Looking to boost your testosterone level? If so, what you eat can have a profound influence on the overall levels released into your bloodstream over time. Most people already know that testosterone is one of the primary male sex hormones (although females do have testosterone in small amounts). What they may not know, however, are the many roles that testosterone plays in the body. Not only is testosterone responsible for the development of secondary sex characteristics (facial hair, body hair and a deepening voice), but it’s also responsible for keeping you fit, healthy, and feeling your best. Especially for men, testosterone is what makes them a man; testosterone is responsible for the development of muscular strength and size, giving that aggressive edge, keeping their libido levels and sexual function optimal, and also helps keep the body leaner. Men who have chronically low levels of testosterone tend to typically experience a decline in lean muscle mass tissue while experiencing an incline in fat mass. This can then put them at risk for a number of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Delve into the complex world of food science and discover how nutrition works from the inside out.
Women too need some testosterone in their bodies. While females will have just a fraction of the testosterone that males have, it’s still important for women to sustain proper muscular strength and development, to help increase energy levels, to assist with maintaining the body composition necessary for a healthy female body, and to help with both libido levels as well as bone strength.
It is normal for testosterone to decrease as one gets older, however, with proper lifestyle and nutrition choices, you can put your best foot forward to optimise your levels as best as possible.
Let’s look at seven foods that you’ll want to avoid if you hope to do just that. While there are some foods that can boost testosterone, there are many that will cause it to decrease. So, looking at both ends of the equation is important for maximum success.
6 foods to avoid to optimise natural testosterone
Let’s start with what you may consider to be a healthy food to consume regularly. Flaxseeds are a form of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, rich in fibre, and contain some protein as well. All in all, this seems like a good thing. But, if your goal is to raise testosterone levels (or prevent a decline), flaxseed consumption could be causing you problems. The reason that flaxseeds are on the hit list for raising testosterone is because they are rich in lignans, which tend to mimic estrogen in the body. Since estrogen is the opposing sex hormone to testosterone, the more of it you have (particularly if you are a man), the more low testosterone-like symptoms you’ll have.
Females may not be as at-risk from having flaxseeds in their diet due to the fact they have far more estrogen to begin with, but men should be very aware of this connection. Instead, consider supplementing your diet with some fish oil to help get those important omega-3 fatty acids instead. These will provide similar benefits without the change to your testosterone levels.
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2. Liquorice candy
While liquorice, or licorice, may not seem like the worst treat to have, you may want to think again about this choice. What will likely come as a surprise to most is that liquorice can have a very powerful impact on natural testosterone levels. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that when researchers had test subjects consume the main component in liquorice, Glycyrrhizic acid, there was a significant decrease in total testosterone levels after just seven grams of daily consumption for a period of four days. Considering it can be quite easy to eat an entire pack of liquorice in just a single sitting, it won’t take much if you are a regular consumer of this candy to see effects taking place.
It’s important to keep in mind that extracts of liquorice root can be used as flavouring agents in other foods as well as in some breath fresheners, so make sure that you read the food labels to keep yourself informed.
3. Soft drinks
Next up on the hit list if you want to keep your testosterone levels high is soft drinks. The big problem with these is that they’re loaded with empty calories and sugar, which can promote fat accumulation. As you start to gain excess body fat, it will exert estrogenic effects, raising total estrogen levels while decreasing testosterone.
Soft drinks are one of the most concentrated sources of sugar consumption in North America, so if you are getting your daily dose, it’s something to reconsider as well. To this, you’ll also want to add any other high-sugar beverages such as energy drinks, flavoured coffee beverages, fruit juice, as well as artificially flavoured teas. Anything that contains a high amount of sugar, especially in the form of fructose (or high glucose-fructose corn syrup), could be putting you at risk of this problem.
4. Fast food burgers
That hamburger you ate in a rush two nights ago on your way home? It might have had an impact on your testosterone level as well. The problem with fast food is that not only will it once again increase your risk-factor for fat gain (which can lower testosterone levels), but the meat used in fast food will typically be lower quality meat, which has often been exposed to all sorts of growth hormones and antibiotics throughout its lifecycle.
You’ve likely already heard that eating organic free-range poultry and grass-fed beef is your best bet for optimal health and this is largely due to the fact these types of meats aren’t exposed to the harmful chemicals and hormones that regular meats are.
But, when you dig into that burger, even if it is a chicken burger and you’re trying to be ‘healthy’, you’re still taking in those unwanted hormones.
5. High doses of dietary fibre
The next one is another that may surprise you. Up until now, you likely thought that fibre was a very good thing. It helps lower cholesterol levels, it helps improve satiety after meals, and it helps balance blood glucose levels. All of which, are very good things. The problem though? Too much fibre can alter the metabolism of testosterone in men and decrease their levels, as was shown in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This study had two groups of men either consume a low-fat, high-fibre diet or a higher fat, lower fibre diet, and noted that the low-fat, high-fibre group showed marked declines in testosterone levels.
Now, don’t take this to mean that you should ditch all fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and load up on cheese, chips, and chicken wings to adopt a high fat, low sugar diet. You still need some dietary fibre in your plan and the foods that provide it are some of the most nutrient-dense you can eat, so it’s important to get them in. Just don’t go overboard. If you’re a man looking to keep testosterone levels higher, consider eating moderate amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables each day and then make sure that you are also pairing those with healthy sources of dietary fat. Keep fat to around 30-35% of your total daily calorie intake and you should not be suffering negative consequences associated with too much dietary fibre.
Finally, the last food to be aware of that you may want to start limiting in your diet is any food made with soy. Soy is a phytoestrogen that has been shown in numerous studies to have negative impacts on testosterone levels, such as one published in the Society for Endocrinology. Men who consume soy on a regular basis may start to notice some feminising effects of this food and if tested, will often show changes in their overall sex hormone profile. As there are many other places you can find high-quality protein in your diet, there’s no need to consume soy if you are a male.
Want to learn more?
So, there you have a closer look at some of the main foods that you may want to avoid if you hope to increase your testosterone levels, or at least prevent a decline in showing up over time. Your diet can play a significant role in this hormone’s release, so be sure you aren’t overlooking it. Join Shaw Academy's online Nutrition course today and sharpen your knowledge of nutrition.