Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men. It is produced in the Leydig cells of the testicles and plays an important role in sex drive, bone mass, body composition, muscle mass and strength, tone of voice, and sperm production.
Certain foods can raise or lower your testosterone levels. Researchers in a 2021 study followed 3,283 Taiwanese men over six years and found that those who ate poor-quality diets had poorer testicular function and low testosterone levels. Men who ate a diet high in leafy greens, legumes, and dairy had better testicular function and higher testosterone levels. A poor diet was defined as: a typical Western diet with lots of processed meats and fish, fried foods, organ meats and flour products cooked in oil.
You can boost low testosterone levels naturally by eating a healthy diet and adding in a few foods known to help boost testosterone levels. Here is an overview of some foods to include.
A 2020 study of obese men and women found that taking fish oil containing omega-3 fatty acids increased testosterone levels in men, but not in women. The study found DHA, a type of fatty acid found in fish, to be particularly helpful.
Another older study from 2013 showed that fish oil and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) increased testosterone synthesis and may help improve athletic performance for endurance and resistance training.
The previously mentioned 2021 study of Taiwanese men found that consuming milk and dairy products protected against low testosterone levels. Another 2019 study of middle-aged and older men in Taiwan also came to a similar conclusion. Fortified milk is a key source of vitamin D, essential for testosterone production. Ensuring vitamin D levels are within normal limits — whether through food, sunlight, or supplements — is vital for overall hormonal health. However, more research is needed to draw solid conclusions about how dairy products affect testosterone production.
The Taiwanese study found that eating legumes – a family that includes beans, peas and peanuts – may protect against low testosterone levels and poor testicular function. This may be because legumes are rich in two nutrients associated with higher testosterone levels: zinc and magnesium.
Dark leafy greens are nutrient dense, high in fiber and packed with micronutrients that support good health. The Taiwanese study also found that men who ate more dark leafy greens had higher testosterone levels than men who didn’t. A 2018 study also found similar results.
Natural medicine practitioners often point out the many uses of honey, ranging from relieving a child’s sore throat to its antibacterial properties. A 2019 literature review also found that honey can increase testosterone levels in men by increasing luteinizing hormone production, improving Leydig cell viability, reducing oxidative damage in Leydig cells and by inhibiting aromatase activity in the testes. However, more human research is still needed to confirm the effect of honey on testosterone.
A 2019 review concluded that onions may help male testosterone levels by increasing luteinizing hormone production, improving the antioxidant defense mechanism in the testicles, and defending against inflammation and insulin resistance. . However, more clinical trials are needed to determine how onion can increase testosterone levels in men.
Whole eggs contain cholesterol, which your body needs to produce testosterone. A 2021 study of young men following a 12-week weight training program showed that men who ate eggs daily increased their testosterone levels. They were separated into two groups, one that ate three whole eggs a day and one that ate six egg whites. The researchers found that the group that ate the whole eggs increased their testosterone levels more.
Studies have shown that eating high levels of flavonoids, a group of useful compounds in many fruits and vegetables, is good for your health and for testosterone production. Some studies show that flavonoids can prevent or delay hypogonadism (decreased functional activity of the gonads) in men as they age.
Flavonoid-rich foods include:
Oysters are full of zinc, an essential mineral for making testosterone. Although taking extra zinc can ensure that you are not deficient, taking more than you need will do little to raise your testosterone levels.
There are countless herbs on the market that tout their testosterone boosting effects, but have little evidence to support these claims. However, a 2021 meta-analysis found that these four herbs show promise, although more research is needed:
- Fenugreek seed (extract)
- Ashwagandha (root and leaf extract)
- Asian red ginseng
- Forskohlii (root extract)
You can make other changes to improve your testosterone levels.
Being active provides many benefits, from improving mood, weight control and physical fitness to increasing testosterone levels in men. Both strength and endurance (cardio) training can increase your testosterone levels.
Research shows that people who are overweight or obese have lower circulating levels of testosterone. Achieving a healthy weight can improve your overall health as well as your testosterone levels. Just make sure you don’t eat too little, as this can negatively impact your testosterone levels as well.
Get enough fat
A healthy diet with enough fat is important for overall health and testosterone levels. Cholesterol comes from certain types of fat, and it’s what your body uses to make the hormone. Some studies recommend getting 25% of your calories from fat.
Get enough sleep
Some studies show that when men lack sleep, their testosterone levels drop. A natural way to increase your testosterone is to focus on getting meaningful and adequate sleep.
Environmental factors and unhealthy lifestyles can contribute to low testosterone levels.
Your level is considered low when a blood test shows testosterone levels below 300 nanograms per deciliter (dl) for men and 15 nanograms per deciliter for women. If it’s lower than that, you may have a condition called hypogonadism.
Low testosterone levels can cause symptoms such as:
- Lack of concentration and memory
- Sleep disorder
- Reduction in muscle mass and strength
- Increase in body fat
- Reduced libido
- Reduced sexual activity
- Decreased spontaneous erections
- Gynecomastia, larger than normal breasts in men caused by abnormal growth of breast tissue
- Osteopenia, a decrease in bone density not severe enough to be osteoporosis
- Osteoporosis, very low bone density which easily leads to broken bones and fractures
- Hot flushes and sweats
Several factors can influence your testosterone levels. Some of them you can’t control (like age). You can control others, such as your diet, alcohol or drug use, body weight, and activity level. Here is an overview of the main factors.
Testosterone levels in men usually begin to decline gradually after age 30. Levels are decreasing by 0.4% to 2% per year.Some studies show that up to 50% of middle-aged people with diabetes or obesity develop hypogonadism.
Overweight and obesity
Overweight or obese men tend to have lower testosterone levels. Talk to your healthcare provider about what a healthy weight looks like for you and how to achieve it.
eat too little
On the other hand, having too big of a gap between the calories you burn and the calories you use can also lower your testosterone. A 2021 review of studies also found that low-fat diets reduced testosterone levels in men, especially those of European descent. The review authors concluded that more research is needed to understand why.
Alcohol and drug use
Substance abuse can lead to low testosterone levels. Alcohol, opioids and steroids can reduce testosterone production, and nicotine, cannabis and amphetamines can also impact your fertility. Reducing or eliminating these substances can help you regain healthy hormone levels.
Testosterone Booster Supplements
Many supplements claim to boost testosterone, but a 2019 study found less than a quarter had evidence to back up their claims. Some, around 10%, actually lowered testosterone.
A poor quality diet with too few nutrients and too many calories can lead to weight gain, obesity, metabolic problems and low testosterone levels. Researchers have found that certain foods are particularly harmful. They understand:
- Processed meat
- fried foods
- Fried rice or flour products
- trans fat
- organic meat
Many things can cause your testosterone levels to drop, from aging and eating a less than ideal diet to drug addiction and inactivity.
The good news is that you can increase your testosterone levels by adjusting your diet and adding new foods. Some foods to include are fish oil, dairy products, leafy greens, legumes, fruits and vegetables that contain flavonoids, and oysters.