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If you’re struggling with low testosterone, you aren’t alone. There are things you can do, however, to raise your testosterone levels and feel better. Below, we highlight seven testosterone killing foods that you might be eating daily, so you can avoid them. We also cover the impact diet and lifestyle can have on testosterone in general and what you should eat to give your T levels a boost.
How Does Testosterone Affect Your Health?
Before delving into testosterone killing foods, it’s a good idea to get a crash course on how it works and affects your health.
In men, the testicles are mostly responsible for making testosterone, and women do make the hormone as well, but in smaller amounts.
When a male enters puberty, testosterone starts to gradually go up. Then, after the age of 30, it starts to decline.
Testosterone is associated with sperm production, sex drive, muscle mass, the way a man stores fat, and also red blood cell production. Testosterone also affects mood.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Low levels of testosterone can create a number of symptoms that reduce a man’s quality of life.
For example, signs and symptoms of low testosterone include:
- Lower sex drive
- Reduced energy levels
- Weight gain
- Low self-esteem
- Thinner bones
While some declines in testosterone occur naturally with aging, there are other things that can play a role too. For example, certain health conditions like kidney disease, cancer, and alcoholism affect testosterone.
There are two broad categories of low testosterone, which are primary and secondary hypogonadism.
Primary hypogonadism can occur because of underactive testes. This just means that the testes aren’t creating enough testosterone for a man to have optimal health.
This can be genetic, or it can occur because of a physical injury to the testicles or chemotherapy or radiation to treat cancer.
The other category is secondary hypogonadism, which is caused by damage to either the pituitary gland or hypothalamus. These are the areas of the brain responsible for hormone production by the testes.
Pituitary disorders can occur because of medications or drugs, tumors or kidney failure.
Inflammatory diseases can also damage the pituitary gland or hypothalamus.
Acquired conditions that can play a role in secondary hypogonadism include normal aging, obesity, and medicines such as steroids and opioids. Severe emotional or physical stress may also affect the male reproductive system.
Testing Testosterone Levels
A blood test can be done to measure the amount of testosterone you have. There are variations in testosterone levels throughout the day, so a doctor might do a few different tests to get a true baseline. For example, testosterone is often highest early in the morning.
For most men, testosterone levels range between 280 and 1,100 nanograms per deciliter.
The range varies depending on the lab, but the American Urological Association usually recommends doctors do a full workup for levels below 300 ng/dL.
If a doctor determines a man needs treatment for hypogonadism, which just means reduced testosterone production, they may or may not treat it. Deciding whether or not to treat it usually depends on how much the symptoms are affecting your quality of life.
While testosterone replacement can help improve muscle mass and sex drive, there are potential side effects. Testosterone replacement side effects can include shrinking testicles, a decrease in sperm production, fluid retention, and oily skin.
There’s also some evidence that testosterone replacement could be linked with a greater risk of prostate cancer, but the verdict is still out on whether or not this is truly a risk.
It can be a good option, with the approval from your doctor, to start looking at natural ways to deal with low testosterone before moving onto replacement.
Making certain lifestyle changes, including in your diet, might help you feel better, which is where the list of the top testosterone killing foods is relevant.
Soy foods contain something called phytoestrogens. They are similar to estrogen, and they act in the body in many of the same ways.
There is some research that has found eating a lot of soy products, including soy protein isolates, edamame, and tofu, can reduce testosterone levels.
There have also been studies where men consuming soy products have experienced alterations in their estrogen levels and breast tenderness, but they returned to normal after stopping the use of soy.
It’s possible that the phytoestrogens in soy could change hormonal levels in the body, causing symptoms of high estrogen.
Some other foods that could potentially have soy include:
- Soy sauce
- Teriyaki sauce
Dairy products can have natural or synthetic hormones from the cows they come from, and that may negatively affect your testosterone levels. Also, animals are frequently fed soy products, which means milk and other dairy products could have high levels of estrogen.
If you want to avoid testosterone killing foods, you might take a look at how much dairy you’re consuming.
3.) Baked Items
Also among the list of testosterone killing foods are those delicious baked goods. There was a study in 2018 that found men consuming high amounts of pastries and bread had lower total testosterone levels.
Additionally, when you have a diet high in baked goods, it can increase the visceral fat around your stomach and your insulin levels, both of which decrease testosterone.
It’s not really a food, but it’s important to include alcohol on the list of testosterone killing foods. Alcohol has been shown to have a link to low testosterone, potentially because it impairs the enzymes that form the hormone.
There was a study done in the 1980s and participants were given the equivalent of a pint of whiskey for 30 days. They all had a testosterone drop within 72 hours, and after 30 days, their testosterone levels were similar to those of heavy drinkers.
5.) Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil is something we frequently use to cook with, and it’s a staple in the standard Western diet but it can also be unhealthy to consume a lot of these oils. Vegetable oils include soybean, canola, corn, olive, and peanut oils.
Vegetable oils have polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids that research has found could be linked to low testosterone.
In 2019, there was a study of overweight men with hypogonadism. That study found meals high in fats from vegetable oils had significant reductions in their serum testosterone production.
6.) Processed Foods and Trans Fats
Trans fats are also called partially hydrogenated oils. They are often used in processed foods, which are basically fast foods, snack foods, and packaged items. Processed foods that include trans fatty acids can lower total testosterone levels, and they may also increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Frozen foods may also have trans fats and other ingredients that aren’t good for your testosterone or overall health.
Mint tea or food items with mint could have a lowering effect on testosterone. Spearmint is something women with polycystic ovary syndrome use as a natural way to reduce their symptoms because it lowers testosterone.
Foods That Boost Testosterone
While you might avoid the testosterone killing foods above, there are some foods that could increase your T levels. In contrast to testosterone killing foods, consider adding the following to your diet.
You can eat ginger in recipes, you can make tea with ginger root, or you can use it as a supplement. Regardless of how you decide to incorporate ginger into your diet, it’s going to be good for you.
There was a study in 2012 that found taking a daily ginger supplement for three months increased men’s testosterone levels by nearly 18%. There was also a study in 2013 that found ginger increased testosterone in diabetic rats in just 30 days.
Oysters are high in zinc, and zinc is an essential mineral that plays an important role in men’s reproductive health. There’s evidence that men with zinc deficiency may develop hypogonadism, as well as impotence.
If you don’t like oysters, zinc is found in other shellfish, poultry, beans, red meat, and nuts.
Copper and zinc compete for absorption, so try to take the two separately if possible.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Vegetables like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard may improve testosterone levels, likely because they’re high in magnesium. Other magnesium sources from food include nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans and lentils.
Some types of fats are considered testosterone killing foods, but others are good for testosterone. Namely, omega-3 fatty acids can help raise your testosterone. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, herring, sardines, and trout. You can also get these healthy fats in supplement form if you prefer.
Other Ways to Naturally Boost Testosterone
You may find that the healthier you are and the better care you take of yourself in general, the higher your testosterone levels go. Some natural lifestyle changes you can make to increase your testosterone include:
- Losing weight if you’re overweight
- Resistance training
- Reducing stress
- Getting plenty of sleep
Testosterone Killing Foods—Key Takeaways
There are certain things that are considered testosterone killing foods, such as alcohol, soy, and trans fats. These foods aren’t just bad for your testosterone levels—they’re detrimental to your health in general. By replacing testosterone killing foods with healthy options like fatty fish and leafy green vegetables, you’re likely to improve your quality of life in a number of different ways.