Guys, it’s no secret: testosterone is critical—not just to your sex life, but to being a happy, healthy man. This isn’t some macho gimmick. Being healthy means maintaining normal levels of testosterone. Maintaining a diet full of healthy “testosterone foods” can help you keep those testosterone levels up.
Of course, by testosterone foods, I don’t mean foods full of testosterone. I’m meaning foods full of the critical nutrients and ingredients to balance your hormone levels. These are testosterone-boosting foods.
Not convinced? Not long ago I wrote an article for women explaining andropause and “irritable male syndrome.” The punch line: we men don’t feel so great when our testosterone drops. A first line of defense when your testosterone levels start to drop is to look at your diet. These testosterone-boosting foods might kick things back into gear.
First, what do you look for in testosterone-boosting foods?
Focus on adequate fruits and vegetables.
If hearing you need more fruits and vegetables sounds a bit anticlimactic, it is nonetheless true. It turns out that what’s good for your heart, waistline, and brain is also good for your testosterone levels.
First, because you need adequate levels of vitamin C. Vitamin C limits cortisol production. That’s important, because cortisol stifles testosterone. Eating fruits and veggies with lots of vitamin C will help you lower cortisol levels and enjoy higher testosterone levels.
(Bonus: lowering cortisol can also help you shed a few inches from your waistline.)
Secondly, there’s a powerful compound called diindolylmethane, or DIM, in some vegetables. DIM helps your body process estrogen getting in the way of testosterone production. See below for which vegetables to eat.
Lastly, you need to get adequate fiber. In all likelihood, you have some exposure to unnatural human-made estrogen-like compounds called xenoestrogens. These chemicals wreak havoc on your hormones, especially testosterone production. Fiber helps bind toxins and alters your gut flora so that your body absorbs fewer xenoestrogens. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and seeds are your best sources of fiber.
Think fat. Then make sure you get enough.
Fat isn’t bad. If you want to raise your testosterone score, eat a diet that gets 20-30% of your calories from fat. Your body needs dietary fat to produce testosterone. So, going low fat all the time means low testosterone. Not that you want the fat sitting on your belly all the time (more on that later), but you want fat in your diet. Of course, not all fats are equal.
Research has shown that men who ate diets rich in healthy fats like monounsaturated fats & Omega-3 fatty acids had the highest testosterone levels.
Check if you’re getting enough zinc.
What’s the deal with zinc? Zinc is essential to testosterone production and maintenance. There’s a little enzyme called aromatase that converts testosterone into estrogen. Zinc influences aromatase so that less testosterone gets converted into estrogen. Low levels of zinc are associated with low testosterone levels.
Not to mention, if fertility is an issue for you, zinc also helps produce healthier sperm and higher sperm counts.
The 7 Game-Changing Testosterone Foods
1. Citrus fruits and veggies high in vitamin C
- Citrus fruits
- Red peppers
2. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are the primary source of DIM. Try out any of the following to give yourself a healthy dose of DIM.
- Brussel sprouts
- Mustard greens
- Bok choy
- When thinking of testosterone-boosting foods, think high on healthy fats (monounsaturated and omega-3) and high in zinc. It turns out nuts are an ideal source for both!
- Cashews are a particularly great source of both zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, but all nuts are your friends (and yes, maybe all your friends are nuts too!).
- Natural nut butters are another great way to enjoy the benefits of nuts. Slather some on apples, bananas, or your favorite whole grain bread. Just watch the ingredients. Make sure they are truly natural and not pumped full of chemicals, or roasted with added oils, such as canola or soy. Organic nut butters are ideal. If you can’t read the ingredient list because it’s too long, skip it.
- Seeds are wonderful testosterone foods for many of the same reasons as nuts. Generally, they’re full of monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc. That makes them testosterone powerhouses.
- Hemp seed, in particular, is an excellent source of zinc.
- Chia seeds are high in both.
- Go a little crazy and enjoy the full variety of seeds: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, basil seeds, and more.
- Oysters have a reputation for being aphrodisiacs. Whether or not that’s true, they are great sources of both zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Enjoy a few, and if they just happen to also encourage you and your partner to enjoy an evening together, so much the better! Your testosterone levels will really thank you.
- If oysters aren’t your thing, shrimp, crab, and lobster are also full of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. While their numbers are slightly lower, they’re still great sources for both of these testosterone-boosting nutrients.
7. Fatty fish
- What do mackerel, salmon, tuna, herring, lake trout, and sardines have in common? An abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. These fats help with testosterone production, so eat up and enjoy them.
More tips for a testosterone-boosting diet
1. Skip the Atkins, Keto, and Paleo fads.
- High protein, low carbohydrate diets stifle your testosterone production.
- A good rule of thumb is to shoot for 1 gram of protein per 1/2 pound of body weight. Example: If you weigh 200 pounds, you should be getting in around 100 grams of protein per day. This approach will maintain your current lean muscle mass. Give yourself a little more if you’re aiming to add muscle.
- Put the focus on getting enough fruits and vegetables–where most Americans fall drastically short.
- Get your protein from the testosterone-boosting sources mentioned above: seafood, nuts, and seeds.
- Fill in with whole grains. Whole grains tend to be high in fiber, which will help you feel fuller faster and not put on the belly weight. Too much weight on your belly will reduce testosterone levels too.
2. Limit your alcohol consumption.
- Aside from giving you that beer belly, which will also reduce testosterone levels, alcohol itself isn’t good for your testosterone levels.
- To maintain a healthy testosterone count cut yourself off after two drinks. Binge drinking will kill your testosterone levels.
- Alcohol affects the endocrine system, causing your testes to stop producing the male hormone. Also, beer contains hops, a plant steeped with plant estrogens, called phytoestrogens.
3. Allow yourself the munchies.
- Skipping meals isn’t a good idea for a lot of reasons, but here’s one more: going long stretches without eating will cause your testosterone levels to plummet. Expect irritable male syndrome to kick in if you do this regularly.
- Your body needs a steady supply of calories to produce testosterone, so if you get hungry between meals, how about eating a handful of nuts?
When you can’t seem to get your edge back…
Around the time women go through menopause, testosterone levels in men also slowly decline. Sometimes people refer to this as andropause. If your levels plummet too fast (because, say, you’ve also got burgeoning belly), it can feel awful–and even lead to depression.
If you feel your testosterone levels have dropped and you can’t seem to make the changes to get back to normal, make an appointment with a functional medicine or naturopathic doctor. I would be happy to chat with you. You don’t have to live with low testosterone.