Are you always tired? Lacking energy, with little to no sex drive? Then you might be suffering from low testosterone levels. Indeed, testosterone plays several vital functions in the human body, especially in men. Therefore, it is highly important to have adequate levels of this amazing hormone. You can do this by increasing your intake of testosterone-promoting foods but also by adopting a conducive lifestyle.

What exactly is testosterone?

Testosterone is an essential hormone for both men and women and regulates numerous important bodily functions. Among other things, it is responsible for the formation of red blood cells and influences many cognitive functions (memory, concentration, orientation, and coordination).

Testosterone production in males begins during fetal life, ceases after birth, and then resumes at puberty. It is an androgenic hormone, which means that it is responsible for the development of male physical characteristics such as the development of genitals, hairiness, and voice changes throughout puberty.

Testosterone is also essential for spermatogenesis, or the development of sperm, at the sexual level. It is, however, the most powerful libido hormone, affecting both men and women to varying degrees.

Testosterone is also involved in mood control and decreases the body’s reaction to stress. It is associated with social competition and dominant behaviors. With less testosterone production with age, men tend to become more passive.

Testosterone also has an anabolic role: it promotes bone and muscle development and stimulates the production of proteins, hence the attraction of high-level athletes towards it. At the same time, testosterone stimulates the production of blood cells (hematopoiesis), which has the effect of reducing recovery time after exercise.

Low testosterone symptoms

Sometimes testosterone is not produced in sufficient quantities in men, when the testis or the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls the production of testosterone, are not functioning properly.

The lack of testosterone then leads to different problems such as sexual impotence and decreased libido. This is also the case in people with obesity since the increase in fat mass stimulates the transformation of testosterone into estrogen, a feminizing hormone that may cause breast growth. Below are the main symptoms of low testosterone levels.

In teens

  • Limited beard and hair growth
  • Delayed development of the penis and testicles
  • Decreased muscle development
  • No voice change
  • Growth retardation

In adults

  • Mood changes and poor concentration
  • Little energy
  • Decreased muscle strength and endurance
  • Increased body fat
  • Decreased libido
  • Difficulty getting and maintaining an erection
  • Decreased beard and hair growth
  • Breast development (gynecomastia)
  • Hot flashes
  • Osteoporosis (brittle bones)

Please note that erectile dysfunction is more often caused by changes in the nerves or blood supply to the penis, like in the case of diabetes. Psychological causes are also common. Low testosterone levels can make it difficult to get and maintain an erection, but this is not a common cause.

However, despite the side effects that appear with low testosterone levels, supplementation is not necessarily recommended. This could indeed increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or the development of cancer cells in the event of a predisposition to prostate cancer.

Note that testosterone does not only have beneficial effects: in men, it contributes to age-related hair loss.

Foods that increase testosterone

1.     Cabbage

Cabbage is rarely the first thing that comes to mind when talking about testosterone boosters. Indeed, cabbage is more often associated with flatulence than anything else. Nonetheless, to increase your testosterone levels, there is nothing like a bowl of cabbage! 

The explanation is simple: The members of the cruciferous family (red cabbage, white cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and all the others) all contain indole- 3-Carbinol (IC3 for close friends), a phytonutrient that prevents free testosterone in men’s bodies from being converted into estrogen.

In addition, crucifers are rich in vitamin C, a vitamin that prevents the body from secreting too much cortisol (the famous stress hormone). Studies have shown that the more people have a high cortisol level, the lower their testosterone level… vice versa!

2.     Garlic

The health benefits of garlic are well known. It is particularly known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties. But the power of garlic goes beyond killing pesky germs; it can also boost your testosterone levels.

Indeed, garlic contains allicin, a sulfur compound, which gives it its distinctive pungent smell, but which also has many advantages, such as, for example, promoting blood circulation, causing the release in the body of luteinizing hormones (hormones that promote the production of testosterone) and participating in the reduction in the level of cortisol in the body. Pretty good, isn’t it? 

However, to get these benefits, you must consume the garlic raw! 

3.     Oysters

It is no coincidence that oysters have the reputation of being an aphrodisiac food. Indeed, these little treasures from the sea are extremely rich in zinc (6 oysters cover more than 7 times the recommended daily allowance in zinc, that is to say), a trace element that plays a key role in the production of testosterone in men. 

Zinc facilitates the production of testosterone in the body, by preventing testosterone from transforming into estrogen (the female hormone, as opposed to testosterone, the male hormone). 

Numerous studies have shown that men who had diets rich in zinc such as seafood, liver, crucifers, produced much more testosterone than men who suffered from zinc deficiencies.

4.     Walnuts

Walnuts are also well-known for their amazing health benefits. They are known to increase sperm quality in men.

Indeed, just like salmon or avocado, walnuts are rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats and therefore in good cholesterol, which cells in the testicles called Leydig cells use to manufacture testosterone

Walnuts also contain citrulline and arginine; two amino acids known to cause the release of nitric oxide in the body, which means an increase in the caliber of the arteries and increased blood circulation.

5.     Oatmeal

Again, based on appearance, oatmeal does not scream testosterone. But as we’ve already seen with cabbages, looks can be deceiving.

Indeed, oatmeal contains many nutrients that allow the body to either produce more testosterone or to maintain a high testosterone level, such as zinc, vitamin D, saponin, arginine, or even avenacoside. 

The elements boost blood circulation by playing on the dilation of the blood vessels, as is the case in particular with arginine.

6.     Beef

Although the regular consumption of red meat, and in particular beef, is often advised against if you suffer from low testosterone levels, eating a piece of steak from time to time might be the solution to your problem.

On the one hand, beef contains proteins, which partly inhibit the action of SHBG in the body; which makes it possible to have more free testosterone in the body.  On the other hand, beef is a good source of zinc (which plays a fundamental role in the production of testosterone as we have already seen) and saturated fats (which provide good cholesterol from which will be formed the testosterone).  

7.     Vitamin D

Vitamin d is a nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium and therefore is very important for bone health and the immune system. Vitamin d is also linked to a longer lifespan and the production of testosterone. Researchers have found that low testosterone is linked to vitamin d deficiency. So, you will likely need to start looking for extra vitamin d.

8.     Tuna

Whether canned or fresh, eating tuna is a natural way to boost your testosterone. Tuna is a fish that is very high in vitamin D, and it is also a high-protein heart-healthy food that is low in calories. And if you’re not a big fan of tuna, you may want to consider opting for other fish sources of vitamin D, such as salmon or sardines.

9.     Mushrooms

Mushrooms remedy the production of the enzyme aromatase, which inhibits the production of androgenic hormones.

Androgenic hormones are the umbrella term for male hormones, which also includes testosterone. So, the less that is inhibited, the more testosterone you produce.

10.    Ginger

The active ingredient in ginger, gingerol, is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory. It is not for nothing that many people when they have the flu or a sore throat, use ginger to soothe the symptoms.

In addition to being an anti-inflammatory agent, studies show that ginger can also act as an androgenic substance throughout the body, increasing testosterone by more than 10%.

11.    Green leafy vegetables

Plant-based foods like spinach and kale are high in magnesium, which is good for a healthy heart and good blood circulation. Improving blood circulation in the genital area includes improving the testes where testosterone is produced.

Magnesium also prevents a certain protein from binding to testosterone and reduces the amount of testosterone that needs to be produced. Spinach is extremely high in magnesium, as are almonds, cashews, and peanuts.

12.    Olive oil

The consumption of olive oil is known to increase the size of the testicles. Bigger testicles are not very effective on their own, but heavier testes indicate more testosterone production. 

Indeed, olive oil helps the Leydig cells in the testes to become heavier by absorbing more cholesterol. The testes use cholesterol to make testosterone. 

In addition, olive oil increases the levels of an enzyme that facilitates the synthesis of testosterone. 

Video Summary – Foods That Boosts Testosterone

How to increase testosterone with foods – Video Summary

Foods to avoid

1.     Linseed

Products from/with flaxseed are very popular at the moment. This is because flaxseed is rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But, when it comes to flaxseed, there may be more negative side effects than positive benefits. This is especially true if you’re a man.

The problem is that flaxseed products are full of lignans. In fact, 800 times as much as in most other foods.

Not only do lignans have a strong estrogenic effect, but there is also evidence that they lower overall and free testosterone levels. At the same time, they also suppress the action of the 5-a reductase enzyme.

The scientific studies done on flaxseed all tend to the same conclusion: products with flaxseed and androgens do not go well together.

Indeed, in a study done on the subject, 40 male test subjects were given 30 grams of flaxseed daily for 30 days. The participants saw their amount of free testosterone decrease by 10%.

In addition, several older in vitro studies and animal studies also show that the lignans in linseed can increase the amount of SHBG. And with more SHBG, more testosterone is prevented from binding to your androgen receptors.

So, unless you are a woman, it is not recommended to eat too many flaxseed products.

2.     Licorice

The main component that gives licorice its distinctive taste is also called Glycyrrhizin. And glycyrrhizin can suppress your testosterone production… and this suppressive effect is certainly not on the small side! 

The negative effects of glycyrrhizin on testosterone production were first discovered in this research. The researchers found that a very modest dose of glycyrrhizin was enough to significantly inhibit testosterone production in isolated rat Leydig cells. The action of the 17β-HSD enzyme is slowed down. And 17β-HSD is required as a catalyst in the production of testosterone.

11 years later, researchers took 7 healthy male test subjects and gave them 7g of licorice extract per day. They did this in the form of sweets, each candy containing 0.5 g of glycyrrhizin. After four days, the subjects saw their average testosterone levels decrease from 740 ng/dl to 484 ng/dl.

The good news was that after 4 days their testosterone level returned to normal after the original resting level.

3.     Vegetable oil rich in polyunsaturated fat

The majority of the oil used for cooking today is refined oil from vegetable sources.

For starters, most vegetable oils are extremely poor choices to cook with. They have a low smoke point, and they are often refined in unhealthy ways (bleaching, adding scents, etc.). This extracts all healthy micronutrients from the oil and can leave traces of sulfates.

And even though you don’t use them for cooking, vegetable oils that have a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids are still an unsaturated disaster for your testosterone production.

An in-depth study from 1997  clearly shows that:

  • a higher intake of fats stimulates testosterone production
  • a higher intake of saturated fatty acids stimulates testosterone production
  • a higher intake of simply unsaturated fatty acids stimulates testosterone production.
  • a higher intake of saturated fatty acids inhibits testosterone production

Almost all vegetable oils are packed with polyunsaturated fatty acids, except for coconut oil, palm oil, avocado oil, and olive oil.

What can make a vegetable oil even worse for you, by the way, is when the polyunsaturated fatty acids consist mainly of omega-6 fatty acids.

The body works best when we have a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of omega-3 and omega-6. That’s the same ratio that the Paleolithic man had. However, the average American nowadays has a ratio of 1:16 or 16 times as much omega-6 as before.

When the ratio becomes unbalanced by consuming too much omega-6, there will be more and more inflammatory reactions and oxidative stress in the body. And this in turn leads to a HUGE increase in your risk of getting various (chronic) diseases, which have increased significantly in the Western world in recent years.

It is very likely that one of the final results of an excessive intake of omega-6 slows down testosterone production, but no research has been done on this yet.

However, we have been able to find a study that shows that when sperm contains a lot of omega-6 (and little omega-3), men are often infertile. And conversely, when sperm contains relatively much omega-3 and little omega-6, the men are likely to be fertile and have high-quality sperm.

In short: For optimal testosterone production, you should get plenty of healthy fats daily. The fats you want to consume are saturated fatty acids and simply unsaturated fatty acids. 

Vegetable oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids are bad for your T production. And polyunsaturated fatty acids rich in omega-6 fatty acids are a disaster for your testosterone!

4.     Mint, peppermint, and spearmint

Many of the herbs from the mint family, such as spearmint, peppermint, and various other hybrids are fairly well known for their testosterone lowering effects.

Spearmint and peppermint, in particular, are widely used in food products, as well as in household products, such as soap, shampoo. Lip balms and toothpaste can also contain mint. And mint tea is very popular.

And even though mint products smell and taste very good, they have a disadvantage: They are not very good for your testosterone.

Much of the research done on peppermint and spearmint has been done on male Wistar rats. In a 2004 study, 48 rats were divided into 4 groups:

  • water (control group)
  • 20 grams /L peppermint tea
  • 20 grams /L spearmint tea
  • 40 grams /L spearmint tea

Compared to the control group, the 20 g/L peppermint tea reduced testosterone levels by an average of 23%. In the spearmint tea, with 20 g/L, the testosterone level decreased by as much as 51%! If you convert this to a human dose, that’s about the same as making a cup of tea from 5 grams of tea leaves.

2008 study shows that spearmint suppresses testosterone production and has an androgenic effect on male rats. The researchers theorized that spearmint causes oxidative stress in the hypothalamus, thus inhibiting testosterone production in the testicles.

Another rodent study from 2014 showed that 10-40 mg/kg of spearmint did not have any significant negative effects on the reproductive system, but that it did reduce testosterone levels.

Unfortunately, no studies have been done on men yet. However, spearmint has been found to significantly lower testosterone levels in women.

In this study, the researchers gave 21 female test subjects a cup of spearmint tea, twice a day, for 5 days. The total amount of testosterone did not change much, but the amount of unbound, free testosterone was on average about 30% lower after 5 days.

5.     Alcohol

Drinking alcohol has a negative impact on your testosterone levels. But, as it’s often the case with alcohol, the negative effect is related to the amount you take.

Research done on rodents show that alcohol linearly reduces testosterone levels. And an alarming study even shows that when 5% of the daily calories are obtained from alcohol, the testicles shrink by as much as 50%!

In men, heavy drinking is strongly linked to lower testosterone levels. Alcoholics have a much higher estrogen level and much less testosterone than their non-alcoholic fellow human beings.

But rest assured: a moderate amount of alcohol is not very bad for your testosterone production. In this study, 0.5 g/kg of alcohol was shown to slightly increase testosterone levels. In addition, drinking two glasses of wine only lower your testosterone level by 7%.

6.     Soy Products

There is a lot of controversies when it comes to consuming soy products. One of them is the effect of soy on your testosterone.

Because soybeans contain a lot of phyto-estrogenic isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, and glycitein), it is often claimed that soy has the same effect in the body as the main female hormone, estrogen. In-vitro research has shown that although isoflavones bind less well to estrogen receptors than estrogen itself, isoflavones can still activate the estrogen receptors and reduce the number of androgen receptors.

Soy is also characterized as extremely goitrogenic. This means that it can disrupt the production of thyroid hormones. This is because it disrupts the absorption of iodine in the thyroid gland. A less active thyroid gland is one of the main causes of low testosterone levels in men.

Also, a possible hormonal problem related to soy consumption is the anti-androgenic component called equol. This forms in the intestines when the bacteria there metabolize daidzein. But this occurs in about 30-50% of all men. Not everyone has the necessary bacteria to produce equol.

Also, it is worth mentioning that soybeans do not have good ratios, in terms of fatty acids. Of the 20 grams of fat per 100 grams of soybeans, more than 50% consists of testosterone-lowering polyunsaturated fatty acids. And then also to consider that the vast majority of MO fatty acids consists of inflammatory reactions causing omega-6 fatty acids.

7.     Trans fats

Trans fats are a common by-product of a process called hydrogenation. Here’s in short what happens:

Unprocessed oils (often soy, cottonseed, corn, rapeseed, etc.) are hardened because hydrogen atoms are pressed through the oil under high pressure in the presence of nickel. As a result, some of the unsaturated molecules in the oil are completely saturated (and therefore also solid at room temperature). Hydrogenation is often continued until the desired consistency is achieved.

The hydrogenation process converts some of the carbon-carbon compounds into ‘trans’ compounds. This is how trans fatty acids are formed.

The easiest to find are oils that state that they are hardened, or ‘hydrogenated’. These are commonly used in:

  • Industrial vegetable oils for baked goods and confectionery
  • Margarine and equivalent plant-based products
  • Fast food
  • Chips
  • Muffins and donuts
  • Cookies, cake, frosting, etc.

Why are trans fats bad for your testosterone production?

First, trans fats stimulate systemic inflammatory reactions in the body. A huge recent study concludes that for every 2% calorie from trans fats you consume, you have a 23% higher risk of heart disease.

Secondly, trans fats are rich in testosterone lowering polyunsaturated fatty acids. They also reduce the amount of good cholesterol, HDL. And HDL is a crucial building block for good T production.

A high intake of trans fatty acids is also related to less sperm and less testosterone in male rodents and humans.

Daily habits to increase test naturally

1.     Manage your stress

Keep stress and cortisol levels to a minimum. The level of testosterone in your body depends on how stressed you are. Studies show that an elevated cortisol level (our stress hormone) is accompanied by a decrease in testosterone levels.

The idea behind this is simple: if you are face to face with a saber-toothed tiger and therefore need your fight-or-flight hormone cortisol, then the need to reproduce is not a priority for a while. However, the reality is that in our modern society we are often and for a long time under stress due to deadlines, pressure from work or studies, a busy social life, etc. which constantly increases our stress level. All this stress has a negative influence on our testosterone and therefore our libido and the possibility of reproduction.

In women, high cortisol levels can lead to fertility problems or irregular menstrual cycles. In addition, an increased estrogen level (also called estrogen dominance) affects testosterone.

When we think of estrogen, we often see women, but men can also have estrogen dominance, which is expressed in, among other things, enlarged abdominal girth.

Cortisol is released during all types of stress, not only mentally but also during physical stress due to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle, eating processed foods or foods that contain phytoestrogens, exposure to products containing BPA or pesticides, or medication and other chemical agents.

2.     Ensure good vitamin D intake

Vitamin D is a hormone that, among other things, ensures the production of testosterone. Unfortunately, a lot of people suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. That is because our diet contains little vitamin D, and we, therefore, have to rely on our body’s production of vitamin D. Indeed, our skin cells are capable of converting cholesterol into vitamin D under the influence of sunlight, but many of us don’t get enough in the sun to make enough vitamin D.

Periodic monitoring of your vitamin D levels and possibly D3 is therefore important to avoid a deficiency.

3.     Pay attention to your zinc intake

We all know that minerals such as magnesium are of great importance for the functioning of your body. But there are many more micronutrients that you don’t want to have too little of and zinc is one of them, especially for athletes!

Zinc plays a major role in various body functions. For example, more than 100 enzymes depend on it to be able to do their job well. Furthermore, zinc is very important for the immune system and zinc supports you with good resistance to colds, flu, and cavity inflammation, especially in combination with vitamin C.

Zinc also helps in the recovery of your body cells, stimulates wound healing and muscle recovery. You also do not absorb proteins well in case of a zinc deficiency.

Furthermore, zinc is hardly retained by the body and that means that we have to get enough of it daily to benefit from the health benefits. Especially vegetarians and vegans should be conscious about getting a sufficient intake of zinc. But also, long-term stress, heavy physical stress, and the use of hormonal medications (including the contraceptive pill) can cause a mineral deficiency.

Symptoms of a zinc deficiency include white spots on your nails, skin problems such as acne, poor wound recovery, often cold, lack of appetite, diarrhea, inflamed tongue, impotence, fatigue, lack of energy, dejection, and poor physical and mental performance.

You will find a lot of zinc in oysters, eggs, herring, organ meat such as liver, legumes, nuts, seeds and seeds, seaweed, ginger, and Withania somnifera.

4.     Practice strength sports

Strength training and weightlifting boost your testosterone level. Studies show that people, who exercise on a regular basis, have higher testosterone levels than those who live a sedentary life.

Heavy physical exertion during a short period of time produces more testosterone than endurance sports. Deadlift squats, bench press, pull-ups are all great.

It is best to train for a maximum of one hour 3 to 4 times a week. Longer workouts/efforts cause a decrease in testosterone levels. Always have a rest day between workouts, this has a positive effect on your hormone levels.

5.     Eat a varied and healthy diet

The saying: “you are what you eat” could not be any truer when it comes to testosterone levels. Indeed, your testosterone levels depend on what you eat. Both strict diets and overeating can disrupt testosterone production. Your diet should be balanced, which means that it must contain enough protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

6.     Maintain a good healthy weight

According to several studies, there is a link between how much a person weighs and their testosterone levels. Men who are a bit on the heavy side have less testosterone than those whose weight is within the norms.

A study published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology reports that overweight males between 14 to 20 years of age have almost 50% less testosterone than those of normal weight. On the other hand, if you are always dieting your testosterone levels are also lowered. A good diet with pure organic food, variation in fats, proteins, and (slow) carbohydrates ensures good health.

It is also important to keep your blood sugar level low because it also influences your testosterone levels: if your blood sugar rises, the testosterone level drops. Insulin is produced in the pancreas when you eat fast carbohydrates (pasta, processed foods, sweets, cakes, cakes, cakes, and ice cream) and this causes your blood sugar level to rise, which therefore results in a lower testosterone level.

Conclusion: limit your rapid carbohydrate intake. Also pay attention to complex carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, cereals. If you do eat bread, preferably eat the whole grain-cereal.

7.     Ensure a good quality night’s sleep

A good night’s sleep is a necessary condition to increase your testosterone levels. A 2011 study found that a week-long sleep restriction affected the testosterone levels of healthy young men. It showed that if a man sleeps less than 5 hours a night, his testosterone level drops by 15%, and the levels of those who slept for about 4 hours were barely sufficient. For example, it has been calculated that every extra hour of sleep gives your testosterone level a boost of 15%. Therefore, always try to sleep 7 to 8 hours per night.

8.     Live a healthy lifestyle

Your lifestyle also affects your hormones and therefore your testosterone levels. Avoid estrogen-like chemicals: these are, for example, BPA and parabens. BPA is often found in plastic (for example, throwaway water bottles). Try to keep the use of these products to a minimum: buy BPA-free plastic and reusable drinking bottle, which is also better for the environment.

Parabens and other chemicals can also be found in skincare products, from shampoo to deodorant. Keep in mind, your skin is the largest organ, and everything you apply and spray on it is absorbed, with all the consequences that entail.

 In the short term, you may not notice much, but in the long run, your body gets stressed because it can’t handle all that toxic load.

9.     Avoid alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and drugs do not do your overall health and therefore your testosterone levels any good. Think also of medication that you may take, such as opioid drugs (fentanyl, morphine, and oxycodone), or medicines such as prednisone and anabolic steroids and statins. If your doctor prescribes medication, this is of course not done without reason, but unfortunately, medications also affect testosterone levels.

If you suspect a testosterone deficiency due to medication, talk to your doctor. Perhaps a more suitable variant is possible.

10.    Do it often

And last but not least: a healthy sex life is very important for the production of testosterone and a healthy lifestyle. Those who have sex regularly, keep the testicles active, which is good for your testosterone levels. After all, testosterone is produced in the testicles.

Men who are not sexually active therefore have a lower testosterone level than men who regularly have sex.

Furthermore, sex is good for both men and women: it lowers the stress level, releases all kinds of substances that de-stress us and make us happy, such as oxytocin (this substance makes us feel connected to our partner) and endorphins (the body’s own painkiller) and in women, norepinephrine is also released, which is associated with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse.

Last words

Testosterone is the main male sex hormone. It stimulates the growth of skeletal muscle and also ensures the maintenance of the reproductive apparatus and sperm production.

In both men and women, testosterone is essential for libido (sex drive). In the sexual field, low testosterone can be responsible for low libido and erection problems.

With erection problems often (also) problems with blood flow play a role. Due to a narrowing of the blood vessels, the blood flow, in the male genital organ, is insufficient to get or hold an erection.

For a good sex life, it is therefore important that your blood vessels are healthy and that your testosterone is up to standard. Nutrition and lifestyle play an important role in this.

In this article, I will discuss the food products, herbs, and supplements that are good for the blood vessels, testosterone, and therefore your libido.

Joseph Mandell

Mandell is currently working towards a medical degree from the University of Central Florida. His main passions include kayaking, playing soccer and tasting good food. He covers mostly science, health and environmental stories for the Scientific Origin.