In 30 seconds…
Testosterone is an important hormone in men, and while it’s normal for it to decrease as you age, some foods may reduce testosterone levels.
Studies have shown that some otherwise healthy foods can lower testosterone levels. However, there are many cases of conflicting results and further study required.
If you want to avoid foods that lower testosterone, the best option is to cut out foods that pose additional health risks, such as ultra-processed foods.
If you remember testosterone from your school’s sex-ed class, you’ll know it’s the primary male sex hormone, responsible for regulating your sex drive, increasing bone and muscle mass, and producing red blood cells and sperm in men. It peaks in your teens, but after around age 30, it’s normal for your testosterone levels to decrease slightly year on year.
However, there is some evidence to suggest that your lifestyle and diet could affect your testosterone levels. In this article, we’ll discuss 6 foods that lower testosterone.
1. Soy Products
The next time you’re craving sushi, you might reconsider soy sauce, miso and tofu. These foods are high in soy, and along with edamame beans, have a high concentration of phytoestrogens — which look and behave a lot like estrogen.
Men naturally produce estrogen (in much smaller amounts) and it’s important for men’s sexual function. Too much estrogen in men, however, can cause low libido, mood swings, tiredness, enlarged breasts and lower muscle mass, or even type 2 diabetes.
Don’t panic, though. Despite the similarities between soy’s phytoestrogens and human estrogen, several studies have found no connection between eating soy products and a change in testosterone or estrogen levels. One study that did see an effect noted that breast tenderness and estrogen levels returned to normal after the men stopped eating soy, which suggests it has no long-term effects.
2. Dairy Products
If you’re wondering about hormones in milk, you’re not alone. This concern over how dairy affects testosterone has attracted considerable attention in recent years.
Dairy cows are bred to have longer milking periods that last into the next pregnancy; something exacerbated by intensive farming. This means that, while the use of synthetic growth hormones for increased milk production has been widely banned, there are still increased levels of hormones in milk that rise naturally during pregnancy. One of these is estrogen.
There is data on men and children to suggest that estrogens in milk are absorbed, which coincided with suppressed gonadotropin, which led to a decrease in testosterone.
However, there is stronger evidence that the amount of estrogen in cow’s milk is too low to affect humans, and that it does not pass into the bloodstream, meaning its effect on testosterone is negligible.
If you’re concerned about foods that lower testosterone levels, you might want to consider what you drink. One study found that regularly consuming moderate amounts of alcohol (2 or 3 standard drinks) decreased testosterone levels in men by almost 7% in three weeks. Another study found that acute alcohol consumption was associated with decreased testosterone levels in men.
As we’ve found elsewhere, however, it’s not that simple. One experiment performed on rats found a positive association between testosterone and alcohol drinking (i.e. the rats that got the booze had higher testosterone levels), and another study — on men this time — found that low doses of alcohol can increase testosterone levels.
Studies suggest that mint could reduce testosterone levels — but thus far, there have been no human male test subjects.
One area of study has been mint’s effectiveness at treating polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t affect men. This condition can cause sufferers to produce too much testosterone. Female rats with PCOS that were treated with spearmint essential oil had reduced testosterone levels. In another study, women who drank spearmint tea over 30 days saw significantly reduced testosterone levels.
One study performed on male rats found that Mentha Piperita Labiatae (peppermint) and Mentha Spicata Labiatae (spearmint) did decrease testosterone levels in the blood. This suggests that mint is an effective food to lower testosterone, but more study is needed in humans and into its long-term effects.
5. Walnuts and Almonds
Nuts are, for the most part, really good for you. For instance, they’re a good source of important nutrients such as fibre, folic acid, selenium, and magnesium.
However, one small study in women with PCOS found that walnuts and almonds may reduce testosterone levels. This is because these nuts increased levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which binds to testosterone, meaning there was less free testosterone in the body.
But more research is needed into how nuts affect testosterone levels in men.
6. Ultra-processed Foods
There’s plenty of advice out there on avoiding “processed foods”, but just freezing or cooking food is processing.
Ultra-processed foods, on the other hand, are made mostly from substances extracted from foods, such as trans fats, hydrogenated fats, starches, added sugars, and additives. Examples include fast food, salty snacks and packaged desserts. Having many of these in your diet is a likely cause of obesity, which in turn has health implications — including reduced testosterone.
Ultra-processed foods don’t make you feel as full, so you’re more likely to eat more. 500 calories more, in fact.
One study in Taiwanese men linked a diet high in pastries and desserts to low testosterone levels. These men also had increased body fat. Studies into the effect of trans fats — frequently found in ultra-processed food — have also shown reduced testosterone levels and impaired sexual function in rats and mice. Similarly, trans fats have been shown to reduce sperm count and impair testicular function in men.
Considering these foods are also linked to an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, if you’re avoiding foods that reduce testosterone, it’s a good idea to cut out ultra-processed foods.