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Foods that Affect Testosterone Levels

A number of studies suggest that exposure to industrial pollutants may affect sexual function, for example, loss of libido, sexual dysfunction, and impotence. This may be due to effects on testosterone levels. In a study of men who ate a lot of contaminated fish, an elevation in PCB levels in the blood was associated with a lower concentration of testosterone levels. These pollutants are found predominantly in fish, but also meat and dairy. The lowest levels are found in plants (see Dietary Pollutants May Affect Testosterone Levels).

Testosterone doesn’t just play a role in the determination of secondary sex characteristics like facial hair at puberty. It also regulates normal sexual functioning and the overall physical and psychological well-being of adult men. Abnormally low levels of testosterone can lead to decreased physical endurance and memory capacity, loss of libido, drop in sperm count, loss of bone density, obesity, and depression.

Endocrine-disrupting compounds that build up in fish may be able to mimic or block hormone receptors, or alter rates of synthesis or breakdown of sex steroid hormones. In children, these pollutants may actually impair sexual development. Boys who are exposed may grow up with smaller penises (although only by about two-thirds of an inch shorter at most). Researchers have tried exposing cells from aborted fetal human penises to these kinds of dietary pollutants, and gene expression related to genital development is indeed affected at real-life exposure levels. We’re not sure if the effects on penis length are due to the pro-estrogenic effects of the toxins, though, or the anti-testosterone effects.

You’ve heard of save the whales? Well, male reproductive organs may be at risk from environmental hazards as well.

I previously addressed how we discovered the endocrine disruptor phenomenon in Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors and Allergies, as well as where they’re found (Dietary Sources of Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors).

For more on sustaining male virility, see Male Fertility and Diet, The Role of Diet in Declining Sperm Counts, and Dairy Estrogen and Male Fertility.

I’ve talked about the role a plastics chemical may play in male sexual functioning (BPA Plastic and Male Sexual Dysfunction). But it’s not just toxins, it’s the total diet (Survival of the Firmest: Erectile Dysfunction and Death), and not only in men (Cholesterol and Female Sexual Dysfunction).  My latest on the topic is Best Foods to Improve Sexual Function

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

39 responses to “Foods that Affect Testosterone Levels

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  1. First I am a big fan,BUT besides fish I do not find Foods in this post. Maybe it should be titled avoid foods containing pollution like fish?

    1. I have not checked the dictionary but I think most will agree these are foods:
      “These pollutants are found predominantly in fish, but also meat and dairy.”
      “The lowest levels are found in plants (see Dietary Pollutants May Affect Testosterone Levels).”

      Well done as usual Doctor Greger!

  2. This is good information, but what specific foods actually BOOST testosterone? Brazil nuts, yes? Any others? I read somewhere that flax seeds reduce testosterone, is that true? Dr. Gregor is a big proponent of daily intake of flax seeds, and I believe the benefits outweigh the negatives, but what are some foods we can focus on that actually boost testosterone production?

    1. HI, Adam. There is not a lot of good research on boosting testosterone in humans with diet, even though there are a lot of claims on the web by those selling products for that purpose. Most of the research that does exist was performed on rodents, which may or may not apply to humans.
      Of interest was one study indicating that vitamin K could help with decreases in testosterone from administration of lipopolysaccharide. This is consistent with another study I saw, which I cannot find right now, in which older men who ate more greens retained more muscle mass than those who did not. Dark green leafy vegetables and natto, a Japanese fermented soybean product, are rich sources of vitamin K. Beta-carotene, also found in dark green leafies as well as yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots and yams, increased the calf muscle mass of rodents. Flax seeds may help to remove excess estrogen from the body, but I am not aware of any documented effects on testosterone. A quick search turned up nothing on Brazil nuts and testosterone, but they are the best source of dietary selenium, which is important for thyroid function. More on that here:
      Interestingly, it seems that alcohol might interfere with testosterone production. There is a video on phytoestrogens and beer here:
      Here are links to some of the studies I mentioned above, in case you are interested.
      I hope that helps!

  3. Mercola had an article several years ago in his newsletter that scientists in India did a small study on men and found that if a man take 9 mg of boron supplement everyday, it will boost his testosterone level significantly. However, some nutritionists warn that boron is poisonous. However, they sell it as a supplement in the health food stores. So, I tried it, and it took only 24 hours to raise my libido. Some people would argue that it was just the power of suggestion. But, every time I try it, it works in raising my libido. However, some will argue that this is just the placebo effect working on my wishful thinking. Anyhow, I am sure that there are some out there wanting to disprove this.

    1. I have seen some info (unfortunately I cannot recall where) that rather than increasing testosterone itself, boron increases DHT, the form of testosterone most associated with libido.

  4. Cannot view the latest videos on my phone. Something has changed, I think from your end because I continue to be able to view the older videos and I regularly view other videos from other sources. Please help.

  5. Dr. Greger, what about testosterone levels in women? Is the the same mechanism in men and women after eating meat dairy fish?

    1. Hi this is Daniela, nutritionfacts moderator.
      Please see an article on this topic:
      The optimum operation of the human body is about balance, including hormonal balance, so it is not only about having the optimum amounts, but also of having the right proportions. A plant based diet was shown to help maintain balanced levels of hormones, where excessive animal protein acted the opposite way. Please see for more on hormones and their balance in the body from pregnancy through infancy, puberty and adult life.
      I hope this helps, have a great day, Daniela

  6. Once upon a time I was told not to drink soymilk because of estrogen’s in it and how it would affect my PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). In this syndrome it is my understanding that the ovaries have cysts that make testosterone. It is also my understanding that BPA may pay a part in women developing this condition. This is one thing that people do not talk a lot about. Maybe because it is embarrassing to women who have grown beards, and lot’s of body hair. There are other side effects that I have never read about in literature that need to be addressed by doctors and researchers. Here we read about how pollutants can affect penis size. PCOS, does for a fact, affect the clitoris size along with sex drive. I’m glad that the subject came up and that you have written this for men and their health. But women are affected by these things too, sometimes severely (at least in their minds).

  7. Respected sir.

    I am working in cement industry and I have to attend the night duty also and our nature of duty is that we have to watch the computers throughout the whole shift. Sir I want to know that what are things we should fallow to stay healthy in the industrial environment and what the foods we should take in night shifts.

    1. Your question is very specific and there probably isn’t an answer that specific, but if you read the advice on the rest of the site it can only help you by boosting your immunity and reducing the stress you put on your body.

  8. I am getting a bit skeptical of all this strictly plant based diet advice. Obviously fruits and vegetables are very healthy for us, but lets remember that “Monsanto” is the king of the fertilizer and pesticide companies in this and many other countries. Plants are highly affected by these poisons along with acid rain. I recently spoke with an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and he stated that there was a study along time ago called the “Framingham Study” out of Massachusetts where the sugar industry paid-off to have that study highly skewed. The TCM expert stated that real butter, eggs, and milk, straight from the farm (100% organic) is actually healthy for you along with organic meats. He further stated that sugar and processed food is what is destroying our bodies. Why does the FDA allow food manufacturers to use multiple words to replace the word “sugar?” Would it be to protect jobs and make money while poisoning us? Why does the FDA refuse to list some herbs and supplements to replace drugs? Again its all about money. Humans were meant to be carnivores and herbivores, hence the design of our teeth. I think if you drink plenty of pure water, exercise regularly, and be selective about what you eat, you can live a long healthy life. What influence does Monsanto play in all these studies about eating strictly vegan? I am not saying there is a connection, but we have proof that certain industries pay a lot of money to keep us in the dark about what is best for “us.”

    1. TCM isn’t based on science, but on Taoism, a religion. Yes, the philosophical ideas of Taoism can be positive. But as a medical practice, it’s no more scientific the western medieval idea of “humors,” which led to the practice of blood-letting. TCM practitioners believe you have to preserve “chi,” a similar idea and equally without scientific evidence. Your choice, of course, but we do live in an age of science.

  9. <>

    I would dispute that our teeth are designed to chew meat or crunch bones. Try wrestling a pig to the ground with your bare hands and making a meal out of it. Our teeth are designed (or evolved) for chewing not ripping and tearing.

    William Roberts is a leading cardiovascular pathologist. He is the current editor of the American Journal of Cardiology— a position he has held since 1982. He has published over 1,500 articles. Roberts served as the first head of the pathology service at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health from 1964 to 1993. He has been located at Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute and Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas since 1993.

    Dr Roberts wrote an editorial titled, “We think we are one, we act as if we are one, but we are not one”. He was referring to us thinking that we are “carnivores”. His conclusion is:

    Although we think we are one and act as if we were one, human beings are not natural carnivores. When we kill animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh […] was never intended for human beings […].

    Carnivores have claws to hunt prey, smaller stomach and intestines, synthesize vitamin C, lap water, have sharper teeth, and have stronger jaws.

    Roberts, W. C. (1991) We think we are one, we act as if we are one, but we are not one. American Journal of Cardiology. 66 (10), 896.

    Harding, R. (2017) Low-Carbohydrate Mania: The Fantasies, Delusions, and Myths. Balboa Press.

  10. A vegan diet may not be optimal for testosterone levels (see studies below). It probably isn’t a significant enough change for most people to care or notice and some of these studies have small number of people involved but if you do care you may not want to completely give up animal protein. For someone athletic it can be very uncomfortable to eat enough plant food to give you enough protein because of the high fiber in the high protein food. I wouldn’t see this being an issue for most people but it definitely is for me.

  11. I’d be more uncomfortable about knowing that eating animals and their bodily secretions vastly increases the risk of developing most of our common diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, common cancers, type II diabetes etc, due to the cholesterol, saturated fat, hydrogenated fat, heme iron, IGF-1 increasing properties and more.

    Plus, exploiting, enslaving, abusing and murdering animals for no other reason than because it’s tradition and we enjoy their taste is far more “uncomfortable” for the sentient being that doesn’t want to die.

  12. I thought the following interesting, “Researchers have tried exposing cells from aborted fetal human penises to these kinds of dietary pollutants…” The trafficking and sale of aborted fetal body parts is against federal law. I’m not interested in any studies that participate in such behavior no matter how much it increases my health.

    1. I hear you Tyrone and am inclined to agree, that I am unwilling to derive benefit from abortion itself. However, it doesn’t say anything about sale or trafficking. It is my (possibly incorrect) understanding that fetal tissue from abortions is sometimes used on a donated basis. Still uncomfortable with that, but such use does not cause, promote, or lead anyone to profit from the abortion itself. Just as accepting a donated organ from a victim of a car crash does not cause, promote, or lead anyone to profit from car crashes.

      Still, I agree with your discomfort.

      That said, I applaud the honestly of saying where the tissue in question came from. It would be easier to just sidestep that info. At least the honestly allows people the opportunity to critically think about it.

  13. I read a fascinating article in WSJ (05/15/17): “A Farm Grows in the City” which mainly refers to the fact that food (greens) is grown closer to where people live. The greens, in one instance, are grown in trays, stacked 36 feet high in a high tech vertical farm (16 acres of food grow on a floor of 1/8 acre). The question that concerns me and was not touched upon: are hydroponically produced greens grown under LED light as healthful as those grown under natural condition since some toxins could potentially be screened out?

    1. One of the leading issues with hydroponic based greens appears to be minerals. Much of the minerals contained in organic foods come from the soil. With hydroponics there is no actual soil. And some of the desired minerals aren’t compatible with the liquid water substrate.

  14. Hello!

    That’s a nice post you have there. However, I was wondering if there are any foods in particular that you would recommend as a way to naturally boost testosterone.

  15. Excercise is the best way to boost testosterone.
    Go to the gym and move some weights.
    It also fires up your metabolism and helps with HGH (Human Growth Hormone) in addition to bone strength.

  16. Stop called it sexual dysfunction

    this genocentric society invented this word sexual “dysfunction” to imply that we males born to serve and satisfy females
    we are not slaves
    even though modern society make us slaves.
    if a male want a big penis it’s not to make the female happy
    he want it for himself
    so stop calling it dysfunction
    we are not here to serve females
    they already enjoy special treatment because they were born with golden uterus
    if anyone need to satisfy other in sex is the female need to satisfy her man
    not vice versa
    they already takes advantage of hypergamy
    males bust their asses to provide these princess with resources and protection
    and now they have the nerve to think we should satisfy them also in bed
    sex is the prize a male earn for his hard efforts

    Ironically this anti-male modern society love blames men on objectifying the female(and generally blame men just about everything)
    but at least we see females as entire body
    not just penis

    when the conversation is about to man and testosterone
    all the discussion is mainly if not entirely about the penis
    penis penis penis penis……
    it’s like a very bad joke
    you said yourself that testosterone is also very important to the brain,
    and that testosterone help to improve cognitive function and reduce depression
    it could be nice if you focus about these benefits more
    instead of focus almost exclusively on the male sexual organ
    male is much more than just penis
    is a person
    males built civilization
    without men females were now lived in the stone age or were gone extinct
    the same can’t be say for the opposite case
    because males don’t need females for other purpose other than reproductive function

  17. I’m 16 years old and went on a vegan diet 7 months ago. Got a blood test in December and I was deficient in b12 and d3 but now I am supplementing and feel so much better. Every thing else is fine but my testosterone is 271. But I grew I have a deep voice have hair everywhere except not too much facial hair. I’m going to see a specialist soon but am I normal. Is this caused by drinking milk my whole life. Pls help.

    1. Hi Alec Rodriguez, thank you for your question and also well done for taking action at such a young age to eat healthier. There are studies that indicates association of vitamin D and testosterone level.
      When estimating the association between 25(OH)D and free testosterone calculated according to Vermeulen et al. (12) positive associations of 25(OH) D and free testosterone were observed in all models (data not shown).
      Also Dr Greger has videos on dietary pollutant that I include here for you. I hope these information are useful to you.

      Dietary Pollutants May Affect Testosterone Levels
      Association between plasma 25-OH vitamin D and testosterone levels in men

  18. The following list of foods that kill testosterone are the ones you should try to eliminate from your daily diet:

    1. Soy – you do not need to stop eating at your favorite oriental restaurant because a little soy sauce will not hurt you. The problem occurs when you drink a lot of soy milk, eat tofu, and don’t check the labels of your processed foods for soy products.
    Too much soy will reduce your testosterone levels, potentially lower your sperm count, and diminish your sex drive.
    2. Alcohol – while one drink might help get you “in the mood,” too much alcohol can lead to erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, trouble with climax and orgasm, and decrease testosterone levels.
    3. Processed Foods – food in its natural state is the best fuel that you can give your body. The more ingredients you see on the label, and the less it looks like a whole food product, the more it can harm your hormone levels. Refined carbohydrates including baked goods made from white flour are among the worst foods you can eat. Not only will testosterone levels decline, but estrogen levels will rise, leading to weight gain.
    Some of the foods to look out for in this group are popcorn, cornflakes, canned soups (think high sodium), deli meats (not just the meats themselves, but also the chemicals coming from the plastic wraps), and trans-fat containing baked goods.
    4. Sugar – one of the worst foods for hormones, sugar increases insulin levels that cause you store belly fat, decreasing testosterone, increasing estrogen, adding more belly fat, and destroying your libido.
    5. Hormone-Containing Foods – hormones, xenoestrogens (chemical forms of estrogens), and phytoestrogens (in foods and plants) all can lead to a condition called estrogen dominance. When this occurs, testosterone levels decline and higher levels of estrogen can lead to weight gain, man boobs, prostate problems, fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, depression, and other concerns.


  19. I looked at the study you cited but it was a small study on glucose not the complex carbohydrates that are part of the whole food plant based diet. Refined simple carbohydrates are closer to the glucose used in this study, but not complex. recommended. While this is not a research article it provides a good explanation of how simple versus complex carbs affect testerone with references citing valid research studies. I think it will answer your question quite well.

    1. thanks, Ive read the article and studies referenced there.
      My second question. How much white cap mushrooms or raw broccoli i have to consume to stop aromatization of testosterone into estrogen ?
      And how much earlier before meal ?

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