Obviously, testosterone in men matters. It helps men maintain muscle mass, among other things. However, the dangers of low testosterone affect far more than just your workout. Medical organizations have found that acutely low testosterone can also cause:
Fatigue and loss of strength
Thinning of the bones (osteoporosis)
Low testosterone affects every part of the individual. Fortunately, diet and exercise can assist in combating it. For that reason, we’ve gathered some foods to avoid to help keep your levels high and your routines effective. If, for medical purposes, you want to lower your testosterone levels, some of the foods below can provide otherwise healthy means of lowering your T.
The first item on this list is not terribly surprising. Few would argue that alcohol is beneficial for one's health, and unfortunately, this extends to its effect on testosterone as well. While a few drinks here and there won’t ruin you, repeated bouts of heavy drinking can lead to lowered T levels along with a host of other health issues regarding the liver and cardiovascular system.
Bad news for fans of dairy: A correlation has been proven between dairy products and lowered T. The science is fairly simple here: By consuming dairy products in large quantities, estrogen is absorbed, which has a negative impact on T levels in the body. Thus, milk and milk-based products such as cheese and yogurt can all throw the body’s hormones out of alignment.
The amount of high-protein, low-fat yogurts on the market may make dairy a hard sell to give up entirely, but if you choose to make the plunge, there are plenty of alternatives to help fuel your body for whatever comes your way.
The next item on this list is more general but has far-spanning implications. More than any other item previously mentioned, the intake of sugar, in particular, has been shown to reduce testosterone levels. One study found that consuming just 75 grams of sugar in a day was enough to drop the tested blood testosterone levels of men by 25%.
Avoiding sugar should be as simple as avoiding candy and traditionally sweet foods. However, plenty of foods come packed with massive amounts of added sugar, and while many restaurants include caloric information on their menus, few include precise dietary information. Ultimately, the best way to reduce sugar intake is to reduce take-out and to check the dietary information of everything you buy.
Soft drinks, on their own, are most immediately recognizable on this list because of their high sugar content. After all, an average-sized can of coke contains roughly 39 grams of sugar. With that sort of content, it can be easy to exceed a single-day total of 75 grams of sugar with soda alone. Drinking water is not only healthier; it quenches thirst faster and better.
The question then becomes: What about diet soda? Regretfully, diet drinks may be even more damaging than their sugary counterparts. Diet sodas, rather than sugar, use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame in order to give them flavor.
A recent study on how it affected the reproductive system of mice provided some troubling results:
These mice tested suffered a significant decrease in testosterone. Beyond that, the test subjects also suffered significant damage to their reproductive systems as a result of aspartame. While neither type of soda is ideal, diet soda sweetened with aspartame, in particular, has consequences affecting far more than just testosterone.
Breads and Pastries
Carbs are good. They support muscle recovery and are an invaluable source of energy for the body. Unfortunately, while carbs may be good, bread and pastries specifically may be bad for testosterone.
This largely comes down to the way they are processed: White bread and many pastries use refined carbs, which means they have been stripped of many beneficial minerals that their whole-grain counterparts use. What’s worse is that many store-bought offerings contain plenty of added sugar to improve taste while ultimately harming your body.
Rather than doing away entirely with bread, stick to whole grain options for a healthier snack and do your best to be cognizant about what sort of sugar content is going into your body.
Spearmint and peppermint are common, soothing options in toothpaste, chewing gum, and tea. However, numerous scientific studies have shown that these specific types of mint may have less-than-positive effects on testosterone: tea and other products reduce testosterone levels in the test subjects.
What should be noted, however, is that while mint showed an anti-androgen effect in women, no major studies have been conducted examining the effect of mint on men. However, given the extensive testing on both human and animal subjects, it is safe to assume, though we can give no definitive assurance, that the testosterone-reducing effect of mint extends to men as well.
Trans Fats vs. Healthy Fats
“Fat is bad.” So went the old dietary wisdom. However, a study in recent decades has shown the issue to be much more complicated than that. There are good fats, and in fact, we should all be eating a lot more of them. Nuts, fatty fish, and olives all have healthy fats.
While some fats have a complicated scientific history, trans fats should be avoided. Trans fats along with omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are confirmed to negatively impact testosterone, as well as impede male functionality as a whole. They are also the type of fat known to lead to increased risk of heart disease, making them one of the more dangerous foods on this list.
Vegetable oils of all kinds lower testosterone not only because of their fat content but because of their specific fat content: Normal vegetable oils are high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. This can have a damaging effect on T levels. Fortunately, the main alternatives to vegetable oils are easy to make and notably healthy.
Olive oil was once demonized, but recent history has changed the outlook on it. Interestingly, some suggest drinking it every day for the benefits it offers to cardiovascular and bone health. Olive oil and coconut oil as well both make strong substitutes for traditional vegetable oil.
Not Actually Testosterone-Killing: Soy
Here, vegan readers may breathe a sigh of relief.
For a long time, soy was considered damaging to men because of phytoestrogen, also called isoflavones, the plant equivalent of estrogen found in soybeans. Phytoestrogen is not damaging to human testosterone levels because of how significantly less potent it is than human estrogen.
However, many early studies claimed a correlation between soy consumption and lowered testosterone level, but a massive clinical analysis performed in 2020 revealed crucial flaws in many of these studies. For example, one study compared the effects of soy-based protein supplements to whey protein supplements without using a pre-protein supplement control.
The result of analyzing the results and methods of 38 clinical studies was clear: Soy, while uniquely rich in phytoestrogen, had no negative impact on testosterone.
Other Factors Which May Affect Testosterone
Diet alone will not make or break your testosterone level. After all, more than just diet goes into your physical health.
The following factors may affect your levels:
Sleep: Not getting enough sleep damages your body in numerous ways, not the least of which is reducing your testosterone levels. By sticking to a schedule or exercising regularly, you can improve the quality and consistency of sleep you get.
Stress: Cortisol is a stress hormone that helps the body respond to intense situations. Released over a long period of time, however, it can lead to drastically reduced T levels. Stress can be combated in numerous ways, including improving sleeping habits and engaging in mindful habits such as meditation and yoga.
Weight: When discussing weight, we are referring to weight as a body fat percentage and not just a number. A higher body fat percentage can lead to lowered testosterone levels, especially if weight isn’t matched by muscle mass. Simple exercise is the solution here, and it has the added benefit of being easier the longer you keep up with it.
Age: After your 20s, T levels gradually drop over time. This is a natural process and one not easily challenged. However, addressing the previous issues and maintaining a proper diet and exercise can help ensure a slower decline and help regulate healthy levels for years over time.
The Future of Healthy Eating
Diet is important, but it’s not the end-all-be-all of men’s fitness. Diet alone does not a happy person make. Proper self-care includes not only what you put into your body but also how you treat yourself and interact with the world around you.
Research changes over time, and keeping abreast of new information is an ongoing process. Only by maintaining our testosterone the same, we maintain the respect, joy, and active engagement which should fill our lives can we truly embody that which we aspire to: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
Abrupt Decrease in Serum Testosterone Levels after an Oral Glucose Load in men: Implications for Screening for Hypogonadism I National Library of Medicine
Long-Term Effect of Aspartame on Male Reproductive System: Evidence for Testicular Histomorphometrics, Hsp70-2 Protein Expression and Biochemical Status I National Library of Medicine
Spearmint Herbal Tea has significant Anti-androgen Effects in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. A Randomized Controlled Trial I National Library of Medicine
Fatty Acid Intake in Relation to Reproductive Hormones and Testicular Volume Among Young Healthy Men I National Library of Medicine
Neither Soy nor Isoflavone Intake Affects Male Reproductive Hormones: An Expanded and Updated Meta-analysis of Clinical Studies I Science Direct