Although these foods have been linked to lower testosterone levels, they aren’t replacements for anti-androgen medication.
You might’ve heard that certain foods can decrease testosterone levels. Perhaps you’re hoping to lower your testosterone levels naturally, or perhaps you’re looking to support or boost your testosterone.
Some research suggests that high amounts of certain foods might lower testosterone in some people. However, most of these foods need to be researched further before it’s clear whether they can lower testosterone levels.
Much of the research is either outdated, based on nonhuman participants (such as rats), or based on small clinical trials.
It’s best to consult a doctor or healthcare professional before changing your diet, especially if you have an underlying health condition to consider.
You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points is pretty binary, fluctuating between the use of “male” and “female” or “men” and “women.”
Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.
Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.
Most vegetable oils contain high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Although polyunsaturated fats can be a healthy source of fat, high amounts of polyunsaturated fats are associated with lower testosterone levels.
Primarily found in processed foods, trans fats are generally considered harmful to one’s health. This is particularly true for artificial trans fats, also known as industrial trans fats or partially hydrogenated fats.
In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they were banning partially hydrogenated oils — the primary source of trans fats — as they don’t meet the FDA’s requirements for being considered “generally recognized as safe.”
However, you can still find some trans fatty acids in processed foods.
High amounts of sugar might affect your testosterone level.
Another recent review of studies found a link between high calorie, high sugar diets and lower testosterone levels in men.
Dairy products and desserts were also associated with lower testosterone levels. However, as with sugar, it’s not clear if body fat plays a mediating role.
Can soy decrease testosterone levels? The research is mixed, and the debate on whether soy is healthy or unhealthy is very controversial.
Soy is high in phytoestrogens, which are plant-derived substances that work similarly to estrogen.
An older study from 2005 looked at 35 men. It found that drinking soy protein for 57 days resulted in decreased testosterone levels. However, this was a fairly small study. Another
However, other research on soy and testosterone found conflicting results. An
While research is mixed, it may be best to consume soy in moderation if you have clinically low testosterone levels.
Flaxseed is high in lignans, which might lower testosterone levels.
Lignans bind to testosterone and may expel it from the body. An
However, another recent study found the opposite. A total of 41 women with PCOS were divided into two groups: one group made lifestyle changes, whereas the other group made lifestyle changes and used flaxseed supplements. Although the participants who used flaxseed had improved biomarkers, flaxseed didn’t seem to affect their testosterone levels.
More research on flaxseed must be conducted to clarify whether it can reduce testosterone levels. But moderate amounts of flaxseed in your diet are unlikely to make a major difference.
Walnuts and almonds seem to increase your production of a substance called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG transports testosterone and other hormones throughout your body. Higher amounts of SHBG cause lower levels of free testosterone in the body.
Most studies on this topic, however, focus on women. An
This might be because almonds are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Drinking alcohol in excess is associated with many health hazards.
Popular as teas, peppermint and spearmint might lower testosterone levels. An
Interestingly, in another study, researchers applied spearmint oil to rats with PCOS every day for 20 days. It lowered testosterone levels. Another study also found that spearmint lowered testosterone levels in rats with PCOS.
Given that most of these studies are conducted on rats, it’s difficult to confidently say whether it can affect humans or not. More human-based research will provide insights.
Licorice root is another herb that’s frequently enjoyed as a tea. It might lower testosterone levels.
A review of 28 studies found that licorice root had weak anti-androgen properties and, in general, promoted healthy hormonal function in people assigned female at birth and people assigned male at birth.
However, as the review notes, more human-based clinical studies are needed.
Why might someone want to lower their testosterone levels?
There are many reasons why people might try to lower their testosterone levels. For example, they might have a condition like PCOS. This hormone imbalance can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms.
Additionally, some people who are assigned male at birth might be a different gender than the one they were prescribed — for example, they might be a woman or nonbinary — and they might want to lower their testosterone levels if they want to medically transition.
However, lowering testosterone through anti-androgen medication is more effective and predictable than doing so through the foods mentioned above.
What exactly causes low testosterone levels?
Although certain foods might have an effect on your testosterone levels, other factors might also contribute to low testosterone levels.
Low testosterone can be caused by:
- aging, as your testosterone levels can naturally decrease with age
- medications, such as opioid pain medications and steroids, that can affect your pituitary gland
- health conditions that affect the pituitary gland
- high body fat
- severe emotional or physical stress
- inherited conditions that affect the testicles such as undescended testicles or Klinefelter syndrome
- acquired conditions that affect the testicles such as testicular cancer
If you’re hoping to lower your testosterone levels, it’s best to speak with a healthcare professional such as an endocrinologist.
What if you want to boost your testosterone levels?
Although there are many supplements labeled “testosterone boosters,” there isn’t enough research to support their effectiveness. In fact, some “testosterone-boosting” products don’t actually contain ingredients that support their claims, according to
However, certain supplements can give your body the nutrients it needs to support healthy testosterone production. Bear in mind, though, that it’s important to opt for quality, proven supplements.
Overall, a healthy lifestyle — including eating a balanced diet and managing stress in a healthy way — can support your hormonal health. Getting enough sleep and a decent amount of exercise are also two ways to naturally boost testosterone.
High amounts of certain foods might naturally decrease testosterone levels. But in general, as long as you’re eating a balanced diet, your hormone levels will probably be healthy.
Some people do have health conditions that cause low testosterone levels. If this applies to you, it’s best to follow a healthy lifestyle and speak with a healthcare professional about treatment options.
Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.