10 Foods That Could Be Hurting Your T Levels
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When contemplating what to load on your plate you’re likely considering two things: how it will taste and what it will do to your waistline. But what you eat goes deeper than that. In fact, diet has a huge impact on hormone levels, including testosterone, and those levels are probably a lot more important than you think.
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“Adequate testosterone supports many bodily functions, beyond just building muscle and having a strong sex drive,” says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and author of Keto Diet. “Testosterone is needed for stamina and strength, sleep, cognitive health and motivation, energy levels and bone health.” He goes on to explain that imbalanced testosterone levels in men can increase abdominal fat and decrease lean muscle mass, which can decrease quality of life, reduce confidence, and possibly increase the risk for other health issues.
If you suspect that you might have abnormal levels of testosterone, it’s imperative that you see a doctor and have them checked. According to nutritionist Dr. Charles Passler, symptoms such as low libido, hot flashes, hair loss, brain fog/mood concerns, fatigue, or trouble sleeping are all red flags. And, unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is associated with testosterone issues.
“Consuming the SAD, which is full of processed foods, large quantities of poor carbohydrates, and overly sweetened foods, is associated with a lower testosterone level in men,” says Dr. Passler. “I strongly advise people consider a Mediterranean diet instead, which is abundant in whole vegetables and quality proteins and switching out desserts for fruits like berries.”
To get a better sense of just what foods contribute to low testosterone levels, we asked leading health experts to share the common food culprits for low testosterone, and what you can replace them with.
Foods That Lower Testosterone
According to The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, R.D.N., C.D.N., C.F.T, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D.N., C.D.N., fried foods, especially those from fast food joints, are bad news for healthy testosterone levels because they contain trans fats.
“Studies have found that trans fat consumption from foods like these have been associated with lower testosterone levels and lower sperm count and they may even be connected to decreased testicular function,” they say. To combat this, The Nutrition Twins suggest limiting such fried food indulgences to one or two times a week – or to make your own fries at home and bake them instead of frying.
What to eat instead: Cook your own burgers, opt for healthier fast food options (non-frozen, non-fried), or buy your own airfryer.
“To date, there isn’t an exact amount of alcohol that’s safe, but chronic alcoholics tend to have higher levels of estrogen, indicating alcohol contributes to lowering testosterone levels,” says nutritionist and holistic health coach, Jen Silverman. “Alcohol also increases the production of cortisol, a stress hormone said to decrease testosterone synthesis in the body.”
When trying to prevent decreased testosterone levels, you can opt for healthier alternatives to your typical liquor picks such as kombucha, a fermented tea beverage with naturally occurring low levels of alcohol.
What to eat instead: Reduce alcohol intake, try kombucha, and alcohol-free beer options.
Don’t be fooled, non-dairy creamers don’t tend to be any better for you than dairy ones. “While some brands have started using healthier oils, most contain sugar and partially hydrogenated oil, which have been shown to lower testosterone and testicular volume,” say The Nutrition Twins. “Read labels and swap out any non-dairy coffee creamers that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil for those that don’t or use almond milk instead.” You can also make your own coffee creamer.
What to eat instead: Full-dairy creamers, almond, or oat milk.
“Soy has a phytonutrient called phytoestrogens which is naturally occurring in the plant and acts similar to the female sex hormone, estrogen, in the human body,” says Dr. Passler. “The overall research is limited, but in an animal study, it did show a reduction in testosterone.” Dr. Passler recommends switching soy protein-based products to pea protein-based ones.
What to eat instead: Pea-based proteins and nuts.
“Licorice root is commonly used in candies, but it is also used in herbal medicine as an anti-inflammatory, immune-booster, and digestive supporter,” says Dr. Passler. “There is some evidence that over time, licorice root can affect testosterone levels, so if you’re licorice fan with low testosterone only have it as a special treat.” If you’re using licorice root for digestive and immune support, focus instead on getting enough fiber-rich foods – such as berries and leafy greens – into your diet.
What to eat instead: If you want something sweet and low-calorie, opt for strawberries. If you want the texture, chew a low-calorie gum.
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“Dairy products may contain synthetic hormones which could influence testosterone levels,” say The Nutrition Twins. “Studies have shown that men who consume more dairy products, like milk, have higher levels of estradiol, a female hormone that can lower the body’s production of testosterone.” In addition, The Twins highlight that cows that aren’t grass-fed may eat animal feed that contains soy, which could increase the amount of estrogen in the milk. “While the occasional glass of milk shouldn’t pose a problem, choosing organic, grass-fed milk is preferred and we advise that men consider swapping dairy milk for a nut milk such as almond or cashew milk.”
What to eat instead: Buy grass-fed, organic milk or swap for cashew, almond, or oat milk.
“A study connected a diet high in pastries and desserts to low total testosterone levels in Taiwanese men as well as more body fat and less muscle mass,” say The Nutrition Twins. “Simple carbs like donuts and pastries contain trans fats, which have been shown to lower testosterone levels and sperm count.” As with all indulgences, doughnuts, cookies, and cakes can be enjoyed on occasion in an overall healthy diet, but The Twins underline that these treats shouldn’t be a daily habit. “Limit sweets to once or twice a week and make sure they’re made without trans fats.” When you do want a sugar fix, opt for date, monk fruit, or stevia-sweetened options.
What to eat instead: Fruits: they have natural sweeteners, together with a ton of vitamins.
. “Some studies indicate mint as a culprit for inhibiting testosterone production,” says Silverman. While mint is by no means bad for you, this is one of those ingredients that, for whatever reason, isn’t great for T levels and those with low testosterone should try to limit consumption of it until their levels balance out. There are many other herbs and spices to substitute for mint in foods or drinks, such as ginger and lemongrass.
What to eat instead: Ginger, lemongrass, or incorporate cumin or turmeric.
According to Dr. Axe, while research is ongoing, hormones used to treat non-organic, factory-farmed meats are suspected to possibly interfere with a human’s hormone level. “Heavy metals from farm-raised fish are another concern, since these can negatively impact the liver,” he says.
Instead of the factory-farm options, he suggests having grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, and wild fish – which provide omega-3 fatty acids – and consuming more vegan protein sources as well. “Fish is a great protein option for omega-3s, but these can also be obtained in smaller amounts from chia seeds and walnuts. Protein-rich foods and collagen-rich foods, such as bone broth and collagen protein powder, are also beneficial because they can reduce symptoms like muscle loss and loose connective tissue.”
What to eat instead: Pay the premium and get higher-quality meat, ideally from a butcher. Incorporate more nuts and seeds into your diet. And try a protein powder made with collagen and peptides.
You don’t need to eliminate sandwiches from your diet altogether to boost testosterone production, however, you should consider turning to non-processed, whole wheat bread. “A diet rich in processed grains and sugar typically causes blood glucose levels to become elevated, which can affect the production of many other hormones, including insulin and reproductive hormones,” says Dr. Axe. To correct this, he recommends incorporating more “whole foods with no added sugar such as fresh fruit, unsweetened beverages, and 100 percent whole, sprouted grains” into your diet.
What to eat instead: Rice, whole grains, steel-cut oats.
While following a well-balanced diet is a great way to maintain a healthy testosterone level, there are a few nutritious foods and ingredients that can also negatively affect your T levels and contribute to testosterone deficiency. Always consult your doctor if you are concerned about your testosterone.
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