7 foods that may help boost testosterone

Testosterone is a sex hormone that affects:

  • sex drive
  • Bone and muscle health
  • sperm production
  • blood cell production

Testosterone decreases as you age, but other factors can also cause testosterone to drop, including certain medications, high levels of body fat, and certain health conditions (1And 2).

Low testosterone, also known as hypogonadism or low T, occurs when testosterone levels fall below 300 nanograms/dL (ng/dL). Low testosterone can be treated medically through testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).3).

Hypogonadism is very common. In fact, about 40% of men over 45 and 50% of men in their 80s are considered hypogonadal (3).

A health-promoting lifestyle, including diet, is important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels. Some studies have found that diets high in ultra-processed foods and low in nutrient-dense foods may reduce testosterone levels (4And 5And 6).

If you have low testosterone levels, follow the recommendations of your health care professional. Additionally, you can consider adopting a diet rich in foods that contain important nutrients for maintaining healthy testosterone levels.

Several nutrients, including vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc, are important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels (7).

However, there is limited research looking at the effect of certain foods on testosterone levels.

This article discusses 7 nutrient-rich foods that may help promote healthy testosterone levels.

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 some foods high in fat, such as fried foods, have been linked to lower testosterone levels in some people, research has also shown that low-fat diets may be detrimental to testosterone levels (5And 8).

A systematic review of six studies found that low-fat dietary patterns were associated with lower testosterone levels, compared to high-fat dietary patterns (8).

However, the researchers note that more high-quality studies are needed to fully understand this relationship (8).

Regardless, adding healthy sources of fat like fatty fish to your diet is likely to benefit your overall health, including hormonal health.

Furthermore, fatty fish are good sources of zinc, vitamin D, and protein — nutrients that are important for maintaining healthy testosterone levels.

For example, studies show that men with lower levels of vitamin D tend to have lower testosterone than men with higher levels. This is because vitamin D is essential for male reproductive health (9).

Dark leafy greens are an excellent source of micronutrients, including magnesium, a mineral important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels, especially in older men.

Magnesium is believed to increase the bioactivity of testosterone in the body because magnesium reduces oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the body’s antioxidant defenses and free radicals.

Oxidative stress and inflammation can lower testosterone, so introducing nutrients that combat oxidative stress may help maintain healthy testosterone levels (10And 11And 12).

An older study of 399 men 65 years of age or older found that those with higher levels of magnesium in their blood had higher levels of testosterone compared to those with lower levels of magnesium (10).

Additionally, a study in Taiwanese men found that a low intake of leafy green vegetables was associated with lower testosterone levels (5).

Therefore, eating more magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, may help promote healthy testosterone levels.

Cocoa products like cocoa powder and cocoa nibs are rich in magnesium and flavonoid antioxidants, both of which are important for testosterone.

Flavonoids are plant compounds that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Studies show that certain flavonoids, including cocoa flavonoids such as quercetin and apigenin, may help increase testosterone production by cells in the testicles called Leydig cells.13).

When you’re shopping for cocoa products, you may want to choose products that don’t contain added sugar or contain only small amounts of added sugar. Consider cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, or dark chocolate that’s low in sugar for their amazing health benefits.

Avocados provide healthy fats, which are important for hormonal health. Additionally, avocados contain magnesium and a mineral called boron, which studies suggest may benefit testosterone levels (14).

Boron is a rare mineral that appears to affect testosterone metabolism in the body and may protect against testosterone degradation (15).

Although some studies show that supplements containing high levels of boron may help boost testosterone in some people, study results are mixed. More research is needed to understand how boron supplementation affects testosterone (16).

While it is not currently recommended to take boron supplements to increase testosterone, adding food sources of this mineral, such as avocados, may help maintain healthy testosterone levels.

Egg yolks are rich in healthy fats, proteins and selenium, a mineral that acts as an antioxidant in the body.

According to some studies in test tubes and animals, selenium may help boost testosterone production by activating certain pathways and the expression of certain genes (17And 18).

Additionally, some studies in humans and animals have found that testosterone levels are higher in those with optimal selenium levels in their blood (18).

However, we need more research, especially in humans, before we can draw conclusions about the effect of selenium on testosterone.

Eggs are highly nutritious, so adding it to your diet if it’s not already part of it is a good idea, unless you have an egg allergy. Remember that whole eggs are much more nutritious than regular egg whites, because the yolk contains the most micronutrients.

Berries, cherries, and pomegranates are high in flavonoid antioxidants, which may help protect testosterone-producing cells from damage and increase testosterone production (13).

An old study in mice found that pomegranate juice supplementation helped protect against induced oxidative stress, increased testosterone levels, and helped protect Leydig cells (which produce testosterone) from injury (19).

However, we need more research in humans before we can conclude whether pomegranate or its juice can affect your testosterone levels.

Pomegranates, berries, and cherries may protect against inflammation caused by obesity, which can lower testosterone levels (20And 21).

Therefore, eating foods rich in antioxidants like this fruit may boost overall health, including hormonal health.

Oysters like oysters and oysters are excellent sources of zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which may support optimal testosterone levels.

Because of its important role in reproductive health, zinc deficiency can cause hypogonadism (22).

Furthermore, high doses of zinc supplements appear to be effective in treating hypogonadism in some men. However, zinc supplementation is not currently recommended as a comprehensive treatment for hypogonadism (23).

But eating foods rich in nutrients important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels such as zinc, selenium and omega-3 fats may support hormonal health.

Changes to a health-promoting diet may help reduce testosterone, but they do not cure hypogonadism. Your doctor should confirm that you have low testosterone with a physical exam and blood test.

If you have been diagnosed with low testosterone, you may be prescribed testosterone substitutes, such as (3):

  • Tablets or pills
  • skin spots
  • topical gel
  • injection

These medications can have a risk of serious side effects, so be sure to discuss all of them with your doctor.

Additionally, consider making dietary modifications to enhance your overall health, not just to treat low T.

Factors such as body weight and certain lifestyle choices can affect testosterone levels as well.

For example, men who are obese are more likely to develop hypogonadism than men of moderate weight (24).

Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight is critical to hormonal health.

Being more physically active, quitting if you’re a smoker, and reducing alcohol and drug use may also help men with low testosterone improve their testosterone status (25And 26And 27).

This section covers factors that may affect testosterone levels and the symptoms you may experience with low testosterone.

What are the symptoms of low testosterone levels?

Symptoms of low testosterone include (3And 28And 29):

  • Low spontaneous erection
  • low sex drive
  • Decreased testicle size
  • Decreased bone and muscle mass
  • body hair loss
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • profuse sweating

Keep in mind that symptoms associated with low testosterone are non-specific and overlap with symptoms of other potentially serious health conditions.

You should not diagnose low testosterone on your own. If you suspect that you may have low testosterone, speak with your health care professional for appropriate testing.

Can drinking and drug use affect testosterone levels?

Yes. Research shows that harmful use of alcohol and drugs can affect levels of sex hormones, including reducing testosterone (27).

In fact, alcohol and drug misuse is recognized as a possible reversible cause of hypogonadism (27).

If you currently struggle with substance abuse, know that there are ways to get help. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for more information about treatment and support.

Are testosterone boosting supplements safe?

It is not a good idea to use nutritional supplements that are marketed as “testosterone boosters”.

That’s because many of these supplements contain ingredients like herbs that can interact with medications or cause other serious side effects.

For example, pulmonary embolism and elevated liver enzymes are just some of the complications associated with the use of nutritional supplements marketed to boost testosterone (30And 31).

Additionally, a study that evaluated 50 “T booster” supplements found that more than 10% of the supplements contained ingredients that may negatively affect testosterone levels (31).

The study also discovered that many supplements contain unnecessarily high amounts of certain nutrients such as zinc and B3 (31).

If you suspect you have low testosterone, avoid supplements marketed as “testosterone boosters.” Instead, speak with a healthcare professional for advice on safe, evidence-based treatments.

Diet and lifestyle affect hormonal health and may affect testosterone levels.

Adding foods rich in nutrients important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels such as vitamin D, magnesium, zinc and flavonoid antioxidants may help support hormonal health.

However, if you have low testosterone or suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of low testosterone, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for advice on appropriate testing and treatment.


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