• Photo by Brooke Lark

Can changes to my diet increase testosterone levels?

Many things impact on our health and wellbeing, including our genetics, conditions or medical problems we develop through life, and of course, the lifestyle choices we make. In terms of testosterone, its loss tends to be multifactorial, including such triggers as age, disease, and also what we eat. There is of course no magic bullet in food or supplement form that will directly result in a boost in testosterone levels, however, there are many foods that will support our bodies and maximise what we can do naturally.

Dr Jeff Foster
Dr Jeff FosterMedical Director & Male Health Lead

Dr Jeff Foster is a Men’s Health specialist and one of the founders of H3Health.

You can find out more about Dr Foster by viewing his latest articles and biography .

Could this work for me?

The vast majority of men who are fit and healthy and enjoy a balanced diet (including plenty of fruit and vegetables) take regular exercise, and have good quality sleep may not need to think about trying to boost testosterone through diet. This is because if you are truly fit and healthy, then you have already “boosted” your testosterone to its full potential, and it will be producing as much as it can.  There are, however, three main groups of men that will benefit from utilising nutrition to support testosterone function, and the first is men who currently have a poor diet. The second is men with malabsorption issues such as Crohn’s, coeliac disease, or cystic fibrosis because conditions like these reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients normally. The final group are those that have a high need to maximise their testosterone production, such as professional athletes who, due to their exercise regimes, can produce more testosterone than those with a more sedentary lifestyle.

The importance of a balanced diet

It is worth highlighting that before going to the supermarket and clearing the shelves of eggs, the key to good nutrition, no matter what the intended outcome, is to have balance. Another important factor is to regulate portion sizes in order to maintain a healthy weight, as obesity is a major factor in causing low testosterone. So, what nutrients, vitamins, and minerals do you need to support testosterone production and what foods can have the effect of boosting testosterone?

Photo by Brooke Lark

Zinc

Zinc is an essential dietary mineral that is necessary for your immune system to function properly and plays a crucial role in cell division. Zinc helps enzymes break down food and other nutrients. It also plays an important role in enzymes that build proteins.  In terms of testosterone, we know that people with low levels of zinc are able to improve their testicular function, sperm quality, and testosterone levels, by making sure they receive adequate amounts of the mineral.

Zinc can be found in certain foods and is also available in supplement form. Our bodies do not store zinc so it is important to eat foods daily that contain it, including:

  • Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and beans
  • Seeds such as hemp, flax, pumpkin, or squash seeds.
  • Nuts, pine nuts, peanuts, cashews, and almonds
  • Dairy (dairy can be high in fat so be cautious of portion size, as dietary fat is a contraindication for testosterone production)
  • Eggs (unless you also have high cholesterol)
  • Whole grains, wheat, quinoa, rice and oats

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that cannot be made by the body itself, but we do store about 25 grams of it in bones, muscles and soft tissue. There is evidence that magnesium exerts a positive influence on anabolic hormonal status, including testosterone, in men. In fact, several studies have shown that magnesium supplementation can help increase testosterone levels in certain male groups.  Interestingly, one study revealed that men who exercise and take magnesium supplements see their free and total testosterone levels rise even more than men who just take magnesium supplements without exercising or men who just exercise without supplementing at all.  However, this apparent fantastic link between magnesium and testosterone has two important caveats:  Firstly, we do not always know the starting level of magnesium in these studies and were the patients actually deficient? Secondly, the link between magnesium and sleep is stronger than magnesium and testosterone, so is the magnesium causing an improved sleep (a mandatory requirement for testosterone production), which subsequently results in a higher testosterone levels?  So, what foods can you supplement to boost magnesium in your diet?

  • Dark Chocolate
  • Avocados
  • Nuts particularly, cashews, almonds, and brazil nuts
  • Legumes, particularly lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans
  • Tofu, eaten in moderation
  • Seeds such as flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds
  • Whole grain cereals, including buckwheat, and quinoa
  • Fatty fish, salmon, mackerel, and halibut
  • Bananas
  • Leafy greens like kale and spinach

Vitamin D

Vitamin D can be supplemented or absorbed from the sun’s UVB rays. Vitamin D is not water-soluble and we store it in our adipose fat tissues. Increasing your vitamin D stores may assist with optimising testosterone and improve other related health measures, such as sperm quality. One study found a close correlation between vitamin D deficiency and low testosterone. Ways to boost vitamin D through diet include:

  • Oily fish
  • Mushrooms
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified foods, such as low-fat milk and cereals

Selenium

Selenium is an essential trace mineral that assists with cognitive function and fertility. We do not need a lot of selenium in our diets, but deficiency can cause problems. Selenium is stored in amino acids in our body, primarily in our major organs. Several studies have linked higher selenium intake to increased testosterone levels and improved sperm motility and quality. Foods containing selenium include:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Seafood, including crab, salmon, tuna, and prawns
  • White meat and poultry, like turkey and chicken
  • Brown rice
  • Lentils
  • Vegetables such as peas and potatoes

Taking action

The key factor to take from this is to eat a balanced diet and incorporate some or all of these foods in moderation. It is also important to note that certain foods will have a direct negative impact on testosterone production, these include a high alcohol intake and high fat and carbohydrate diets.   We know that men that drink alcohol on a daily basis tend to have lower levels of testosterone than those who drink less.  In addition, diets high in fat and carbohydrates can be problematic; carbohydrates, in particular, cause a spike in insulin, which causes a reduction in testosterone and can lead to obesity, the ultimate testosterone suppressant.

If you think you might have low testosterone, improving your diet, doing more exercise, and getting plenty of sleep will no doubt be beneficial. However, it is crucial that you have your testosterone levels tested and, if they are low, speak to Men’s Health specialist to find out why the levels have dropped, and what can be done to help.

Would you like to speak to a specialist about low testosterone?

If you think you may have testosterone deficiency, or would like to speak to one of our specialists, you can find out more information here or book an appointment with one of our men’s health team here.