Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
As a man, maintaining normal levels of testosterone is critical not just for your health, but also for your quality of life and well-being.
Testosterone is more than just the hormone that puts hair on your chest. It also plays an important role in regulating your sex drive, fueling your reproductive health and allowing you to maintain stable levels of energy, healthy bones and an optimal red blood cell count.
Many men struggle to maintain normal testosterone levels, especially as they age. Low testosterone, or “low-T,” affects as many as five million men in the United States alone, and though testosterone production naturally starts to decline after you reach the age of 30, low-T appears to affect younger and younger men with every passing year.
Luckily, the food you eat daily might impact your healthy testosterone levels, and adding certain testosterone-friendly foods to your dietary plans — like garlic and olive oil — may help boost your testosterone levels.
Below, we’ve listed 12 foods that may help increase testosterone, as well as the most recent scientific evidence behind each one.
We’ve also shared some other strategies you may want to consider if you’re worried about your testosterone levels, including medical treatments for low testosterone.
The answer is both yes and no. While a balanced diet might not be enough to treat very low testosterone levels on its own, prioritizing the right foods may positively affect your body’s ability to maintain healthy testosterone production.
Your diet dramatically impacts your health, including your ability to produce and use hormones.
Directly, what you eat can provide the building blocks you need to help optimize your body's testosterone production.
Indirectly, health issues like obesity can affect your levels of testosterone, so making sure you're eating a balanced and healthy diet is also essential. In fact, some foods aren’t directly linked to testosterone at all — instead, they contain things like omega-3 fatty acids, cholesterol and other essential chemicals that are used to create testosterone within your body.
Over the years, researchers have discovered that some foods appear to have a direct impact on hormone production. This is because your body uses a variety of nutrients to produce hormones such as testosterone.
Since issues like obesity can affect your testosterone levels, your diet also has an indirect effect on your hormonal health. When you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you’re more likely to be able to maintain a healthy weight that promotes optimal hormonal levels.
So, why is it so important to maintain healthy, consistent testosterone production in your thirties and beyond? What’s the benefit of eating more testosterone-boosting foods?
Testosterone plays a key role in almost every aspect of your health and well-being as a man. It helps regulate your interest in sex and general sexual function, promoting strong muscle tissue and bones, maintaining your mood and even promoting good cardiovascular health.
It also plays a central role in promoting fertility, with optimal sex hormone levels critical for your sperm health and ability to maintain healthy erections.
Several factors contribute to low testosterone, especially in older men. While it’s normal for your production of testosterone to naturally slow down after age 30, having very low testosterone levels as a young man isn’t very common.
In healthy men, the normal testosterone level is between 300 and 1000 nanograms per liter of blood.
Issues that can affect your testosterone levels include chronic illnesses; disorders that affect your pituitary, thyroid or adrenal glands; problems with your hypothalamus; sleep difficulties; excess body fat and chronic stress.
Certain medications, including antiandrogens and medications used to treat cancer, can also potentially affect your sex hormone levels.
For information on the signs of low testosterone, read our blog.
If you're hoping for "pepperoni pizza" and cans of Hormel Chili on this list, we have some bad news... But just because the foods on this list are good for you doesn't necessarily mean they're bad.
Garlic, olive oil and enriched dairy products — all on this list — make up like, three-quarters of a pizza. Glass half full, fellas.
The following 12 foods can do wonders for men’s health and help optimize your body's testosterone production:
Vitamin-enriched milk and other dairy products
Now, before we get into the specifics of each food, it’s important to give a little disclaimer. Right now, we only have limited information about the effects of certain foods on your body’s ability to produce testosterone.
Although these foods may help increase testosterone levels, not all of them are backed up by studies showing a clear causative relationship.
It’s best to think of your diet as one of many factors that might help aid in testosterone production — not as the sole cause of high or low testosterone levels.
With this out of the way, let’s get started with a few readily available cooking ingredients that you can add to your diet for healthier hormone levels.
Coconut is rich in saturated fats. Research published in the Ghana Medical Journal suggests that the consumption of coconut causes an increase in blood cholesterol levels.
Although high cholesterol levels are linked to poor cardiovascular health, cholesterol is critical in creating testosterone. In fact, your Leydig cells found inside your testicles function specifically to convert cholesterol into testosterone.
Animal studies published in the journal, Nutrition, also suggest that coconut oil is associated with high testosterone levels and increased testicular antioxidants.
However, there currently isn’t any high-quality research that shows a clear link between coconut consumption and changes in testosterone production in humans.
Olive oil has long been promoted as a healthy oil for cooking and seasoning food, but research suggests it can do more than just make bread taste better while you wait for your entrée.
In one 2013 study, researchers found that men who replaced butter with olive oil for three weeks showed a 17.4 percent increase in testosterone levels.
The men also showed a 42.6 percent increase in levels of luteinizing hormone, which is closely associated with testosterone and sperm production.
Yeah, pretty wild, right? And since we have your attention, you might also want to learn more about the benefits of olive oil and lemon juice.
Pomegranate juice feels like a very polarizing topic — people either love it or hate it. Rich in antioxidants, pomegranates have been used medicinally throughout history to remedy high blood pressure, heart disease and certain forms of sexual dysfunction.
Recently, a small study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition involving elite weightlifters found that pomegranate juice produced an increase in testosterone/cortisol ratios after exercise.
However, both testosterone and cortisol levels returned to their baseline values over the course of 48 hours, suggesting that pomegranate’s effects on hormone levels may be temporary. The effect of pomegranate juice on testosterone was also less than that of a placebo treatment.
It’s also worth noting that this study only involved a sample of nine people.
Although there’s little research into the effects of pomegranate juice on testosterone in humans, animal studies have shown some promise. For instance, one study published in the journal BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies found that pomegranate juice (one of the home remedies for ED) is associated with increased levels of in male sex hormones such as testosterone and luteinizing hormone.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that pomegranate boosts testosterone in men, but it’s certainly a promising sign that it may have some effects.
Gym bros, listen up: although whey protein is best known for its muscle-building properties, some research suggests it may also offer hormonal health benefits.
A small study of 10 people published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2013 found that men who used a whey protein isolate supplement in the morning for 14 days showed a blunted cortisol response after exercising.
Although the “direct” link between whey protein and testosterone isn’t very direct (yet), research indicates that large amounts of cortisol — a stress hormone — can reduce testosterone levels.
By reducing cortisol response, whey protein may help reduce the effects of cortisol release on testosterone production, all while supplying amino acids that function as building blocks for your muscle mass.
Remember, guys, there’s good cholesterol and bad cholesterol out there — and garlic reduces the bad stuff.
Garlic is associated with numerous potential health benefits, including reducing total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels.
Although there’s no human research into garlic’s effects on testosterone, animal studies published in the Journal of Nutrition suggest that garlic supplementation may be linked to higher testosterone levels, as well as a reduction in plasma corticosterone concentrations.
Oysters are packed with nutrients that offer health benefits, including large amounts of selenium and, more importantly, zinc.
Zinc does a lot for our bodies, but research suggests it also plays a role in modulating testosterone levels. In one study published in the journal Nutrition, a team of researchers found that men’s average testosterone levels declined when they stopped eating zinc-rich foods.
They also found that men deficient in zinc showed increased testosterone levels after using a zinc supplement.
In addition to oysters, you can try other zinc-rich foods like beef chuck roast, Alaska king crab, lobster, pork, beans and fortified cereals.
And always share oysters — there’s no reason to be shellfish about it. (Sorry, we had to.)
Tuna is rich in vitamin D, or calciferol — a fat-soluble vitamin that’s critical for proper calcium absorption, bone health and immune function.
Research suggests that vitamin D supplementation could lead to higher testosterone levels.
Milk and other dairy products are under quite a bit of fire these days, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t rich in nutrients, including protein, calcium, riboflavin, zinc and numerous important vitamins.
Although just about any type of milk can benefit your health and well-being, milk enriched with vitamins and other minerals (often called fortified milk) makes getting the nutrients you need for optimal testosterone production and overall health even easier. Milk also aids in health conditions such as zinc deficiency.
Eggs are highly nutritious and offer hefty amounts of protein (which help build muscle) and vitamin D. And, s we mentioned earlier, research suggests that supplementing vitamin D may increase testosterone levels.
Although there’s no precise link, the albumin in eggs has also been associated with increased serum testosterone levels.
Remember what we said above about cholesterol? Well, a study published in the Human Kinetics Journal found that the cholesterol intake from egg yolks may have some effect on testosterone levels.
To increase your protein intake and potentially maintain optimal T-levels, try adding egg yolks to your diet in the form of a breakfast omelet or hard-boiled snack during the daytime.
Ginger. It makes sushi better and we've seen it transform a simple salad dressing, but it's also been used as a traditional medicine for more than 2,500 years in the East. It’s also a common ingredient in countless dishes and herbal remedies, including common issues like nausea and vomiting.
Research suggests that this wellness root may also boost testosterone levels. For example, one review published in Biomolecules found an association between ginger and increased testosterone production in men, particularly in oxidative stress conditions.
Try adding ginger to your diet as a flavoring ingredient in home-cooked food — either in the form of a ginger supplement, or mixed with some other foods on this list to make a testosterone-boosting salad dressing.
Read our article on how ginger is used sexually for more research.
There's nothing like the smell of fresh chopped onions frying in the pan, and they're one of the most versatile veggies you can use to add flavor to just about anything you're cooking
Like its fragrance, the research between onions and testosterone is strong.
In one review published in Biomolecules in 2019, onion consumption was associated with enhanced testosterone levels, nitric oxide production and antioxidant levels in the testes.
Add onions to your diet by sautéing them and serving with your favorite meat, adding them to a salad or using them to enhance the flavor of a pan sauce.
Another type of food to consider adding to your dietary plan is leafy greens. These include kale, spinach, collard greens and more. An article published by the NIH noted that leafy greens are a good source of magnesium.
And according to a study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, magnesium can benefit men with low testosterone levels.
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If you’ve ever searched online for information about increasing testosterone, you’ve likely come across lists of foods that can purportedly reduce your testosterone levels.
Although there are some foods to avoid when it comes to optimizing testosterone production, it’s important to understand that the theory behind lots of “testosterone-reducing” foods isn’t backed by scientific evidence — in fact, the packaging your food is stored in on its way to your mouth may have more of an impact than the foods themselves.
Another thing that might weigh in on your testosterone health? Your weight. An obesity-causing diet made up of high sugar and highly processed foods has also been linked to lower testosterone levels. So take all of this low-T talk with a grain of salt.
But if you’re trying to be diet conscious with your testosterone protection, you may want to leave the following foods off the table — and off your plate.
For example, the popular theory that soy reduces testosterone in men doesn’t appear to be true, at least based on existing scientific evidence.
According to a review published in Reproductive Toxicology in 2021 analysis of over 40 peer-reviewed studies showed that there’s no association between soy intake and lower levels of testosterone in men.
So there’s no need to worry about a little extra soy sauce, a bowl of miso soup or a serving of tofu reducing your testosterone production.
Foods that contain trans fats are linked to lower testosterone levels in otherwise healthy men, according to an article published in the Asian Journal of Andrology.
That said, not everything is simple. Red meat is high in trans fats, but also high in testosterone-promoting nutrients like zinc — as with everything, balance and moderation are the best strategies.
Our article on foods that kill testosterone goes into more detail on this.
Testosterone is part of your overall wellness. If you're dealing with a testosterone deficiency and are starting to experience low testosterone symptoms, your healthcare provider might recommend certain lifestyle changes or other forms of treatment.
These include exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, taking steps to minimize your stress levels and, if necessary, weight loss.
Our guide to how to boost testosterone levels goes into more detail about simple habits and lifestyle changes that you can use for healthier testosterone production, but for now, here’s what you really need to know:
Testosterone is critical for just about every aspect of men’s health, from your muscle mass and skeletal strength to your mood, energy levels and reproductive function.
For optimal testosterone production, try to eat a balanced diet that includes the foods above, along with plenty of fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables and a healthy intake of fatty fish.
When lifestyle and diet changes alone aren’t enough to increase your testosterone production, your healthcare provider may suggest testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which can provide real improvements. However, it can result in side effects like a reduction in your sperm count, prostate enlargement, sleep problems and cardiovascular health issues, too.
It’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider and pay attention for any side effects if you’re prescribed testosterone.
If you’re worried that you may have low testosterone, it’s best to reach out to your healthcare provider. They’ll be able to check your blood testosterone levels and, if appropriate, suggest steps that you can take to maintain healthy testosterone production.
Considering a natural testosterone booster? Our guide to the safety of testosterone boosters goes into more detail about what to expect, as well as potential side effects and safety issues that you should be aware of before using testosterone supplements.