The food that you eat impacts many aspects of your health, not just your waistline. It’s because the nutrients in food give your body the instructions on how it should function, such as in the production and secretion of a male sex hormone called testosterone.
Such an all-important male hormone plays many important roles in the body, including fat distribution, red blood cell production, and maintaining healthy bone density.
Boosting testosterone can moreover help you ward off type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.
And one of the easiest methods to maintain healthy testosterone levels is through your diet. But, in much the same way, there are also foods that kill testosterone.
That being said, we at ExpertFitness.org, provide you with certain foods that may reduce testosterone and cause belly fat, other factors/ habits that may cause low testosterone, and what an ideal testosterone-associated dietary pattern should be!
Top 7 Foods that May Reduce Testosterone and Cause Belly Fat
1. Soy/ Soy Products
The findings around soy, soy milk, and other soy-based products are mixed. Soy is known to be exceptionally high in phytoestrogens, a compound that may possibly lower testosterone concentrations in men. This is based on a study that appeared in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In a statistical analysis, 35 men consumed soy protein isolate for 57 days while eating their habitual diets. The result shows that soy protein decreased the DHT and testosterone levels of these men with minor effects on other hormones.
There was another finding, which stated that more than half of the fat content in soy is polyunsaturated fatty acids. And these PUFAs can sharply decrease testosterone in the body or slow down testosterone production when consumed in high quantities.
Soya also contains isoflavones that can bind hormone estrogen receptors in the body and cause anti-estrogenic activity or down-regulate the androgen receptors.
However, we earlier said that the findings on soy and soy products’ impact on testosterone levels differ. A large review of 15 studies, for instance, emphasized that soy foods really had no effect on testosterone levels in men.
This only goes to show that further studies are needed to better understand how soy and soy-based products as a whole could influence testosterone levels in humans. Still, it would be best to consume soy in moderation if you cannot totally eliminate it in your diet if low-T is your concern.
Are you a fan of wine, beers, or other alcoholic beverages? If yes, then there’s a possibility that you may be hindering your body’s natural testosterone production.
A 2019 study demonstrated that both drug and substance abuse is a possible reversible cause of hypogonadism – failure of the testes to produce a normal number of spermatozoa or physiological concentrations of testosterone.
It further explained that acute and repeated alcohol consumption affects the testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and the plasma prolactin – a hormone that is important for both male and female reproductive health.
The authors of the said study found that testosterone decreased just after 30 minutes from consuming alcohol and the testosterone levels did not return rapidly at baseline levels after acute alcohol ingestion.
In another experiment, healthy men were given a pint of whiskey a day for one month and their testosterone levels dropped from the baseline just after 73 hours of alcohol ingestion. By the end of the month, their testosterone levels were already the same as those of alcoholic men.
3. Licorice Root
Licorice is a herb of the pea family and it tastes a world away from the sugary processed flavorings and sweets. Licorice root has even been used as a natural circulatory, liver, lung, and kidney disease for hundreds of years. It may also help soothe tummy aches and clear up your skin.
Sadly, this sweet-tasting food is not entirely healthy and could have a negative impact on your testosterone levels. Thus, we have included among the top foods that kill testosterone.
A study published in Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes, for instance, explained that licorice can reduce serum testosterone in healthy men.
There was also a decrease in 17-OHP (endogenous progesterone steroid hormone) and a slight decrease in free testosterone levels (a percentage of the testosterone concentration that is not bound to a protein, thus called “free.”) observed in the study participants.
The sweet-tasting food may likewise affect the testosterone levels in your body by neutralizing the enzyme that stimulates testosterone production, particularly in the Leydig Cells. Lucky for you, licorice is easy to avoid.
You can simply avoid food or products that contain licorice and these include tea, lozenge, candy, balm, and chewable.
4. Trans Fats and Processed Foods
You may have also heard about trans fats. Also known as trans-fatty acids, trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat. They are notoriously unhealthy and are also testosterone crushers. Small amounts of trans fats can be found in many foods, such as margarine, doughnuts, crackers, cookies, frozen pizza, biscuits, and cakes.
Naturally-occurring trans fats are also produced in the gut of some animals, which means foods naturally made from these animals likewise contain trans fat. These include meat and dairy products.
It can also make its way into your diet via fast foods or processed foods. Studies have shown that regularly consuming trans fats can lower testosterone levels in the body.
A team of researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a cross-sectional study that linked trans fats and testosterone levels. Additionally, men who consumed the highest amounts of trans fat in another research had a 37% lower sperm count as well as a decrease in their testicular volume.
Moreover, consuming too many processed foods or refined carbohydrates often leads to poor weight control and high blood sugar levels. This is because it increases a person’s calorie consumption and this is bad for weight loss.
Known for the cooling sensation they impart and stomach-soothing properties, mint can also cause a dip in your testosterone levels. Some research suggests that peppermint and spearmint have altered hormone levels in animal and human subjects.
In a 30-day randomized-controlled trial, women with hirsutism (excessive growth of facial hair) consumed spearmint tea twice a day for a month. Researchers concluded that spearmint has anti-androgen properties as the subjects’ free and total testosterone levels were reduced over the 30-day period.
Similarly, an experimental animal study found administering peppermint tea or spearmint tea on male rats for 20 days resulted in decreased testosterone levels.
That is why when it comes to maintaining healthy testosterone levels, we recommend you to avoid mint as well as its derivatives and hybrids. They are among the foods that kill testosterone. Do make sure that you also read product labels of things you buy in groceries to avoid this herb.
6. Certain Nuts
Nuts are a popular food. They’re convenient, tasty, and can be enjoyed on different kinds of diets – from vegan to keto. Yet, there are certain nuts that may negatively impact your testosterone levels.
Nuts are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids that have been linked with low testosterone levels. A study in women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) even found that consuming almonds and walnuts increased their sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).
SHBG is a protein produced by the liver that transports androgen, estradiol (an estrogen), and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) (an androgen) in the blood as inactive forms.
If you’re suffering from low testosterone, you might want to avoid eating nuts. Or if you want, just consume these low-PUFA nuts: macadamias, cashews, and pecans.
Included also in the list of foods that kill testosterone is flaxseed. This might surprise you since flaxseed is known to be a good source of insoluble fiber, but it is also high in lignans – a group of low molecular weight polyphenols found in plants.
These plant compounds also bind testosterone hormones in the enterohepatic circulation and force them to be excreted from the body.
Contrary to such findings, though, a 2012 animal study highlighted that prolonged consumption of flaxseed did not cause adverse effects on the male rats’ penis morphology.
Other Factors That May Cause Low Testosterone
But foods are not the only ones that cause low testosterone levels. Certain activities and habits can also be contributing to a drop in testosterone levels.
By being aware of these factors that affect testosterone levels in men can help you keep your testosterone as high or in the normal reading as possible:
1. Being overweight
Testosterone can further decline by weight gain. This is why men diagnosed with obesity or are overweight often see an incredible improvement in their total and free testosterone level when they follow a daily exercise regimen and healthy diet.
So, if you’ve noticed that a pair of your favorite jeans now fit a bit tighter than a year ago or you have increased belly fat, we recommend you to focus on consuming foods that will strengthen your energy, body, immune system, focus, and those that make you burn fat.
As much as possible, begin meal-planning with nutrient-dense foods, healthy fats, dark leafy greens, and foods that are low in acid and high in alkaline.
Aside from avoiding foods that kill testosterone in your body, you should also avoid being a couch potato as it may only lead to weight gain and will then decrease testosterone. Don’t confuse inactivity with being overweight because inactivity is not healthy even for men of average weight.
So, get yourself moving. If you have not been exercising for some time, but would like to begin, muster up some motivation. Start off slow. Perhaps, a 15- or 20-minute walk will do more than no activity at all.
To begin your exercise and lose belly fat, choose a comfortable and safe location, such as a rail trail, a boardwalk, a riverside, or a well-populated park to walk, ride a bicycle, or jog. Remember, staying active is vital not just to build muscle mass but for overall health.
3. Insufficient sleep
A study shows that a week of sleep loss may have a dramatic effect on testosterone levels. A study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association explained that daily sleep restriction was linked with a progressive decrease in vigor, well-being, bone density, muscle mass, strength, weight, and testosterone.
Even a slight sleep deprivation can also produce the stress hormone cortisol, which inhibits gonadal function (part of the reproductive system) and causes belly fat.
4. Pain medications
Some people have a medical need to occasionally take painkillers. However, using pain medications regularly or too often can lead to hormone imbalances.
In a cross-sectional study, the result shows that men on opioids for the treatment of pain had higher odds of having lower testosterone levels compared to those unexposed to opioids. Participants in the said study are young healthy men aged 17 years and older and had data on prescription medication usage.
If you are taking painkillers for your chronic pain, but want to improve your hormonal health, we suggest that you talk to your doctor about
5. Hair-loss medications
Who would have thought that taking prescription medications to help prevent or delay baldness may contain ingredients (i.e. finasteride) that cause low testosterone and can have an impact on testicular function? But it does.
That’s why it is best to do your research first to know about any hair loss medications you’re taking. If you find in reviews that previous users have experienced depression or sexual dysfunction, you may ask your physician for another option.
6. Steroid use
Some bodybuilders, weightlifters, and athletes take steroids to build up their bodies and improve their physical performance. However, the risks of using steroids may outweigh the health benefits it offers.
For instance, when you take anabolic steroids, testosterone production in your body may shut down completely. And this does not just affect while you are taking the steroids but even after you discontinue taking them.
Best Foods to Eat to Boost Testosterone
The good news is, there are also foods that can help boost testosterone levels in the body. These include the following:
1. Low-fat milk with vitamin D
Low-fat milk contains higher amounts of vitamins and fewer calories than whole milk due to fortification. Milk is also an excellent source of calcium and protein. The vitamin D content in milk can help balance hormone levels.
Tuna is a good source of vitamin D, which has been linked to testosterone production and longer life. It is also rich in protein and is heart-healthy. Whether you prefer fresh or canned, eating tuna can help boost reproductive hormones. This will then help you to maintain muscle mass, sex drive, and bone density.
3. Fortified cereals
Fortified cereals, which contain added minerals and vitamins that are not usually present in them, can also help increase your testosterone level. These nutrients or vitamins include Vitamin A, Vitamin D, folic acid, iron, and calcium.
So, we encourage you to incorporate cereals in your breakfast to jump-start not just your day, but also your T-level.
4. Egg yolks
Egg yolks contain essential amino acids and are a good source of proteins. They contain vitamins A, D, E, and K as well as omega-3 fats. Although the cholesterol in eggs earned a bad reputation, egg yolks still contain more nutrients than egg whites. As long as you don’t have a pre-existing cholesterol problem, the cholesterol content in egg yolks may even help boost testosterone to healthy levels. We advise that you eat one egg per day.
5. Shellfish and oysters
Shellfish are a healthy source of zinc. The National Institutes of Health even stated that just a 3-ounce serving of Alaskan king crab contains 43% of your daily value of zinc. In the same way, oysters also have a lot of zinc.
Testosterone hormone is what separates men from women. Your deep voice, body hair, and male reproductive system are all the results of testosterone working through your veins. And when it comes to testosterone, beans may offer more benefits. They help prevent fatty liver and heart disease too!
Pomegranates contain polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. And because of its high concentration of antioxidants, it can prevent oxidative stress and damage.
Oxidative stress has been shown to decrease fertility in women and cause sperm dysfunction in men. As such drinking pomegranate can help increase testosterone levels in men.
8. Fatty fish and fish oil
Eating a healthy diet not only boosts testosterone production but also promotes a healthier weight. It also helps cells to be more responsive to insulin, for people who have signs of insulin resistance. So, take your pick of any fatty fish: salmon: tuna, or sardines.
Vitamins And Minerals That Increase Testosterone Levels
Science has shown that certain vitamins and minerals can help elevate testosterone levels. Some of the most powerful vitamins that help can help boost testosterone production are:
- Zinc supplements
- Vitamin D
- D-aspartic acid
FAQs on Foods that Suppress Natural Testosterone Production
What food kills testosterone?
Aside from the top 7 foods that we listed above that may trigger hormonal imbalances, there are also other foods that may cause a drop in testosterone hormones.
We encourage you to eliminate or occasionally consume these foods: dairy products, desserts, pastries, vegetable oils, fast foods, refined grains (rice, pasta, white bread), soft drinks or sugary drinks,
Do bananas lower testosterone?
No. Bananas do not lower testosterone. In fact, they contain an enzyme called bromelain that can help increase T-levels in the body. The fruit also helps reduce antioxidants and maintain energy levels so they are an ideal go-to snack!
Does sugar kill testosterone?
A spike in blood sugar levels is bad for all aspects of health, not just testosterone. It also increases Insulin levels, belly fat, and inflammation in the body, all factors shut down testosterone.
Men with low T are also more likely to have Insulin resistance. This means that their body can’t easily take up the glucose from the blood.
Do polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) lower testosterone?
Yes, a 2019 study shows that polyunsaturated fatty acids decreased serum testosterone production.
The Bottom Line
What you eat plays an important role in different aspects of your health. The link between foods and low T may not be completely certain, but these foods listed above are backed by science. Stay away from those testosterone-killing foods earlier mentioned or limit their consumption at least if you want higher T-levels.
Also, if you want to make drastic changes in your diet, talk to a dietitian or your doctor to ensure that you are still meeting your body’s nutritional needs.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of low testosterone levels, you may schedule an appointment with your physician. In the meantime, you can adopt healthy habits and avoid certain foods that may cause problems in your hormone levels.
If you like this article, you might want to read our other reviews at ExpertFitness.org.
Nathan Lloyd, MSc
LICENSED PERSONAL TRAINER
I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.
If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.