Low testosterone levels affect up to five million men in the U.S. Unfortunately, aging alone is a major risk factor for declining testosterone. After 30, testosterone levels fall by about 1% per year. Low testosterone, also called hypogonadism, is when testosterone levels fall below 300 nanograms/deciliter (ng/dl).
A healthy diet and prioritizing physical activity go a long way towards boosting testosterone levels in both men and women. However, as people age, their metabolic rates decline and their dietary and nutritional needs change, making it more important than ever to make dietary changes after the age of 40.
Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in men, but testosterone is important to the health of women as well. Low testosterone levels in women can lead to low sexual desire, a decline in bone density, fatigue, and decreased motivation.
The same healthy diet that boosts testosterone levels and helps prevent erectile dysfunction is also important to support your immune system. Unfortunately, most Americans consume a highly processed, sugar and salt-laden diet that stresses the heart and clogs blood vessels.
In a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) research survey, investigators found that almost 60% of calories consumed by study participants came from ultra-processed foods. Incorporating whole foods into the diet helps ensure that you get the fiber, protein, and micronutrients you need to optimize your health and testosterone levels.
Several foods are associated with boosting testosterone levels. Most of these foods are rich in antioxidants and decrease inflammation, optimizing metabolism, blood flow, and hormone production.
In This Article
Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale are high in antioxidants. These vegetables contain magnesium, a mineral that helps to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction (energy-producing organelles in cells) are linked to having lower testosterone levels.
Researchers have found that magnesium supplementation and exercise were both associated with higher testosterone levels. Magnesium is a mineral that is used in a variety of metabolic processes to provide energy for muscle contraction. Testosterone promotes muscle growth and strength. Magnesium, physical activity, and a reduction in systemic inflammation all boost testosterone levels and maximize muscle strength and power.
While trans fats should be avoided and saturated fats should be limited, fat is essential to a healthy diet. Researchers found that participants on a low-fat diet had significantly lower levels of sex hormones than those on a high-fat diet. However, more research is needed.
Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are high in nutrients, such as vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are all required for optimal hormone production. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to lower total testosterone levels. Researchers emphasize that more research is needed to determine whether vitamin D supplementation can increase testosterone levels, though one small study shows that it might.
A high cholesterol diet that includes deep-fried foods and processed meats is associated with lower testicular volume and lower testosterone levels. High-fat diets lead to leptin resistance. Leptin is a hunger-controlling hormone. Leptin resistance is associated with impaired sperm production and dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, a hormonal hierarchy that regulates testosterone production.
Ginger contains a variety of antioxidants, including gingerol, zingerone, zingiberene, glucosides-6-gingerdiol, flavonoids, and volatile oils. In animal models, ginger increased levels of luteinizing hormone, which increased testosterone levels. More human studies are needed to fully understand the potential link between ginger and testosterone.
Onions and garlic may enhance testosterone production in a variety of potential ways. Garlic and onions contain diallyl disulfide, a chemical that stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone, a pituitary hormone that stimulates the testes to produce testosterone. Garlic contains allicin, a compound that may reduce cortisol. Increased cortisol has a significant negative effect on circulating testosterone. Therefore, increased garlic intake may boost testosterone levels and reduce the negative effects of excess cortisol (stress hormone).
Onions are also high in antioxidants and help to lower blood sugar levels. Both effects positively impact testosterone production. Onions also increase nitric oxide production, which increases blood flow into the penis and the testes, promoting testosterone production and lowering the risk of erectile dysfunction.
Avocados are a source of healthy fats. They are great sources of magnesium and boron. Magnesium is an antioxidant that has been linked to higher testosterone levels and muscle strength. Boron is a trace mineral that may protect against testosterone degradation. Boron seems to influence the metabolism of steroid hormones. Boron supplements are not advised because recommended intake levels have not been established.
Extra virgin olive oil is another source of healthy fats. In a small study, men who consumed extra virgin olive oil had slightly higher testosterone and luteinizing hormone levels than those who did not.
The yolk of an egg is high in cholesterol, monounsaturated, and saturated fats. Cholesterol usually gets a bad rap, but it is the building block of all sex hormones. A lack of cholesterol either in the diet or produced by the liver would mean low testosterone and other sex hormones.
Eggs are also rich in selenium, a mineral that may activate genes that regulate the life of testosterone-producing Leydig cells and activate signaling pathways that increase testosterone production. Both of these actions could increase testosterone levels.
Cocoa products like cocoa powder, dark chocolate, and cacao nibs are abundant in magnesium and flavonoid antioxidants. Flavonoid antioxidants have been associated with numerous health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and symptoms associated with the aging process. Flavonoids have a chemical structure that is similar to cholesterol and other steroids, leading researchers to speculate that flavonoids may play a role in testosterone production.
Berries are another rich source of antioxidants, as are cherries and pomegranates. Antioxidants protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals, which cause inflammation. Inflammation is associated with lower testosterone levels. Berries are a great source of micronutrients, are low in calories, and increase testosterone.
Dietary patterns can impact testosterone levels. Researchers found that diets high in the following were associated with poor testicular function:
A healthy whole food diet rich in healthy fats, micronutrients, and lean protein sources is a great start to maximizing testosterone production. Along with a healthy diet, there are other ways to naturally boost testosterone:
If, after taking these steps, you have symptoms of low testosterone, such as decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, and mood changes, it may be time to get your testosterone levels checked. Invigor Medical offers a men’s standard hormone panel and a men’s advanced hormone panel, allowing men who suspect they may have low testosterone levels to confirm whether this is the case.
If your testosterone levels are low, Invigor Medical healthcare professionals specialize in men’s health and can help you determine whether testosterone replacement therapy is the best option for you.