You’ve heard the saying that we are what we eat, right? There’s an element of truth to the idea, as our health can be dramatically influenced by the foods that we choose. Different foods can impact your levels of hormones, increase or decrease your risk of health problems, or even improve your cognition. Today we’re interested in foods that kill testosterone.
Well, they don’t destroy the hormone outright, but they can notably decrease your testosterone levels, especially if you eat them regularly year after year.
Unfortunately, many men do put their testosterone levels and fertility at risk, often by simply following common Western diets. So, let’s look at the most concerning individual foods and what the research has to say.
Increasing your testosterone levels may be as simple as cutting out some of these foods and adding some testosterone boosting foods instead. Getting more exercise and decreasing your stress levels may be relevant as well.
Foods That Kill Testosterone (With Pictures!)
Processed foods are one of the biggest problems for testosterone – partly because they’re so common. After all, processed foods are much faster and easier than cooking a full meal yourself. And honestly, in this hectic and mad world, sometimes it’s hard to find the energy to cook. Then there are all the processed treats, which often act as a fast mood booster.
There are plenty of problems with these foods. One is the trans fats, which aren’t good for you at all and can directly impact testosterone levels. Trans fats are found naturally too, but the artificial ones are even more concerning for your health – and testosterone levels.
Levels of trans fats are decreasing these days, as they’ve been banned in the United States. However, small amounts of them can still be found, particularly in processed foods.
Some theories suggest that sugar might also harm testosterone levels and this is a common part of processed foods.
While that link needs more research, it’s clear that high sugar and high calorie diets lead to testosterone issues. That’s not surprising, though, as weight gain on its own can lower testosterone. There are a few mechanisms for that effect, including the effects of insulin resistance on hormones and decreases in levels of free testosterone.
The nutrient content is also an issue, as processed foods are typically low in nutrients. Our bodies need nutrients to produce testosterone, so anything that decreases nutrient intake can also decrease testosterone levels.
Processed foods cause many other problems for too, ones that have nothing to do with testosterone. For example, their high salt content can easily raise the risk of heart disease.
Multiple studies have linked dairy food to decreased testosterone levels. This may be related to exposure to estrogen through commercially produced milk. Cows are often fed soy as well, which doesn’t help matters.
This effect isn’t so surprising. After all, milk comes from female cows and is meant to go to their calves. Consuming too much dairy can lead to higher levels of estradiol in men, which can then lower testosterone production.
The strength of dairy’s impact on testosterone is likely to be impacted by the amount you’re consuming. So, a little dairy per day mightn’t matter that much, while large amounts could more dramatically impact your testosterone.
Choosing your dairy well might help too, such as focusing on dairy from cows that weren’t fed soybeans. Low fat and skim dairy products may also be better than full fat milk. Look for vitamin D fortified milk too, as vitamin D may increase testosterone production.
Still… before you swear off dairy… there isn’t much clear cut evidence. Some compounds in milk might actually help with testosterone levels and the effects can differ from person to person. For many men, decreasing dairy may only improve their testosterone levels by a tiny amount.
Flaxseeds are a natural food and are often thought to be very healthy. Yet, they mightn’t be great for testosterone. This time the issue is compounds known as lignans. Lignans are actually found in many plants, but flaxseeds are particularly high in them.
Some research suggests that lignans can lower testosterone, at least for some people. Here too, the research is shaky.
Here’s an unexpected one. Some research shows that peppermint and spearmint may decrease testosterone levels too. This has been seen with essential oils and tea, but could also happen with foods that include mint (including mint-based candy, which is also high in sugar).
That said, most research here has focused on animals or women. There’s much less information about the impacts of mint on testosterone levels in men.
Because the evidence is fairly limited, you shouldn’t need to cut out mint products entirely. Perhaps just make sure you’re not drinking multiple cups of peppermint tea per day.
Fried foods are a particularly poor choice, as they’re often high in trans fats and are calorie dense as well.
Like processed foods, they’re also pretty low in nutrients. This is a big problem if you’re eating fried foods instead of healthy alternatives.
Let’s face it, the only good thing about fried foods is the flavor. The health impacts are horrible. It’s best to stick to small servings of fried foods as a special treat. Even then, there are plenty of better choices.
This addition shouldn’t be surprising. High sugar intake causes many health problems, such as increased inflammation, a higher risk of heart disease, and of course obesity.
It has also been associated with lower testosterone levels. Sugary foods also tend to be processed and might be high in trans fats as well, which causes even more issues for testosterone levels.
Licorice is interesting. It seems like a simple and benign type of candy at first, but it can actually be dangerous in high doses. You’ll see licorice used in other places too, like in licorice supplements and licorice tea, but the same risks are still present.
Then there’s the testosterone link. Some research shows that regularly eating licorice root can decrease testosterone levels. While the studies focused on licorice root, some of the effects could easily happen with licorice candy as well.
If you’re worried about this, look for licorice candy that doesn’t use real licorice root. Plenty of brands do this and the products often taste incredibly similar.
Nuts are incredibly healthy, giving you many nutrients, plus protein and some healthy fats. They have some benefits for testosterone too, partly due to their zinc and magnesium content.
However, some nuts are relatively high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can lower testosterone. Walnuts and almonds can also increase levels of SHBG. This compound binds to testosterone – an effect you certainly don’t want.
Brazil nuts are an excellent alternative, as the selenium in these should help your testosterone levels. Tiger nuts and macadamia nuts are good choices as well.
Given the foods we’ve already talked about, baked goods probably aren’t a surprising addition. It’s not just their sugar content that we’re concerned about either – these foods are often high in trans fats as well.
Remember that foods like this can easily lead to weight gain. We know that being overweight is a serious issue for testosterone, so it’s important to be very careful.
If you’re going to have such treats, try having half or even a quarter of the serving you’d normally go for. This should still be enough to satisfy a sweet craving, with a much lower negative health effect.
The testosterone issue doesn’t just apply to pastries and baked goods either. It extends to other types of processed foods, particularly those that use ingredients like white flour and are high in sugar. Then again, most of us already know these foods aren’t great for our health.
Soy And Soy-Based Foods
Soy has a ton of benefits. It’s a nutrient rich legume that provides plenty of fiber and protein, not to mention plenty of antioxidants.
Soy is also used to create a variety of interesting products, including soy milk, tofu, and tempeh. These can be incredibly useful, especially for vegetarians and vegans who need meat free sources of protein.
Yet, there’s strong debate about what soy does to testosterone levels. The issue comes from compounds called phytoestrogens, which have a similar structure to the estrogen our bodies make. These phytoestrogens may also behave like estrogen in some situations.
At the same time, phytoestrogens may compromise testosterone binding, leading to lower testosterone levels. May is the operative word here, as the research shows very mixed results.
It might be that the phytoestrogens in soy are detrimental to some men and not to others, perhaps due to current hormone levels. Your current diet might be relevant as well. Still, with so many other nutrient dense ingredients out there, you could easily cut out soy just to be on the safe side.
Processed And Low Quality Meat
Finally, some theories suggest that processed meat, like sausages, bacon, and some lunch meats, may contribute to low testosterone. The same may be true for low quality meats, partly because these may have been through hormone treatments or been manipulated in other ways.
The link between these foods and low testosterone hasn’t been studied in depth. However, we do know that processed meats are associated with a variety of issues, such as increasing the risk of cancer.
Focusing on high quality meat, including lean cuts of steak, is a much better approach and provides many more health benefits.
While this article is focused on food, we need to mention alcohol as well. Having a drink every now and then probably won’t impact your testosterone levels.
But, high alcohol consumption? Yeah, that’s going to have an impact. We’re not just talking about short-term effects either. Too much alcohol can even have long-term impacts on testosterone levels, so it might be time to cut back a little.
Here’s the thing, healthy eating doesn’t need to be an all or nothing project. You don’t need to cut out every single concerning food forever.
Being overly strict about food can even be problematic. For one thing, ultra strict diets are hard to follow – and when we fall off the wagon with food, we often fall hard.
Besides, many of the foods on this list have benefits (particularly nuts, flaxseed, and soy) and won’t dramatically decrease testosterone levels on their own. A poor diet is likely to have that effect much more than individual foods.
Also remember that the science behind some of these foods is pretty limited. This is particularly true for flaxseeds and there’s a ton we still don’t know about soy too.
The best thing you can do is focus on healthy foods as much as possible and watch your intake of processed foods and fried foods. Doing this should help keep you healthy and give you decent testosterone levels.
The research into the testosterone effects of these foods is pretty limited. Plus, this research often just considers one food at a time or looks for broad patterns across entire diets. Either way, there’s little evidence that directly compares the testosterone effects of foods to each other.
It’s much better to consider the overall health impacts instead.
Seriously unhealthy options, like processed foods, fried foods, and pastries are certainly ones to be careful with. They all contribute to weight gain, can promote inflammation, and don’t provide many benefits.
Then there are foods like soy, nuts, flaxseeds, and even dairy. These all offer a variety of health benefits. So, it makes sense to cut the unhealthy foods as low as you can, while keeping most of the healthy ones in your diet.
So, how do you know that your testosterone is low anyway? There are a variety of signs and symptoms to watch out for, including the following:
- Bone loss
- Body fat increase
- Sexual issues, including erectile dysfunction
- Low sex drive
- Decrease in muscle strength and size
You could keep an eye on such symptoms as you change your diet. Perhaps cutting out some of these foods makes a difference.
Do Foods That Kill Testosterone Cause Man Breasts?
Enlarged breasts in men (gynecomastia) generally occur because of a hormone imbalance, where the man’s levels of estrogen are high in relation to testosterone. This can happen because testosterone levels are too low. Some of the foods that cause testosterone could easily cause this issue.
Additionally, many of the foods on this list are low in nutrients and high in calories. Such foods contribute to obesity, and obesity can raise estrogen levels in men, contributing to that same hormone imbalance.