.

Processed foods are linked to heart disease, says Dr. Gabe Mirkin, probably due to trans fats, which have not only been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, but type 2 diabetes and inflammation. [5,6,7].

And, of course, there’s there’s the inconvenient fact that processed foods can drive down testosterone. One study of 209 men showed that those who consumed the highest amounts of trans fats had 15% lower levels of testosterone than those with the lowest intake. These fellas also had a 37% lower sperm count and a decrease in testicular volume, which may be linked to reduced testicular function [8].

What about our friendly rodents?

Rat and mouse studies have also found that a high intake of trans fats could lower testosterone levels, and impair reproductive performance [9,10].

4. Alcohol

Yeah, what a killjoy.

You’ve undoubtedly read that enjoying the occasional glass of wine with dinner has been linked to health benefits, but like so much in life, moderation is the key. Studies show that excessive alcohol intake — particularly by men — could cause testosterone levels to plummet [11].

A study in 19 healthy adult men showed that consuming 30 to 40 grams of alcohol per day — just two to three standard drinks — decreased testosterone levels in men by 6.8% over a period of three weeks.

Those who are in denial can latch on to the inconsistency in the data. Both human and animal studies have had mixed results, with some research indicating that alcohol could actually increase testosterone levels in certain cases [12, 13]. (I needed to point that out in order to maintain my friendship with my drinking buddies.)

 

Take Endocrinologist Dr. Thierry Hertoghe Hormone Questionnaire

hormone questionnaire

In my article Take This Hormone Questionaire, I cover ten hormone tests that third generation endocrinologist Dr. Hertoghe has developed to help him design protocols for rejuvenating hormones.

Note, there’s a test for testosterone:

Obviously, ideally you would get a blood or saliva test for a specific hormone issue, but one good way to get a sense about what tests to get is to take the questionnaire.

 

Your Takeaway

Remember these foods that boost testosterone:

  • Omega-3 fats and organic, cold pressed olive oil
  • Leafy green veggies
  • Onions
  • Ginger
  • Pomegranate

Skip these:

  • Vegetable oils
  • Processed foods
  • Alcohol (more than three drinks/day)

For more about natural ways you can boost your testosterone:

Read My Testosterone Articles

 

 

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Joe Garma
 

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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