Testosterone Boosting Foods (For Men and Women)

Healthy testosterone isn’t the first thing we think about as women. We tend to be more concerned about estrogen dominance in our younger years and avoiding menopausal symptoms later on. But testosterone is important, too! It affects our sex drive, resilience, and ability to build muscle. If you’re feeling the effects of low testosterone, eating testosterone-boosting foods can help you bounce back.

What is Testosterone? 

Testosterone is an “androgen” — a male sex hormone. It stimulates the development of secondary sexual characteristics as boys grow into men. It helps them put on muscle, deepen their voices, and grow body hair. It’s also essential for sperm production. In males, testosterone is mainly made in the testicles. 

However, testosterone doesn’t only occur in men. Women also have testosterone. They just have less of it. Women make testosterone in smaller amounts in the ovaries and adrenal glands.

In both men and women, testosterone helps the body build healthy bones and muscles. It affects fat distribution and muscle strength. Testosterone also supports energy and helps with nerve and muscle repair. It may even support mood and cognitive function. Those with low testosterone levels can have fatigue, depression, and reduced cognitive function.

Why Should Women Be Concerned About Testosterone?

As mentioned, having testosterone in healthy ranges is an indicator of our ability to repair. It influences how quickly we heal connective tissue, like bones, tendons, ligaments, skin, and nails. That impacts our risk for osteoporosis, affects joint recovery, and even influences how we look. Even having a balanced mood is dependent on healthy testosterone levels. 

Of course, there are times in our lives when we naturally make less. For instance, our levels can decrease a fair amount as we approach menopause. That’s especially the case for women who have had their ovaries removed.

However, adrenal function can also influence testosterone. When we’re worn down, we may not be able to keep up with normal testosterone needs. As mentioned, women make testosterone in the ovaries and adrenal glands. The healthier and more resilient our adrenals are, the better their testosterone production. 

When we’re healthy and thriving, our stress hormones like cortisol are at normal levels. This allows us to have healthy testosterone levels with a good ability to repair. But when we’re in an emergency state, our repair hormones like testosterone can get depleted. We’re in survival mode and use up hormones just to make it through the present moment. So, monitoring your testosterone production can indicate resiliency.

The more you can focus on quality sleep, brisk exercise, and healthy relationships, the better your hormone levels will be. All hormones get used up and broken down. How quickly you break them down, and whether you break them down into dangerous byproducts, can shape your hormone balance.

Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Women

Symptoms of testosterone deficiency in women can include:

  • Reduced libido: One of the most common symptoms of low testosterone in women is a decreased sex drive.
  • Fatigue: Women with low testosterone may notice a drop in energy levels, feeling tired despite adequate sleep.
  • Mood changes: Irritability and even depression can be associated with low testosterone levels.
  • Decreased muscle mass and strength: Testosterone plays a key role in building and maintaining muscle. So, low levels can reduce muscle mass and strength.
  • Weight gain: Changes in hormone levels can also affect body composition. Low T may lead to increased body fat –even to the point of obesity. It can also make weight loss more difficult.
  • Reduced bone density: Testosterone helps to maintain bone density. Lower levels can weaken bones and increase the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Cognitive changes: Some women struggle with concentration and memory with low testosterone levels.
  • Hair loss: While not as common, some women might notice thinning hair or hair loss due to low testosterone. 

If you can relate to these symptoms, it’s worth getting some testing done first, before you decide you’re low in testosterone. For women, if your blood test shows testosterone below 15 nanograms per deciliter, it’s considered low. 

Nutrients In Testosterone Boosting Foods

Zinc 

Zinc is used in hundreds of chemical reactions, and we can easily be deficient in it. Because of its important role in hormone health, a chronic zinc deficiency can lead to hypogonadism over time. (Gonads are our reproductive organs). When the testes (for men) or the ovaries (for women) are depleted, it can result in lower testosterone levels.

Magnesium 

Magnesium seems to impact testosterone production, possibly by reducing oxidative stress. The exact mechanism is unknown. But studies suggest that magnesium can increase testosterone levels. Combining a high magnesium intake with regular exercise is even more effective.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D receptors are present in the ovaries and adrenal glands, where testosterone is made in women. When vitamin D binds to these receptors, it can stimulate the ovaries and adrenal glands to make testosterone. 

Getting enough vitamin D levels can also improve sleep quality. Since poor sleep can reduce testosterone, adequate vitamin D supports healthy testosterone levels.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats primarily found in fish oil and some plant sources. These fats can influence inflammation levels in the body, which affects hormones. In men, supplementing with omega-3s for 12 weeks increased their T levels. However, that was not the case for women supplementing with omega-3s. 

Antioxidants 

Antioxidants play a crucial role in supporting healthy testosterone levels. They work hard to combat oxidative stress and protect cells from damaging free radicals. Oxidative stress can damage cells involved in hormone production, like those in the ovaries and adrenal glands. Antioxidants help protect organs from oxidative damage, supporting their ability to make testosterone.

Of course, you could get these nutrients in dietary supplements, but getting through whole foods is even better. 

Testosterone-Boosting Foods

A 2018 Taiwanese study outlined a diet that predicted low testosterone. Researchers described it as “a high consumption of bread and pastries, dairy products, and desserts, eating out, and a low intake of homemade foods, noodles, and dark green vegetables.” 

Just eating a whole foods diet made in your own kitchen can make a difference. But here are some of the best foods for boosting testosterone levels and improving overall health.

Grass-Fed Red Meat

Grass-fed red meat, particularly beef, is a significant source of zinc, a mineral vital for testosterone production. Zinc acts as a cofactor for many enzymes, including those involved in testosterone synthesis. It also helps to keep testosterone from converting into estrogen by inhibiting an enzyme called aromatase.

Fatty Fish

Cold water fish like salmon and mackerel provide omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation can suppress the endocrine system, including testosterone production. Omega-3s may also improve insulin sensitivity. Better insulin regulation can help maintain optimal testosterone levels.

Oysters

Shellfish like oysters are some of the highest food sources of zinc. Even one serving a week can make a significant difference in your zinc status. That one change alone could lead to measurable shifts in testosterone.

Whole Eggs 

Egg yolks have cholesterol, which the body needs to make steroid hormones like testosterone. Egg yolks are also one of the few food sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D acts like a hormone in the body and is associated with higher levels of testosterone.

Olive oil is a healthy fat that may improve testosterone due to its unique composition of fats and antioxidants. Some research suggests olive oil improves luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion. This hormone stimulates testosterone production. Including olive oil regularly might enhance LH levels, leading to higher testosterone.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc, a vital mineral necessary for testosterone production. They also have phytosterols, plant compounds similar to cholesterol. Phytosterols support testosterone levels by influencing pathways involved in steroid hormone production. Plus they make a great snack! Here’s how to make roasted pumpkin seeds.

Brazil Nuts 

Selenium is important for producing testosterone and responding to it. We can easily become deficient in selenium due to depleted soils. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium. Eating two or three nuts a day can provide the amount needed. Just a few of them make a big difference. 

Leafy Greens 

Green leafy vegetables are touted for their many health benefits. They’re rich in micronutrients like trace minerals and other compounds that promote well-being. They may also support healthy testosterone levels. Leafy greens like kale and spinach are excellent sources of magnesium, which is thought to be involved in testosterone production. A salad a day might just keep the doctor away. 

Broccoli 

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have compounds that can keep us from making bad estrogens. These compounds are called indoles and can convert into diindolylmethane (DIM) during digestion. DIM may help convert estrogen into less potent forms, reducing its overall effects in the body. This shift in testosterone-estrogen balance can increase testosterone’s activity.

Pomegranate 

Pomegranate seeds and juice are rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols. Studies suggest pomegranate juice can increase testosterone in both men and women, likely due to its polyphenols.  This testosterone boosting food is also great in mocktails!

Ginger 

Ginger root is a spicy way to increase testosterone production. Some studies suggest ginger may stimulate testosterone production. In a 2021 study, supplementing with ginger for 3 months increased testosterone by nearly 18% in men with fertility problems. 

Onions

Onions are rich in flavonoids, compounds shown to increase testosterone production. Quercetin, a flavonoid found in onions, has been studied for its potential to boost testosterone levels. Nutrients in onions may also help manage factors that contribute to low testosterone, like obesity and insulin resistance.

While some foods can be natural testosterone boosters, others can be testosterone depleters.

Foods That Interfere with Your Production of Testosterone

Some foods work against your body’s production and use of testosterone. 

Sugar 

Sugar in general is bad for hormone balance, but the worst is fructose. Too much fructose over time can lead to insulin resistance and obesity. Insulin resistance can affect the hormonal axis that regulates testosterone production, potentially leading to lower testosterone levels. In women, it can drive testosterone to unhealthy excess, contributing to conditions like PCOS.

Alcohol

The other major dietary choice that works against testosterone is alcohol. A major drawback of alcohol is that it causes our fats to make dangerous estrogens that can block testosterone. It also puts the body into a state of inflammation. 

Wheat

Wheat can shift the ratios of testosterone and estrogen subtypes. It also has phytoestrogens that can mimic estrogen in the body. However, wheat is relatively low in phytoestrogens compared to other sources like soy. So, wheat phytoestrogens may not affect testosterone much. But with a diet high in phytoestrogens the effect could be more pronounced. 

Bottom Line On Testosterone Boosting Foods

If you want to boost testosterone levels, first lower the wheat, sugar, and alcohol. Have some oysters if you tolerate them. Who knows, you may acquire a taste for them! Otherwise, focus on grass-fed red meat and eggs and throw in some pumpkin seeds and broccoli. Making some lifestyle changes like adding resistance training may also help. Eating healthy, staying active, and getting enough sleep support healthy hormone balance in general.

Have you found out you have low testosterone levels? What are you doing to bring them back up? Share with us below!

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