Testosterone is a sex hormone that affects:
bones and muscle health
blood cell production
Testosterone declines as you age, but other factors can also cause low testosterone, including certain medications, high body-fat levels, and some health conditions.
Low testosterone, also called hypogonadism or low T, occurs when testosterone levels fall below 300 nanograms/deciliter (ng/dL). Low testosterone can be medically treated through testosterone replacement therapy.
Hypogonadism is very common. In fact, around 40% of men over 45 years old and 50% of men in their 80s are considered hypogonadal.
A health-promoting lifestyle, including diet, is important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels. Some studies have found that diets high in ultra-processed foods and low in nutrient-dense foods may reduce testosterone levels (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
If you have low testosterone levels, follow a medical professional’s recommendations. Additionally, you may consider adopting a dietary pattern rich in foods that contain nutrients important for maintaining healthy testosterone levels.
Many nutrients, including vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc, are important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels.
However, there’s limited research investigating the impact of specific foods on testosterone levels.
1. Fatty fish
Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are rich in nutrients that are important for hormonal health, such as vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Even though certain high fat foods, such as fried foods, have been linked to decreased testosterone levels in some people, research has also shown that low fat diets may be detrimental for testosterone levels.
A systematic review of six studies found that low fat dietary patterns were associated with decreased testosterone levels, compared to higher fat dietary patterns.
However, the researchers noted that more high quality studies are needed to fully understand this relationship (8Trusted Source).
Regardless, adding healthy sources of fat like fatty fish to your diet likely benefits overall health, including hormonal health.
What’s more, fatty fish are good sources of zinc, vitamin D, and protein — nutrients that are important for maintaining healthy testosterone levels.
For example, studies show that men with lower levels of vitamin D tend to have lower testosterone than men with higher levels. This is because vitamin D is essential for male reproductive health.
2. Dark, leafy greens
Dark, leafy greens are an excellent source of micronutrients, including magnesium, a mineral that’s critical for maintaining optimal testosterone levels, especially in older men.
It’s thought that magnesium increases testosterone bioactivity in the body because magnesium reduces oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between antioxidant defenses and free radicals in the body.
Oxidative stress and inflammation can reduce testosterone, so introducing nutrients that combat oxidative stress may help maintain healthy testosterone levels.
An older study in 399 men ages 65 or older found that those who had higher levels of magnesium in their blood had higher testosterone levels compared with those who had lower magnesium levels.
Additionally, a study in Taiwanese men found that low intake of leafy green vegetables was linked to lower testosterone levels.
Therefore, eating more magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, may help promote healthy testosterone levels.
3. Cocoa products
Cocoa products like cocoa powder and cacao nibs are high in magnesium and flavonoid antioxidants, both of which are important for testosterone.
Flavonoids are plant compounds that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
Studies suggest that certain flavonoids, including cocoa flavonoids like quercetin and apigenin, may help increase the production of testosterone from cells in the testicles called Leydig cells.
When you shop for cocoa products, you may want to choose ones that contain no added sugar or only small amounts of added sugar. Consider cocoa powder, cacao nibs, or low-sugar dark chocolate for their impressive health benefits.
Avocados provide healthy fat, which is important for hormonal health. Plus, avocados contain magnesium and a mineral called boron, which studies indicate may benefit testosterone levels.
Boron is a trace mineral that seems to influence testosterone metabolism in the body and may protect against testosterone degradation.
Though some studies show that supplementing with high levels of boron may help boost testosterone in certain people, study results are mixed. More research is needed to fully understand how boron supplements impact testosterone.
While it’s not currently recommended to take boron supplements to increase testosterone, adding dietary sources of this mineral, like avocados, may help maintain healthy testosterone levels.
Egg yolks are rich in healthy fat, protein, and selenium, a mineral that acts as an antioxidant in the body.
According to some studies in test tubes and animals, selenium may help enhance the production of testosterone by activating certain pathways and the expression of certain genes.
Additionally, some studies in humans and animals have found that testosterone levels are higher in those with optimal selenium levels in their blood.
However, we need more research, especially in humans, before we can draw conclusions about selenium’s effect on testosterone.
Eggs are highly nutritious, so adding them to your diet if they’re not already a part of it is a good idea, unless you have an egg allergy. Remember that whole eggs are much more nutritious than plain egg whites, since the yolks contain most of the micronutrients.
6. Berries, cherries, and pomegranates
Berries, cherries, and pomegranates are high in flavonoid antioxidants, which may help protect testosterone-producing cells from damage and increase testosterone production.
An older study in rats found that pomegranate juice supplementation helped protect against induced oxidative stress, increased testosterone levels, and helped protect Leydig cells (which produce testosterone) from injury.
However, we need more research in humans before we can conclude whether pomegranates or their juice can affect your testosterone levels.
Pomegranates, berries, and cherries may protect against obesity-induced inflammation, which can lower testosterone levels.
Therefore, consuming antioxidant-rich foods like these fruits may promote overall health, including hormonal health.
Shellfish like oysters and clams are excellent sources of zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which may support optimal testosterone levels.
Because of its important role in reproductive health, zinc deficiency can cause hypogonadism.
What’s more, high dose zinc supplements appear to be effective for treating hypogonadism in some men. Yet, zinc supplements are not currently recommended as a universal treatment for hypogonadism.
But eating foods high in nutrients important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels like zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fats may support hormonal health.
Other ways to boost testosterone
Health-promoting diet changes may help with low testosterone, but they’re not cures for hypogonadism. A doctor must confirm that you have low testosterone through a physical exam and blood test.
If you’re diagnosed with low T, you may be prescribed testosterone replacements, such as:
tablets or pills, skin patches, topical gel, injections, or Supplements - a good one is HARD HEADD Testosterone Booster
These medications can come with the risk of serious side effects, so make sure you discuss all of them with your doctor.
Additionally, consider making dietary adjustments to boost your overall health, not just to treat low T.
Factors like body weight and certain lifestyle choices can affect testosterone levels as well.
For example, men with obesity are more likely to develop hypogonadism than moderate-weight men (24Trusted Source).
Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight is critical for hormonal health.
Being more physically active, quitting smoking if you smoke, and cutting back on alcohol and drug use may also help men with low testosterone improve their testosterone status.