We all know it’s a good idea to eat fruits & vegetables and avoid junk food for good health in general, but what foods increase testosterone levels? How do keto/low carb, Mediterranean, low fat, or vegetarian diets affect testosterone levels? Does diet really make a difference? The answer is yes! The foods we eat affect every part of our bodies, and that goes for hormones (like testosterone) as well.
Before we get into which foods can increase your testosterone level, it’s important to understand how testosterone works in the body. In order to get where it needs to go, testosterone must be attached to proteins in the blood: sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and albumin. The vast majority of testosterone in your body is bound to these proteins. In fact only 2% is floating around by itself, called “free” testosterone.
Your “bioavailable” testosterone–the testosterone your body can actually use–is the total of free testosterone and that which is bound to albumin. Your body can’t actually use the testosterone that is bound to SHBG. Therefore, one thing you can do to increase your bioavailable testosterone is eat foods that will keep your SHBG in check.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats found in:
They are super important for cardiovascular health and have also been shown to decrease men’s levels of SHBG.
Soy has been controversial for both men and women because it mimics estrogen. While estrogen is usually thought of as a female hormone, men also need it for bone health, sperm production, and erectile function. The key is balance. When a man’s estrogen goes too high, it leads to a decrease in testosterone and causes breast growth, erectile dysfunction, and reduced muscle mass.
So, if you’re a man, should you avoid soy? Surprisingly, one study showed that men who had high levels of soy intake actually had lower levels of estrogen than men who consumed less soy. The reasons for this are a bit complicated, but it’s because soy acts as an aromatase inhibitor.
What the heck is an aromatase inhibitor, you ask? Well, aromatase is the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. Therefore, foods that put the brakes on aromatase increase testosterone levels. So, soy products (like tofu and miso) can be a part of a healthy diet if you’re looking to increase your testosterone level!
Other foods & nutrients that increase testosterone (by inhibiting aromatase) include…
- Dietary fiber (fruits, vegetables & whole grains)
- Flaxseed (see Omega-3’s above!)
- Tip: You can get flaxseed meal at most grocery stores. Mix a couple tablespoons into yogurt, a smoothie, sauces, or even just sprinkle it on your food! It has a mild, nutty flavor and is a great way to get extra fiber and Omega-3’s in your diet!
- Grape seed extract
- White button mushrooms
- Green tea
What NOT To Eat To Increase Testosterone
Low Protein Diet
If you’re looking to increase your testosterone level, what you don’t want to do is eat a low protein diet! Low protein diets have been shown to increase SHBG, decreasing bioavailable testosterone.
Low Fat Diet
Low fat diets are associated with lower levels of testosterone in men. In one study that looked at men who ate either a low fat diet, an unrestricted diet, or a Mediterranean diet, the men who ate a low fat diet had the lowest testosterone levels. This was the case even when controlling for age, BMI, activity level, and other health conditions.
Nutrition and diet is a huge topic, and we’ll definitely get more into how it affects testosterone in other blog posts. Hopefully this gives you some ideas to start with!