How to Naturally Increase Levels of this Essential Hormone and Improve Your Quality of Life by Making Simple Changes to Your Diet
Testosterone is a naturally-occurring hormone that can have a profound impact on your health, mood, and sex drive. But unfortunately, levels begin to plummet in men once they reach adulthood.1
The good news is: you can effectively increase your testosterone levels by simply changing the way you eat.
Research shows that certain foods can provide a measurable, noticeable boost to your testosterone. And you don't have to drastically overhaul your diet, either.
By making small changes to what you put on your fork, you can reap the numerous benefits of increased testosterone2, including:
- Increased libido (sex drive)
- Stronger bones
- Leaner & stronger muscle growth
- Improved spatial memory & mathematical ability 3
- Improved, more consistent mood
- Higher sperm count in men
Below, we take a more in-depth look at these benefits and other reasons to consider bolstering your testosterone levels.
Apart from the specific physical and psychological impact, your testosterone levels play an important role in your overall quality of life. Consider, for example, the butterfly effect of increased sex drive and how that might have an impact on your marriage, your dating life and your overall self-confidence.
Before You Dig In: Set the Right Expectations
The effects of a testosterone-boosting diet are well documented4. But they're not magic potions.
Like any diet, you should not expect overnight results. The key here is making small, but consistent changes to your diet to ensure you're getting a solid intake of the foods that can enhance your testosterone levels.
- Will be you be faster and stronger by tomorrow? Nope.
- Will you suddenly lose a bunch of weight? No.
- Will everyone notice the "new you" when you go into work tomorrow? Probably not.
It's true that simply implementing some new lifestyle goals—starting the plan itself—can have an impact on your mood and self-confidence. And others may indeed notice this change in you, right from the start. (Consider the effect of setting New Year's resolutions. Even if you break those resolutions within the first week, the goal-setting alone can have a positive impact.5)
But otherwise, it's important to think of these foods as being part of a long-term commitment to overall better health and wellness.
Eating a pomegranate for breakfast this morning isn't going to turn you into a sex machine tonight. (Sorry, fellas.) But over time, adding more pomegranate and other testosterone-boosting foods may indeed begin to have a noticeable impact on your sex drive and other aspects of your life—especially if you combine these foods with an overall healthy eating plan and a fitness routine.
And finally, too much of any one food is rarely a good idea. While foods alone are unlikely to cause your testosterone to reach unsafe levels, you'll probably experience adverse effects in other areas if you overdo it. (Eat 20 pomegranates a day for a week, and your body will not be happy with you.)
With that said, let's dig into some of these proven, testosterone-raising foods.
6 Foods that Increase Testosterone
Remember that testosterone occurs naturally in both men and women. It's a hormone. It's not an ingredient that you'll find in any food.
However, certain nutrients play an important role in your body's testosterone production. Thus, certain foods can help you produce more testosterone (or produce it more efficiently), or they can benefit other areas of your body that play a role in your testosterone production.
So while it's not always a direct cause-and-effect relationship (in the way that taking a Vitamin C supplement might boost your Vitamin C levels), adding these foods to your nutritional plan can still have a significant impact.
Let's start with pomegranate, since we used that as an example above.
Studies have shown that this delicious, ruby-red fruit can have a measurable effect on your testosterone levels.
In 2012, a research team at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland, studied the effects of drinking a glass of pomegranate juice every day for two weeks. 58 volunteers took part in the study: men and women between the ages of 21 and 64.6
At the end of the study, participants showed a "significant increase" in testosterone. Their testosterone levels jumped by a whopping 16 to 30 percent. The results were so significant, newspapers in the U.K. cheekily referred to pomegranate as "the new Viagra."
And that wasn't all. Participants of the study also experienced:
- A healthy drop in blood pressure
- Increase in positive emotions
- Decrease in negative emotions
A 2007 study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research also showed that pomegranate juice improves erections in men with erectile dysfunction.7
So how does pomegranate increase testosterone?
We know that pomegranate is chockfull of antioxidants, as well as iron and vitamins A, C, and E. The fruit is also a rich source of fiber. Each of these nutrients play their own unique roles in the body. (For example, iron helps maintain oxygen levels in the body.) While the direct relationship between pomegranate and testosterone is still being studied, it is safe to assume that these nutrients play an important role in your body's hormone production.
Tip: The study at Queen Margaret University focused on pomegranate juice, but consider eating the actual fruit itself. You'll get the added fiber, and not the fructose, which is usually loaded into such juices.
Tuna is a great source of vitamin D, which is widely recognized as a crucial nutrient for testosterone production.8
Studies in the U.S. and around the world have shown that a healthy intake of vitamin D, from tuna and other sources, can boost your testosterone.
One of the most notable pieces of research was conducted by Graz Medical University in Austria and published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology.9 The study looked at the effects of vitamin D on 2,299 men. Findings showed that men who were getting the proper amount of vitamin D had higher levels of testosterone than those who weren't—as much as 90 percent higher.10
A nonprofit group that publicized the study's findings in 2010 was quoted as saying, "Men who ensure that their body is at least sufficiently supplied with vitamin D are doing good for their testosterone levels and their libido among other things."
Vitamin D also helps reduce your body's levels of Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG), which is known to decrease sex drive.11 Thus, by eating more tuna or other vitamin-D rich foods, you can boost your testosterone and enhance your libido at the same time.
Tip: Don't overdo it. One can of tuna has 100 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin D. And if you prefer to eat less, try another great source of vitamin D: exposing your skin to more sunlight.
For a time, the "incredible edible egg" got a bad rap because it's high in cholesterol. But a slew of research in recent years has flipped our previous understanding of eggs on its head. New studies show that eating an egg a day offers numerous benefits and is not bad for your heart.12
What's more: the cholesterol in egg yolks that we used to think was "bad" can actually boost your testosterone.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the fat in egg yolks promotes an increase in testosterone levels.13
Board-certified Clinical Nutritionist Dr. Peter Osborne of Origins Health Care in Sugar Land, Texas, says that the cholesterol in eggs is a precursor for testosterone, as well as other hormones.14 The cholesterol aids in the production of testosterone, as well as other vital systems, including the immune system.
And it's not just the cholesterol in eggs that benefits us. Eggs are also a good source of:
- Saturated fat
- Aspartic Acid
Each of these may play its own unique, additional role in increasing testosterone levels. For example, a study published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology found that aspartic acid, an amino acid in eggs, significantly boosted testosterone levels in just 12 days.15
Tip: One egg a day is a good start to your day, and it will not hurt your heart health. Consider a fried egg (without cheese or condiments), or a hardboiled egg by itself or atop a salad.
Oysters have long been hailed as a libido-boosting food, but have you ever considered why?
Oysters are rich in zinc, which studies suggest is beneficial to testosterone production and may also help with sperm count in men.
One well-known study in 2005 by Professor George Fisher at Barry University in Miami took a closer look at bivalve mollusks – a group of shellfish that includes oysters. They found that the oysters were rich in rare amino acids that lead to higher levels of sex hormones.16
It adds substance to the long-held theory that oysters are natural aphrodisiacs. (After all, it was Casanova, the 18th century lover, who was known for his 50-oyster breakfasts.)
Dr. Fisher's research teams identified two amino acids in the oysters:
- D-aspartic acid (D-Asp)
- N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)
In previous experiments, these amino acids showed increased testosterone production in male rats and progesterone in females. Dr. Antimo D'Aniello, of the Laboratory of Neurobiology in Naples, Italy, who helped conduct the study with Dr. Fisher, explained to UK's Daily Telegraph:
"Increased levels of those hormones in the blood means you are more active sexually … The Italians have been right about this for centuries - since before Casanova, from the time of the Romans."
Prior to this research, the aphrodisiac effect of oysters centered mostly on the zinc. Zinc is found in sperm, and men lose between one and three milligrams of zinc with each ejaculation. While more research still needs to be done to determine the direct relationship, there is enough evidence to link the two: a healthy dose of zinc equates to a healthy testosterone production.
Tip: To reap the biggest benefits from oysters, eat them when they're raw (and fresh). Cooking them reduces the quantity of nutrients, including the D-Asp and NDMA amino acids.
You may already be putting garlic in your meals to add some "BAM!" (in the words of Chef Emeril Lagasse). But if you want to increase your testosterone production, you may also want to eat it raw.
Garlic itself does not increase testosterone, as far as we know. However, it can play a huge role in decreasing other hormones that stand in the way of your body's testosterone delivery.17
The chemistry of garlic is actually pretty complex, but here's a basic explainer of how it works to boost your "T":18
- Garlic contains a chemical compound called Alliin.
- When you bite into fresh garlic, alliin comes in contact with the enzyme allinase.
- This chain reaction converts alliin to allicin—which gives garlic its strong odor.
- Allicin is proven to lower your body's levels of cortisol—the stress hormone that competes with testosterone for the same sites in your muscle cells.
- Therefore, by reducing cortisol, your body uses testosterone more efficiently and effectively.
More research is still being done to understand just how great of an impact garlic has on testosterone. A 2015 study showed that rats who ingested fresh garlic cloves showed higher levels of natural testosterone secretion.19
Additionally, the results suggest that garlic may also have direct "protective and proliferative functions in the testes", possibly leading to greater overall sperm count.
Like oysters, garlic is more potent when it's uncooked. The powerful properties of allicin are strongest at about 10 to 15 minutes after the chemical reaction that occurs when you cut into it or crush it. So instead of cooking garlic, which will remove its testosterone-aiding punch, consider cutting it up, letting it sit and then eating it raw.
Tip: How much garlic? The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends 2 to 4 cloves of raw, freshly minced garlic per day.20
6) Lean beef and other meat (sparingly)
If your dad told you that eating a big, meaty steak would "put hair on your chest," he was probably right, in a way. For decades, science has proven the effect of meat on testosterone production. The question today is: how much meat?
Red meats are full of the proteins that your hormone production centers rely on to build strength, muscle mass and sex drive.
If you're not getting enough protein, you're probably not reaching your full testosterone potential. Dr. Malcolm Carruthers of London's Centre for Men’s Health—and one of the leading authorities on testosterone research—says that a lack of meat in your diet can reduce your testosterone levels by as much as 14 percent.21 That's because the lack of protein leads to the increased productions of other hormones that essentially deactivate testosterone.
On the flipside, too much meat can be bad for you. Some red meats (especially processed meats) are high in "heme iron, saturated fat, sodium, nitrites, and certain carcinogens that are formed during cooking," according to the Harvard Public School of Health. Eating too much can lead to type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
So the question is: what is the right amount of meat for increasing testosterone, and what kind?
Beef liver, for example, is a great source of vitamin D, and ground beef also contains zinc—two nutrients that may bolster testosterone, as we've established above.
If you're aiming to build muscle mass with your testosterone increase, then think of protein as the king of muscle food. Harvard Men's Health Watch says that animal sources are the best sources of protein, as they provide "the proper ratios of all the essential amino acids." The key is to avoid certain red and processed meats that are loaded with saturated fat and additives (which can actually lower your testosterone).23
Here are some healthier options, as recommended by Harvard:
- 3.5 ounces of lean chicken or salmon (31 g and 24 g respectively)
- 6 ounces of plain Greek yogurt (17 g)
- 1 cup of skim milk (9 g)
- 1 cup of cooked beans (about 18 g).
Additionally, venison (deer meat) is considered a healthier alternative to other red meats and was also ranked in 2017 as one of the best testosterone-boosting foods for muscle growth by Men's Health.24
Tip: If you're using meat to boost your protein or testosterone, add it to your meals sparingly. You don't need it every day. And when you do eat it, think of it as a side item to your meals, not the main course.
What's the point?
Why care about increasing your testosterone at all?
For men especially, testosterone levels have a tremendous impact on health and mental wellbeing. This is why "testosterone replacement therapy" (or TRT)—which typically involves an injection or gel application—has surged in popularity in recent years.25
Depending on your situation, you may not be a candidate for TRT—but by eating the foods listed above, you can still reap the many benefits of increased testosterone, including:
- Sex drive: Studies show that increased testosterone can enhance your desire to have sex, boost your sexual performance and improve your endurance.26
- Blood circulation and heart health: Increasing your testosterone may have a positive impact on your heart health, according to results from a 2015 study of 83,000 men. The study showed that those who increased their testosterone to healthy levels "had a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, or death from any cause, versus similar men who were not treated."27
- Muscle growth and strength: Research has shown that increasing testosterone levels in men can lead to increased muscle mass and strength, especially when combined with routine strength training exercise.28
- Bone density: As men age, their testosterone levels drop, as do their bone densities. Clinical trials showed that men can restore bone density, particularly in the spine and hips, by increasing their testosterone levels.29
- Mood and mental state: Low levels of testosterone can have a negative impact on mood and concentration, sometimes leading to fatigue, a loss of self-confidence and depression. Studies show that taking steps to maintaining healthy T levels can prevent these outcomes and leave you feeling more energetic and satisfied with overall quality of life.30
Talk to your doctor with major concerns
The symptoms of low testosterone can be similar to other serious health concerns, like heart failure or depression. If you believe your low testosterone may be due to other factors beyond age, be sure to speak to your doctor.
Additionally, if you plan to make drastic changes to your diet or exercise, it's always a good idea to get advice from a qualified physician first.