Testosterone is a hormone that is secreted by the testicles and is responsible for promoting male sex characteristics. Greater levels of testosterone tend to increase muscle mass and bone density, body hair growth, and general physiological health. It is known to help prevent osteoporosis and there are numerous health risks men face when they have abnormally low levels of testosterone.
Low levels of testosterone can be caused by aging, but it can also be a result of certain medical conditions such as testicular dysfunction. Various pharmaceutical drugs like antidepressants may lower testosterone levels as well. If you’re dealing with low testosterone, you could experience a variety of symptoms including: loss of sex drive (libido), testicular shrinkage, decreased facial hair, and even mood problems like anxiety and depression.
While testosterone can be increased via targeted pharmaceutical interventions (e.g. androgel), not everyone likes the idea of these artificial interventions. Some research has suggested that using pharmaceutical-grade testosterone boosters may increase risk of heart attacks and stroke. Additionally should you ever want to discontinue artificial testosterone, you may experience testosterone withdrawal symptoms.
Foods That Increase Testosterone (List)
Fortunately another way to increase testosterone levels is by eating the right foods. Assuming your goal is to increase testosterone with dietary modifications, you’ll want to start off by avoiding most foods high in estrogen (phytoestrogens). Many foods with phytoestrogens will counteract the effects of testosterone, so stay away from the soy-based products that could sabotage your efforts.
Prior to eating a diet aimed at increasing your testosterone, you may want to have your level checked by a professional to determine the degree of your deficiency. These days, even young men in their 30s are experiencing testosterone deficiencies – which can lead to reductions in erections as well as brain fog. Below is a breakdown of foods to include in your diet to raise your testosterone level.
Protein for Testosterone
Eating any kind of red meat should provide you with saturated fats, cholesterol, and zinc – three components that help raise testosterone levels. Consuming more meat is perhaps the most effective way to increase your body’s testosterone. Fatty fish also contains vitamins, fats, and protein to increase production of testosterone.
Any type of meat has potential to increase testosterone, especially if your meat consumption has been consistently low. Those on meatless diets (e.g. vegetarians) tend to have reduced testosterone by over 10%. The fats within various types of meat (e.g. beef, lamb, venison) can help your body make testosterone.
- Bacon: Including bacon in your diet can be an effective way to increase testosterone. Saturated animal
fats and cholesterol are necessary to raise testosterone. That said, be sure to avoid low quality cuts from the store as these may contain preservatives and other ingredients that may be detrimental to your health.
- Beef (Grass-fed): This is a type of beef that provides significantly more nutrients and health benefits that grain-fed beef. There is some evidence to believe that grain-fed cattle may lack sufficient testosterone and may have more estrogen than those consuming grass. Consuming grain-fed beef may elicit estrogenic effects.
- Eggs: Consider eating more eggs as a way to boost testosterone – and don’t throw away the yolk. The cholesterol within the yolk is a precursor to testosterone. Eggs contain: fat, calcium, vitamin D, saturated fat, and cholesterol- all of which have been suggested to increase levels of testosterone. If you’re eating eggs, be sure to eat the entire thing – not just the “whites.”
- Organ meats: Many organ meats such as the liver are chock full of vitamin A, which can help boost your testosterone levels. Eating animal heart can provide you with CoQ10, various B vitamins, selenium, and zinc – which also aid in production. Even animal brain can help. Keep in mind that if you’re going to consume organs, they should be from organically raised animals.
- Oysters: Many bodybuilders and gym-rats have used oysters as a natural testosterone boosting food. The creamy flesh of oysters has been suggested to increase testosterone and may even have anticancer properties. Oysters are packed with micronutrients like zinc, calcium, iodine, potassium, and selenium – all of which aid in the process.
- Salmon: If you’re eating fatty fish, you’re on the right track for increasing testosterone. Making sure that fish is wild-caught can make a huge difference as well. Wild caught fish like salmon may reduce SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin). This is important because SHBG binds to testosterone, decreasing its effect.
- Tuna: Eating a lot of tuna should increase your testosterone as a result of its vitamin D – which supports testosterone production. It is important to be aware of the fish quality so that you aren’t eating tuna with heavy metals, PCBs, or mercury. Some studies have shown that vitamin D intake can increase testosterone by up to 90%. A single can of tuna provides a full recommended daily amount of vitamin D.
Vegetables for Testosterone
Eating the right vegetables can help lower estrogen production and increase testosterone. Various vegetables contain phytochemicals that actively reduce estrogen and boost testosterone. Most cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are good choices.
- Asparagus: To get proper antioxidants that promote testosterone production, you may want to consider eating more asparagus. Various antioxidants contained in asparagus include: vitamin E, potassium, as well as folic acid – all of which help with production of testosterone.
- Beets: Some believe that beets and beet juice may help increase production of testosterone via methylation. Beets are high in betaine and also contain boron – two components which may influence production of hormones like testosterone.
- Bok choy
- Broccoli: This is a vegetable that contains DIM, a phytonutrient that is believed to help decrease the effect of estrogen.
- Brussel sprouts: This is a vegetable that contains indole-3-carbinol, which is known to help repair DNA and may inhibit the aromatase enzyme – thus increasing testosterone levels. By inhibiting the aromatase enzyme, the body converts less androgen to estrogen. Evidence isn’t fully conclusive as to whether indole-3-carbinol actually reduces estrogen, but in theory it could.
- Cabbage: Eating cabbage is a healthy way to decrease levels of “oestrogen.” Research conducted by Rockefeller University revealed that 500 mg of indole-3-carbinol supplemented by men for one week decreased oestrogen by nearly 50%. It is well known that decreasing oestrogen levels allows testosterone to elicit a greater effect.
- Cauliflower: This is a vegetable that contains a significant amount of DIM (Di-Indoly Methane) a phytonutrient that contains enzymes that overlap with metabolism of estrogen. Therefore eating significant cauliflower may help reduce the amount of estrogen that your body metabolizes and may increase your overall level of testosterone.
- Celery: This is a veggie that provides us with vitamin K. Having sufficient vitamin K is thought to help men produce testosterone. Without sufficient vitamin K, you may not be making as much testosterone as you could. Keep in mind that the vitamin K and testosterone link has only been established in rodent studies. Others have suggested that since celery contains: androstenone and androstenol (which may expedite testosterone production) and luteolin (which may block estrogen).
- Collard greens
- Kale: This is yet another vegetable that is packed with vitamins (e.g. A, K, and C) as well as DIM – which is associated with an increase in testosterone.
- Mushrooms: Many types of mushrooms prevent your body from producing the enzyme known as “aromatase.” This enzyme converts androgen hormones to estrogen hormones (which isn’t what you want if you’re trying to increase testosterone levels). To prevent this conversion from taking place, eating more mushrooms may provide a solid defense. Keep in mind that you need to eat a lot of mushrooms to achieve this effect as mushrooms are a weak inhibitor of aromatase.
- Onions: Fresh onion juice has been thought to increase testosterone levels and improve sperm production. In rodent studies, rats suffering antidepressant-induced (paroxetine) sexual dysfunction were given onion juice. The onion juice reversed the dysfunction and increased serum testosterone levels. While this may not be the same in humans, it is something to consider.
- Parsley: If you’re eating parsley, you’re getting the flavonoid called “apigenin” which is thought to increase testosterone. Other foods like celery are also rich in this flavonoid.
- Spinach: This is another cruciferous vegetable that contains essential vitamins necessary for testosterone production like magnesium.
Fruits for Testosterone
Many fruits are packed with high amounts of vitamin C as well as antioxidants which can prevent the stress hormone cortisol from increasing. When cortisol increases, testosterone levels naturally lower due to the fact that functional aspects of cortisol compete with testosterone. Many fruits are also full of enzymes that can help inhibit estrogen production.
- Bananas: If you eat bananas, you’re ingesting an enzyme called “bromelain” which is thought to increase testosterone levels. This is an enzyme that is also found in pineapples – making bananas and pineapples a couple of the best fruit choices for those with low testosterone.
- Blueberries: There is evidence that resveratrol may increase testosterone levels, and resveratrol happens to be contained in blueberries. Additionally blueberries contain Calcium-D-Glucarate which has been speculated to minimize the effect of estrogen by binding to it.
- Pineapple: A study of competitive cyclers found that bromelain supplementation helped maintain testosterone concentrations during a time when they would normally decrease. If you’re eating pineapples, you should be getting the enzyme bromelain. Many professional bodybuilders have used this supplement to prevent their testosterone levels from dropping and to enhance post-workout recovery.
- Pomegranates: There is some research suggesting that pomegranate juice may increase testosterone levels by nearly 25% in humans. In a rodent study involving rats, it was found that testosterone levels (and sperm quality) increased in the group given the pomegranate juice. They may block estrogenic effects while containing antioxidants necessary to aid in testosterone production.
Many other foods contain enzymes, vitamins, and other minerals that aid in the production of testosterone and/or inhibit the production of estrogen.
Almonds: Eating nuts like almonds which are high in vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, and potassium provides your body with nutrients for testosterone production. Almonds also contain monosaturated fats, which have been associated with boosting testosterone.
Avocados: These contain healthy fats that help your body increase testosterone. Avocados also contain essential vitamins and cholesterol. While there aren’t studies supporting avocados directly as a means of increasing testosterone, the contents of an avocado should be helpful for raising testosterone levels. Avocados are high in monosaturated fat which is known to reduce LDL cholesterol and is thought to elevate testosterone.
Brazil nuts: One of the best foods to boost your testosterone is that of brazil nuts. Brazil nuts are full of selenium, zinc, and natural cholesterol. Zinc and selenium are important for the production of testosterone. Natural cholesterol has been shown to raise testosterone levels, making brazil nuts a good choice for those who want to maintain high levels. Some research suggests that brazil nuts may improve sperm quality.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19091331
Coconut oil: Some have speculated that including coconut oil in the diet may also be an effective way to increase testosterone levels. The high level of saturated fat within coconut oil and other complex fats may alter male hormone production – helping prevent low testosterone.
Dark chocolate: Some have speculated that high quality dark chocolate may help boost testosterone due to the fact that it contains many vitamins that are useful for testosterone production such as: magnesium, calcium, and zinc.
Grass-fed butter: High dietary fat intake is associated with significant increases in testosterone. Healthy fat can be obtained from butter derived from grass-fed cows. This is the highest quality source of butter and contains more vitamins necessary for testosterone production.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9029197
Garlic: In rodent studies, it was found that supplementation of garlic increased testicular testosterone and decreased levels of the stress hormone “cortisol.” This research was conducted on rodents fed a high protein diet. Since the hormone cortisol is thought to compete with testosterone at certain junctions within muscles, it would make sense that decreasing cortisol should amplify the effects of testosterone.
Ginger: In studies of mice with prostate cancer, supplementation of ginger was shown to boost testosterone from depletion. Other studies suggest that ginger may enhance production of testosterone in humans, whether these are legitimate studies is up for debate.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18030663
Green Tea: There is mixed evidence as to whether green tea can really boost testosterone. Some studies have suggested that it inhibits the aromatase enzyme, meaning it prevents androgens from converting to estrogen. Other research has revealed that green tea may actually lower testosterone levels. The jury is still out on green tea as to whether consumption will increase testosterone.
Kefir: This is a fermented food that provides your body with vitamin K2. In addition to K2, kefir also provides a healthy amount of zinc. Both vitamin K2 and zinc can be beneficial for increasing levels of testosterone. Incorporating fermented foods in your diet is an effective way to boost “T” levels – kefir happens to be a great option.
Low-dose alcohol: Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol consistently is associated with a decrease in testosterone levels. If your goal is to increase testosterone, you should consider avoiding alcohol or drinking a very little amount. One (very small) study found that low dose alcohol increased testosterone.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12711931
Nettle root: Some people have turned to eating “stinging nettle root” as a dietary supplement with the hopes of boosting testosterone. There is some evidence that nettle root is capable of inhibiting estradiol and estrone via the aromatase enzyme. While nettle root does contain aromatase, it is thought to have very weak effects. Still, something to consider if you’re trying to boost testosterone.
Olive oil: In a study with 60 Moroccan men (ages 23 to 40), it was discovered that supplementation of extra virgin olive oil and virgin argan oil significantly altered hormone profiles of the participants. The testosterone levels of these men increased by nearly 20%, suggesting that incorporating more oils into your diet may be beneficial for boosting testosterone.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23472458
Raw honey: Some have suggested that including honey in the diet may have a subtle impact on testosterone levels due to the fact that it contains “boron.” This is a mineral that is associated with increasing testosterone. Honey also happens to contain nitric oxide, which may be acted upon by testosterone or a metabolite to create an erection.
Red peppers: Eating spicy red hot peppers (e.g. cayenne pepper) will provide your body with “capsaicin.” Rodent studies have demonstrated that administration of capsaicin to mice increased their serum testosterone levels. It has also been found to alter expression of androgen receptors.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23013364
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19059400
Red wine: Assuming you buy into the hype of resveratrol increasing testosterone, one way to obtain it is by drinking red wine. That said, drinking high amounts of alcohol tends to lower testosterone so this is a catch-22. Low amounts of alcohol may increase testosterone in men, so if you’re going to drink red wine, just have a little bit.
Resveratrol: There is mixed evidence regarding the usage of resveratrol to increase testosterone production. Some research has suggested that supplementation of resveratrol may boost blood testosterone levels and increase sperm quality. Other research analyzing resveratrol for its anti-estrogenic effects hasn’t found any substantial evidence to support these claims.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18277612
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23465317
Sauerkraut: Just one gram of vitamin K2 is thought to boost testosterone. Sauerkraut is a food that provides this vitamin, which may help your body increase your levels.
Sea kelp: Research from the University of Berkley in California found that rates of ovarian, breast, and womb cancer are lower than average. Upon investigation, it was thought that the high intake of kelp may play a role. Researchers discovered that when high concentrations of kelp are consumed, cells make less estradiol. Reducing estrogen levels should theoretically help increase testosterone.
Sea salt: There is evidence that high levels of cortisol can decrease levels of testosterone. One way to reduce high cortisol is by supplementing a healthy amount of sea salt. There are various theories about this, but one is that the salt allows the adrenals to heal and decreases the stress response.
Will eating certain foods really boost testosterone levels?
Eating a specific diet to increase testosterone may prove to be very beneficial for men with suboptimal levels. Many people have successfully increased their testosterone levels simply by making dietary modifications and avoiding foods that are known to increase estrogen. Keep in mind that eating a significant number of meats and proteins may not be optimal for overall health.
Do your best to get a variety of foods such as: healthy fats, vegetables, meats, fish, and fruits. Loading up on strictly protein and fat will probably increase testosterone, but may result in macronutrient deficiencies. It is important to make sure you are getting sufficient macronutrients from vegetables and fruits on this list to provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to create testosterone.
How long will it take to see results from a high testosterone diet?
Keep in mind that those who adhere to testosterone boosting foods should eventually notice that their deficient level of testosterone increases. Also understand that the degree to which tactical dietary changes will increase testosterone is subject to significant individual variation. If you are taking medications or have a medical condition – these may interfere with the process.
Also realize that if you have suboptimal levels of vitamin D, your testosterone level may not significantly increase. Vitamin D is extremely important in the process of creating testosterone. Do your best to get vitamin D from natural sunlight as this is a superior method over popping supplements. If you live in an area where you aren’t able to obtain natural sunlight, get a blood test to check your level and work with a doctor to determine a supplementation regimen.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure your body is getting enough zinc. If you have a zinc deficiency, it’s going to detrimentally affect testosterone levels. Zinc can be obtained by many of the foods listed above, but if you suspect a severe deficiency, you may want to supplement. Men who are zinc deficient and supplement tend to experience a significant increase in serum testosterone.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21154195
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712348/
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875519
Have you experimented with eating foods that increase testosterone?
If you’ve experimented with altering your diet with the intention of increasing your testosterone, feel free to share your experience in the comments section below. Discuss what foods you believe are most beneficial or provide most “bang for the buck” in terms of enhancing production of testosterone. Also if you had low testosterone and were able to reverse it with lifestyle changes (e.g. dietary interventions), be sure to mention how long it took before you noticed results.