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Testosterone is often considered to be a quintessential symbol of manhood and machismo. This hormone, which is produced primarily in the testicles, is associated with sexual prowess, libido, and muscle strength, but it also is critical for maintaining bone density, energy levels, and even moods. In many ways, it is the male hormone.
That’s why when testosterone levels begin to decline as men age and because of other factors such as weight gain, exposure to environmental toxins, and sedentary lifestyle, guys begin to worry. They see their sex drive faltering, their waistlines expanding, their hairlines receding, their sleep habits changing, and their get-up-and-go waning. Suddenly all those late-night ads on TV about testosterone replacement and supplements to boost T levels sound like the answer. But they are not.
How can you raise testosterone levels naturally?
Testosterone levels are going to decline as you age – especially if you are sedentary and/or overweight, and/or you don’t get enough sleep – but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to significantly improve your T levels naturally and keep them at a point that allows you to maintain your effectively. One way is to include certain foods in your diet on a regular basis, but before we discuss them, there are a few other things you should know about testosterone and how to maintain healthful levels.
1. Get sufficient amounts of vitamin D and zinc.
These two nutrients, which are often seen in low levels in men, are necessary for your body to manufacture testosterone. Men who don’t get enough exposure to the sun should talk to their healthcare provider about taking a vitamin D supplement to get you back in a healthy range (50-70 ng/ml). Zinc is found in high levels in the prostate and thus is also essential for optimal sexual function. Men should ensure they get sufficient zinc from foods such as oysters, wheat germ, nuts, spinach, pumpkin and squash seeds, cocoa powder, beans, and white mushrooms.
2. Effectively manage stress.
Chronic or mismanaged stress can cause significant declines in testosterone levels. That’s because the stress hormone, cortisol, is released when the body is under stress, and the hormone reduces the impact of testosterone on your body. Effective stress management techniques can range from getting enough sleep (7-8 hours nightly) to yoga, tai chi, progressive relaxation, deep breathing, meditation, or exercise.
3. Drop excess weight.
When you have excess weight, estrogen levels are elevated, and the hormone is stored in fatty tissue. Losing weight, on the other hand, can significantly boost testosterone levels. In a study presented at the Endocrine Society meeting, researchers explained how overweight men with prediabetes improved their body’s production of testosterone approximately 15% when they lost 15lbs of weight.
4. Keep moving.
Physical exercise alone can raise your testosterone levels for short periods of time, perhaps for up to 60 minutes. However, if you want more long-lasting rises in testosterone, you can try high-intensity exercise (sometimes called high-intensity interval training, or HIIT) plus intermittent fasting (eating nothing for 24 hours 1-2 days a week, or eating only in defined windows, say, between 2pm and 8pm daily – like Terry Crews and many other athletes do). This combination can increase your human growth hormone and testosterone levels for a more prolonged time period.
5. Cut sugar and carbohydrate consumption.
Foods rich in carbohydrates and sugars cause surges in blood glucose and insulin levels, which then can lead to declines in testosterone levels.
Which foods can help raise testosterone levels?
The following foods contain nutrients that can promote and support an increase in testosterone levels. Be sure to include them in your daily eating plan as much as possible.
- Bananas and Pineapple. Both of these fruits are excellent sources of the enzyme bromelain. In addition to helping with digestion, bromelain supplementation has been shown to help maintain testosterone concentrations during competitive exercise situations, when levels of the hormone would be expected to drop. Although you can take bromelain supplements, enjoying these fruits and all of the nutrients and fiber is recommended.
- Beets. These red root vegetables are a great source of boron, which is necessary for the production of testosterone, especially free testosterone. Some experts claim beets and their juice boost testosterone production via methylation, a process by which certain chemicals (methyl groups) are added to different parts of proteins, DNA, and other molecules to keep them functioning properly. Methylation is like the finishing touch that allows a substance or component to take the final step in its process or task.
- Brazil nuts. Among all the nuts, the Brazil nut is the one best known for helping elevate testosterone levels. The nut’s high magnesium content is the reason for this benefit. Athletes who took 750 mg magnesium daily for one month experienced a 26 percent increase in their free testosterone levels. Another study found that men who took magnesium (10 mg per kilogram body weight) or no magnesium for four weeks with or without exercise. Magnesium supplementation increased both free and total testosterone levels in men who did and did not exercise, although levels were greater among the men who exercised.
- Cruciferous vegetables. Load up on broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, and more if you want to boost your testosterone. More specifically, investigators found that diets high in indole-3-carbinol (present in cruciferous vegetables) increase estradiol excretion by up to 50 percent, which in turn boosts the level of testosterone. Cruciferous vegetables are easy to add to any meal and also can be juiced.
- Garlic. This culinary favorite has an indirect impact on testosterone levels. Garlic contains diallyldisulfide, a major volatile sulfur-containing compound that has an effect on luteinizing hormone, which regulates testosterone production in the testes. In an animal study, researchers found that rats who consumed a high-protein diet and a garlic supplement showed an increase in testicular testosterone levels.
- Olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is highly valued for its healthy fat (high monounsaturated fat) content, but there’s another reason to drizzle this oil over your vegetables. Men who consumed olive oil daily for three weeks showed a 17.4 percent increase in their testosterone levels.
- Onions. In animals, onion juice has been shown to raise testosterone levels. It’s not known whether the same effect will occur in humans. However, in rats experiencing sexual dysfunction induced by the antidepressant paroxetine, use of onion juice corrected the erectile dysfunction and boosted testosterone levels.
- The optimal food source for zinc, which is necessary for testosterone production, is oysters. Experts at Wayne State University School of Medicine reported that supplementation with zinc for six months in normal men who had a marginal zinc deficiency resulted in an increase in testosterone levels.
- Pomegranates. Researchers have discovered that drinking pomegranate juice can result in a rise in testosterone levels between 16 and 30 percent. At Queen Margaret University of Edinburgh, 58 volunteers (ages 21-64) consumed a glass of pomegranate juice daily for 14 days, with the result being an increase in testosterone levels as well as decline in blood pressure and an improvement in mood. Since pomegranate juice is high in fructose, it is recommended you eat the whole fruit instead, which will provide fiber in addition to other nutrients.
- Sunflower seeds. Ounce for ounce, sunflower seeds are the best source of vitamin B6 (aka, pyridoxine), which has been shown to be important for the production of testosterone. Research in animals has shown that a deficiency of vitamin B6 is associated with either a reduced rate of testosterone production or an increased rate of elimination from the body. In either case, it’s important to keep your vitamin B6 levels up. The RDA for men is 1.3 mg up to age 50, after which the requirement rises to 1.7 mg.
- Wild oats. Research suggests that wild oats, also known as avena sativa, helps to free bound testosterone in the bloodstream. This in turn raises the levels of free testosterone. An extract from oats, called avenacosides, reportedly stimulate the release of luteinizing hormone, which in turn prompts production of testosterone.
The safest way to boost testosterone levels is naturally. If you include these foods (organic when available) in your diet on a regular basis and follow the other suggestions mentioned, you should see an improvement in your health and hormone levels.
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Todays Dietitian. Overweight men can boost low testosterone levels by losing weight.