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Health Debunked: Can Certain Foods Boost Testosterone?

Joanna Jan, MDPatricia Pinto-Garcia, MD, MPH
Published on March 11, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • Testosterone is a type of sex hormone found in all people.

  • Getting enough of certain nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D from healthy foods can indirectly help increase testosterone production.

  • Eating a diet filled with processed foods is associated with lower testosterone levels.

  • Diet and lifestyle play a role in testosterone levels, but there is no guarantee that eating certain foods will help boost testosterone levels.

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You may have heard the claim that eating certain foods can help increase your testosterone levels. And, while this topic has generated a lot of hype, the evidence to support it may not be as strong. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the science behind this claim and provide a deeper look at what testosterone is and whether certain foods can boost levels in the body. 

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is a sex hormone. It is found in all people, though it is present in higher amounts in male people. Testosterone is a type of androgen hormone. This class of hormones plays a role in male characteristics and sexual development.

Testosterone is produced by the reproductive organs, which are the testes and ovaries. Some of it is also produced by the adrenal glands. After production, levels are regulated by parts of your brain called the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.

Some of the functions of testosterone include:

  • Regulating sex drive 

  • Developing sex organs

  • Regulating muscle size and strength 

  • Supporting sperm production

Certain conditions can cause high or low testosterone levels. Testosterone levels naturally decline with age, and one study showed that total testosterone levels fall almost 2% per year. 

Why do people think that food can boost testosterone levels?

Because of its role in sexual function and muscle strength, some people want to increase their testosterone levels. So the idea that eating certain foods could boost testosterone levels emerged. 

Claim: Certain foods can increase testosterone levels

Some foods that people have believed can increase testosterone levels include: 

  • Fatty fish like salmon and tuna

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Oysters

  • Pomegranates

  • Garlic

  • Onions

  • Ginger

  • Eggs 

What does the science say?

An expert review reported that many factors can influence testosterone levels, with diet being one of them. 

Not getting enough of certain nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D can indirectly influence testosterone levels. This is because the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is interfered with, which then negatively affects testosterone levels. 

In addition, a recent review published in the Journal of Men's Health reported that “the use of food to regulate testosterone levels is a promising therapeutic option.” It says that some foods can help raise testosterone production in three ways: 

1. Regulating luteinizing hormone, which stimulates the production of testosterone in male people

2. Supporting testosterone production in the testes

3. Helping control enzymes that break down testosterone 

However, this review involved studies that were only completed in animals and not humans, so the ability of foods to increase testosterone in humans is still not clear.

But the body has a lot of checks and balances when it comes to hormone production. With such tight controls in place, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to overcome them by eating certain foods. 

What do the experts say?

According to experts from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, you cannot increase natural testosterone levels without external interventions, such as supplementation. 

However, there are things that you can do to help prevent your testosterone levels from dropping. Eating a diet rich in healthy fats, such as the Mediterranean diet, may help maintain your testosterone levels. A diet that is too restricted in fat may contribute to low levels, since fat is needed to make sex hormones like testosterone. 

So, should I use food to increase my testosterone levels? 

Research has confirmed that diet and lifestyle might impact testosterone levels, though eating certain foods probably won’t boost testosterone. 

There may be both pros and cons of using food to boost testosterone levels. 

Pros:

  • It may lead to consumption of a healthier and more varied diet.

Cons

  • It probably won’t boost your testosterone levels.

  • It won’t treat conditions related to low testosterone levels.

Ultimately, there is never any harm in consuming an overall healthier diet, which can help support hormone levels like testosterone, as well as many other bodily processes. 

References

HealthyWomen. (n.d). Androgen.

Hu, T. Y., et al. (2018). Testosterone-associated dietary pattern predicts low testosterone levels and hypogonadism. Nutrients.

View All References (8)

Johnson, M. (2021). 21 testosterone boosting foods that you must have in daily life. Choices in Childbirth.

Kaminski, J. (n.d.). Can foods boost testosterone for men and women?. National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Kataoka, T., et al. (2021). A review of foods and food supplements increasing testosterone levels. Journal of Men’s Health.

Stanworth, R. D., et al. (2008). Testosterone for the aging male; current evidence and recommended practice. Clinical Interventions in Aging.

Wein, H. (2013). Understanding how testosterone affects men. National Institutes of Health.

Whittaker, J., et al. (2021). Low fat diets and testosterone in men: Systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Wrzosek, M., et al. (2020). The causes of adverse changes in testosterone levels in men. Expert Review of Endocrinology & Metabolism.

You and Your Hormones. (2021). Testosterone.

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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