Foods That Increase Testosterone and Those To Avoid

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Choose the best foods that increase testosterone

It's a fact of life is that the older we get, the less testosterone our body makes, so why not give it a helping hand by choosing foods that increase testosterone?

Gentlemen, if you don't do something about it, your testosterone level will drop quickly after age 30, and that has some potential undesired effects, such as low sex drive, moodiness, muscle loss and a big belly. Ladies, you need to be concerned about low testosterone too. You don't need nearly as much testosterone as men, but your health can also become impaired if your testosterone falls too low as you age.

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

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Lowered sex drive
  • Reduces testicle size
  • Less muscle
  • More fat
  • Hair loss
  • Reduced bone mass
  • Less semen
  • Restless sleep
  • Mood swings

I know you don't want to experience all of that, so why not start eating some foods that increase testosterone? I'll get to the list in a minute, but ladies first.

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 is a good idea. How about beginning the tap dance by adding seven foods to your diet, and reducing or eliminating four?

Seven Foods That Increase Testosterone

Among the foods that increase testosterone are salmon and green vegetables

I selected the following seven foods that I think are the most healthy foods that increase testosterone from a list of presented by a MedicalNewsToday article.

    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.

      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? That depends upon how vigorously you exercise, says nutritionist Dr. Bill Misner in his piece about 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.

          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-called "fatty fish", the fat component doesn't negate the testosterone increasing 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 increase 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. Onions

                      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: If gagging doesn't appeal to you, skip the onion juice and 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 increase 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 increase testosterone, but consuming it could also improve your capacity to neutralize free radicals and chronic inflammation [2] .

                              Four Foods That Lower Testosterone

                              You can slow down the age-related decline in testosterone by not eating certain foods

                              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.

                              I've left certain foods off the list, because, on balance, their 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 Foods

                                          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

                                              Third generation endocrinologist Dr. Hertoghe has developed a Hormone Questionaire 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 increase testosterone:

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

                                              These are the testosterone-robbing foods to avoid:

                                              • Vegetable oils
                                              • Processed foods
                                              • Alcohol (more than three drinks/day)
                                              Show references
                                              1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-that-lower-testosterone
                                              2. https://examine.com/supplements/pomegranate/
                                              3. https://examine.com/supplements/peppermint/
                                              4. https://examine.com/supplements/licorice/
                                              5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17389261
                                              6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11556298
                                              7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11893781
                                              8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780703/
                                              9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2758008/
                                              10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17997747/
                                              11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10940346
                                              12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12878927
                                              13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12711931
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