If you think you have low testosterone, you may wonder if your diet can help. We’re exploring ways to boost low testosterone, especially through food choices.
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is the predominant sex hormone in men (women also have testosterone but in smaller amounts). It is a natural steroid produced by the body and belongs to the class of androgen hormones, where we also find dihydrotestosterone (DHT), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), androstenedione, and androstenediol.
There are 3 types of testosterone that we can find circulating in the blood:
- Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), and
- Free testosterone.
The first two are proteins that bind to testosterone itself and are not available for the functions we will see below, while free testosterone will ultimately provide the properties described.
What are the main functions of testosterone?
Testosterone is responsible for:
- male sexual properties,
- Increase in muscle mass,
- bone density,
- fat distribution,
- hair loss patterns,
- Fertility and
- Mental and physical health and energy.
What are the symptoms of low testosterone?
Symptoms of low testosterone include:
- decrease in spontaneous erections
- decreased libido
- reduced testicular size
- reduced bone and muscle mass
- hair loss
- profuse sweating
Keep in mind that symptoms related to low testosterone are nonspecific and overlap with symptoms of other potentially serious health conditions.
You should not self-diagnose low testosterone. If you think you have low testosterone, see a healthcare professional for proper testing.
1. Fatty fish
Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are rich in nutrients important for hormonal health, such as vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Although certain high-fat foods, such as fried foods, have been linked to lower testosterone levels in some people, research has also shown that low-fat diets can be detrimental to testosterone levels.
A systematic review of six studies found that low-fat diets were associated with lower testosterone levels, compared to higher-fat diets.
However, the researchers noted that more high-quality studies are needed to fully understand this relationship.
Either way, adding healthy sources of fat like oily fish to your diet is likely beneficial for overall health, including hormonal health.
Additionally, fatty fish are good sources of zinc, vitamin D, and protein, important nutrients for maintaining healthy testosterone levels.
For example, studies show that men with lower vitamin D levels tend to have less testosterone than men with higher levels. In fact, vitamin D is essential for male reproductive health.
Egg yolks are rich in healthy fats, protein, and selenium, a mineral that acts as an antioxidant in the body.
According to some test-tube and animal studies, selenium may help increase testosterone production by activating certain pathways and the expression of certain genes.
Additionally, some human and animal studies have shown that testosterone levels are higher in those with optimal blood selenium levels.
However, we need more research, especially in humans, before we can conclude the effect of selenium on testosterone.
Eggs are very nutritious, so adding them to your diet if they aren’t already is a good idea unless you have an egg allergy. Remember that whole eggs are much more nutritious than plain egg whites because the yolks contain most of the micronutrients.
Shellfish like oysters and clams are great sources of zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which can support optimal testosterone levels.
Due to its important role in reproductive health, zinc deficiency can cause hypogonadism.
Additionally, high-dose zinc supplements appear to be effective in treating hypogonadism in some men. Yet zinc supplements are not currently recommended as a universal treatment for hypogonadism.
But eating foods rich in nutrients important to maintaining optimal testosterone levels like zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fats can support hormonal health.
Oysters have a high zinc content which increases testosterone and sperm formation. They are also a good source of magnesium and phosphorus, a very good source of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium.
Zinc regulates a large number of essential processes that affect the body, among others, helps to form new cells, stimulates the immune system, promotes growth, promotes mental alertness, supports healthy brain function, and plays an active role in the health of the male and female reproductive system which gives it an increase in testosterone.
Zinc is also an aromatase inhibitor that helps block the conversion of excess testosterone to estrogen.
The avocado is a fruit with enough calories (180 kcal for ½ avocado all the same) that athletes often have trouble putting on the menu, especially when they want to gain muscle mass. But do not be fooled by appearances!
Indeed, the avocado certainly contains fats… but good fats (monounsaturated fatty acids) which make it possible to lower the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and to increase the good (HDL). As a reminder, certain cells in the body produce testosterone… from cholesterol!
The avocado also contains many nutrients (vitamin B6, potassium, zinc, and folic acid) which are known to boost testosterone in men.
In summary, avocado is an excellent fruit for the heart… but not only!
6. Lean meat
Few foods have such a positive impact on testosterone levels as lean meats, which are loaded with protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, and saturated fat. Protein is a key nutrient for optimizing testosterone and supporting muscle development and health.
Although we don’t want too much-saturated fat in our diets, we do need a certain amount to produce testosterone. The liver is responsible for the synthesis of cholesterol in order to provide the minimum level required to use it afterward in the cell membranes and to produce testosterone and other steroids.
7. The Nuts
The walnut is a nut that women love for its health and silhouette benefits… and that these gentlemen should also peck more often! Indeed, just like salmon or avocado, walnuts are rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats and therefore in good cholesterol (which the cells will not fail to use to make testosterone).
Without forgetting that the nut is a fruit that contains citrulline and arginine; two amino acids known to cause the release of nitric oxide in the body. This means an increase in the caliber of the arteries, and increased blood circulation… a bit like the effect of the famous little blue pill!
EAT PROTEINS, FATS, AND CARBOHYDRATES
What you eat has a major impact on testosterone as well as other hormone levels.
Therefore, you need to pay attention to your long-term calorie intake and your eating strategy.
Constant dieting or overeating can disrupt your testosterone levels.
Eating enough protein can help maintain healthy levels and promote fat loss, which is also associated with your testosterone.
Carbohydrate intake also plays a role, with research showing that carbs can help optimize testosterone levels during resistance training.
However, research shows that enough healthy fats are also beneficial for testosterone and health.
A diet based primarily on whole foods is best, with a healthy balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. This can optimize hormone levels and long-term health.
Image Credit: Photo by Lily Banse on Unsplash