Lifestyle changes — and medications, if needed — can often help increase low testosterone levels. Certain foods, such as fish, leafy greens, eggs, and cocoa products, may also help increase testosterone to a healthy level.
Testosterone is a sex hormone that affects:
- sex drive
- bone and muscle health
- sperm production
- blood cell production
Testosterone levels decline as you age. But other factors can also cause low testosterone, including certain medications, high body fat levels, and some health conditions (
A health-promoting lifestyle, including a nutritious diet, is important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels. Some studies have found that diets high in ultra-processed foods and low in nutrient-dense foods may contribute to low testosterone (
If you have low testosterone, follow a medical professional’s recommendations. Additionally, you may consider adopting a dietary pattern rich in foods that contain nutrients important for maintaining healthy testosterone levels.
Many nutrients, including vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc, are important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels (
However, there’s limited research investigating the impact of specific foods on testosterone.
This article looks into 7 foods rich in nutrients that may help promote healthy testosterone levels.
Low testosterone, also called hypogonadism or low T, occurs when testosterone levels fall below 300 nanograms per deciliter. Low testosterone can be treated medically with testosterone replacement therapy (
Hypogonadism is very common. In fact, around 40% of men older than 45 and 50% of men in their 80s are considered hypogonadal (
1. Fatty fish
Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines are high in nutrients that are important for hormonal health, such as vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Although certain high fat foods, such as fried foods, have been linked to decreased testosterone levels in some people, research has also shown that low fat diets may be detrimental to testosterone levels (
A 2021 review of six studies found that low fat dietary patterns were associated with decreased testosterone levels compared with higher fat dietary patterns (
However, the researchers noted that more high quality studies are needed to fully understand this relationship.
Regardless, adding sources of healthy fats, such as fatty fish, to your diet will likely benefit your overall health, including hormonal health.
What’s more, fatty fish are good sources of zinc, vitamin D, and protein — nutrients that are important for maintaining healthy testosterone levels.
Research suggests that men with low vitamin D levels tend to have lower testosterone than men with higher vitamin D levels. This is because vitamin D is essential for male reproductive health (
If you dislike eating fish, you might consider trying a fish oil supplement. Read our dietitian’s review of the 14 best fish oil supplements on the market in 2023.
2. Dark, leafy greens
Dark, leafy greens are an excellent source of micronutrients, including magnesium, a mineral that’s critical for maintaining optimal testosterone levels, especially in older men.
Magnesium is thought to increase testosterone bioactivity because it reduces oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between antioxidant defenses and free radicals in your body.
Oxidative stress and inflammation can reduce testosterone levels, so introducing nutrients that address oxidative stress may help you maintain healthy testosterone levels (
An older study of 399 men ages 65 and older found that those who had more magnesium in their blood had higher testosterone levels than those with lower magnesium levels (
Additionally, a study in Taiwanese men found that low intake of leafy green vegetables was linked to lower testosterone (
Therefore, eating more magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, may help promote healthy testosterone levels.
3. Cocoa products
Cocoa products such as cocoa powder and cacao nibs are high in magnesium and flavonoid antioxidants, both of which are important for testosterone.
Flavonoids are plant compounds that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in your body.
Studies suggest that certain flavonoids, including cocoa flavonoids such as quercetin and apigenin, may help increase testosterone production from cells in the testicles called Leydig cells. These cells are responsible for 95% of total testosterone production in men (
When you shop for cocoa products, you may want to choose ones that contain no added sugar or only small amounts of added sugar. Consider cocoa powder, cacao nibs, or low sugar dark chocolate for their impressive health benefits.
Avocados provide healthy fat, which is important for hormonal health. Plus, avocados contain magnesium and a mineral called boron, which studies indicate may benefit testosterone levels (
Boron is a trace mineral that seems to influence testosterone metabolism in the body and may protect against testosterone degradation (14).
Though some studies show that supplementing with high levels of boron may help boost testosterone in certain people, study results are mixed. More research is needed to fully understand how boron supplements affect testosterone (
While boron supplements are not currently recommended for increasing testosterone, adding dietary sources of this mineral, such as avocados, may help maintain healthy testosterone levels.
Egg yolks are rich in healthy fat, protein, and selenium, a mineral that acts as an antioxidant in your body.
According to some test-tube and animal studies, selenium may help enhance the production of testosterone by activating certain pathways and the expression of certain genes (
Additionally, some studies in humans and animals have found that testosterone levels are higher in those with optimal selenium levels in their blood (
However, we need more research, especially in humans, before we can draw conclusions about selenium’s effect on testosterone.
Eggs are highly nutritious and can be a beneficial part of your diet, unless you have an egg allergy. Remember that whole eggs are much more nutritious than plain egg whites, since the yolks contain most of the micronutrients.
6. Berries, cherries, and pomegranates
Berries, cherries, and pomegranates are high in flavonoid antioxidants, which may help protect testosterone-producing cells from damage and increase testosterone production (
An older study in rats found that pomegranate juice supplementation helped protect against induced oxidative stress, increased testosterone levels, and helped protect Leydig cells (which produce testosterone) from injury (
What’s more, limited evidence suggests that supplementing with pomegranate juice may help increase levels of salivary testosterone in male athletes (
However, we need more research in humans to determine whether pomegranates or their juice can affect testosterone.
Pomegranates, berries, and cherries may also help protect against obesity-induced inflammation, which can lower testosterone levels (
Consuming antioxidant-rich foods such as these fruits may promote overall health, including hormonal health.
Shellfish such as oysters and clams are excellent sources of zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which may support optimal testosterone levels.
Because of zinc’s important role in reproductive health, zinc deficiency can cause hypogonadism (
High dose zinc supplements appear to be effective for treating hypogonadism in some men, but zinc supplements are not currently recommended as a universal treatment for hypogonadism (
Still, eating foods high in nutrients that are important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels — such as zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids — may support hormonal health.
Following a nutritious diet to support your overall health, including your hormonal health, doesn’t have to be expensive.
While some foods rich in testosterone-supportive nutrients can be pricey, there are plenty of ways to save cash at the grocery store without sacrificing nutrition or food quality.
Here are some tips to try on your next shopping trip:
- Buy canned or frozen seafood: Seafood such as salmon and shellfish can be expensive when you buy it fresh. Frozen and canned seafood products tend to be more affordable. Canned sardines and oysters and frozen shrimp and salmon are excellent sources of selenium, zinc, and omega-3s, all of which may help support healthy testosterone levels.
- Opt for frozen fruits and vegetables: Frozen fruits and vegetables are more affordable than fresh produce and last much longer. Plus, frozen produce is just as nutritious as fresh fruits and vegetables, so you’ll still be getting the same health benefits (
- Buy local produce and eggs if you can: Check out farmers markets and visit local farms to get fresh, in-season produce. Farmers often sell eggs at affordable prices too. In addition to saving money by buying vegetables and fruits directly from farmers, you’ll be supporting your local community.
- Store your avocados correctly: If you want to keep avocados as fresh as possible, store avocado halves flesh-side down in a sealed glass container full of water in your fridge. Avocado experts swear by this method to keep the fruit fresh and prevent browning.
Creating a shopping list and planning your weekly menu ahead of time can also help you stay on task while shopping so that you can prevent impulse purchases, cut back on food waste, and save money.
Health-promoting dietary changes may help with low testosterone, but they’re not a cure for hypogonadism. A doctor must confirm that you have low testosterone through a physical exam and blood test.
If you receive a diagnosis of low testosterone, your doctor may prescribe testosterone replacements, which are available in several forms (
- tablets or pills
- skin patches
- topical gel
These medications can come with the risk of serious side effects, so make sure you discuss all of them with your doctor.
Additionally, consider making dietary adjustments to boost your overall health, not just to treat low testosterone.
Factors such as body weight and certain lifestyle habits can affect your testosterone levels as well.
For example, men with obesity are more likely to develop hypogonadism than moderate-weight men (
Therefore, maintaining a moderate weight is critical for hormonal health.
Getting more physical activity, quitting smoking (if you smoke), and cutting back on alcohol and drug use may also help improve testosterone levels if you have low testosterone (
This section answers some common questions about factors that may affect testosterone levels and the symptoms you may experience with low testosterone.
What are the symptoms of low testosterone levels?
Symptoms of low testosterone include (
- decreased spontaneous erections
- decreased sex drive
- reduced testicular size
- reduced bone and muscle mass
- loss of body hair
- excessive sweating
Keep in mind that symptoms related to low testosterone are nonspecific and overlap with symptoms of other health conditions, some of which are potentially serious.
You should not self-diagnose low testosterone. If you suspect you may have low testosterone, consult a healthcare professional for proper testing.
What is the main cause of low testosterone?
Many factors can affect testosterone levels, including older age, a high body fat percentage, and nutrient deficiencies.
Normal aging is one of the main causes of low testosterone or hypogonadism. In fact, half of men in their 80s are considered hypogonadal (
After age 30, testosterone levels decrease by 1–2% per year. Certain chronic diseases, weight gain, and some medications can speed up this decrease (
Even though aging usually leads to a significant decline in testosterone levels, a healthcare professional can recommend appropriate medical treatments to help boost testosterone levels and improve symptoms related to low testosterone.
Can drinking and drug use impact testosterone levels?
Yes. Research shows that misuse of alcohol and drugs can affect sex hormone levels, including reducing testosterone (
In fact, alcohol and drug use is recognized as a potentially reversible cause of hypogonadism (
If you’re concerned about substance misuse, there are ways to get help. You can visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for more information on treatment and support.
Are “testosterone-boosting supplements” safe?
It’s not a good idea to use supplements marketed as “testosterone boosters.”
Many of these supplements contain ingredients, such as herbs, that could potentially interact with medications or cause other dangerous side effects.
For example, pulmonary embolism and elevated liver enzymes are just some complications that have been associated with the use of supplements marketed to boost testosterone (
Plus, a study that evaluated 50 “T booster” supplements found that more than 10% of the supplements contained ingredients that may negatively affect testosterone levels (
The study also found that many of the supplements contained unnecessarily high amounts of certain nutrients, such as zinc and vitamin B3.
If you suspect you have low testosterone, avoid supplements marketed as “testosterone boosters.” Instead, talk with a healthcare professional for advice on safe, evidence-based treatments.
Diet and lifestyle can affect your hormonal health, including your testosterone levels.
Consuming more foods rich in nutrients that are important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels — such as vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, and flavonoid antioxidants — may help support hormonal health.
However, if you have low testosterone or suspect that you’re experiencing symptoms of low testosterone, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for advice on the right testing and treatment.