Testosterone, a primary sex hormone, regulates significant body functions such as sexual development, preserving muscle mass, managing fat levels, and maintaining strong bones.
It is also linked to mental sharpness, mood stability, energy, and sexual drive.
Despite its distinct association with male reproductive health, testosterone is essential for both men and women.
For men, testosterone is essential in sperm production and erectile function, while for women, it plays a role in the menstrual cycle and fertility.
Testosterone is crucial for everyone’s physical and mental well-being, but its levels are typically higher in males, and its decline is a more significant health concern for this group.
Therefore, this article focuses on how diet can promote healthy testosterone levels in men.
In this article, we use the terms “men” and “women” as they’re often tied to biological differences impacting testosterone levels. However, personal experiences with this condition may not align with traditional gender classifications. Consult a doctor to understand how your specific circumstances may affect your testosterone levels and overall health.
What causes low testosterone levels
In men, testosterone production typically peaks during adolescence and early adulthood before gradually declining with age.
While this reduction is considered part of the normal aging process, low testosterone (hypogonadism) can occur at any age due to certain medications, medical conditions like obesity, or lifestyle factors, including an unhealthy diet.
How are low testosterone levels and diet related?
Although limited scientific studies exist on the direct impact of individual foods on testosterone, maintaining healthy testosterone levels is closely linked to the intake of certain key nutrients.
Cara Harbstreet, registered dietitian and owner of Street Smart Nutrition, explains, “Our bodies can produce hormones, but in order to do so, they require adequate amounts of the building materials needed. The most readily available source comes through our diet.”
The following nutrients may be instrumental in sustaining optimum testosterone levels:
- 1. Omega-3s
- 2. Vitamin D
- 3. Magnesium
- 4. Zinc
- 5. Selenium
- 6. Flavonoid antioxidants
Below is a breakdown of dietitian-recommended food sources for each of these nutrients.
Foods that may increase testosterone naturally
While certain high-fat foods like fried and ultra-processed foods may decrease testosterone levels, healthy fats from whole food sources may promote the production of this hormone.
A 2020 study involving individuals with obesity discovered that men who consumed fish oil with omega-3 fatty acids experienced an increase in testosterone levels. Particularly, DHA, a specific omega-3 fatty acid, was identified as beneficial.
Omega-3 fats also exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, which can aid in mitigating conditions that may contribute to low testosterone levels, such as obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Michelle Routhenstein, preventive cardiology dietitian at EntirelyNourished.com, recommends fatty fish rich in DHA, including sardines, salmon, herring, and rainbow trout.
Other excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids include chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and algal oil, which is derived from algae and is a good fish oil alternative for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
While omega-3s have shown potential, more comprehensive and long-term studies are needed to fully understand their impact on testosterone levels.
Another essential nutrient for male reproductive health, research links low vitamin D levels to decreased testosterone levels in men.
However, the potential of vitamin D supplements to boost testosterone levels still requires more extensive, long-term research.
To maintain healthy vitamin D levels, prioritize a balanced diet before considering supplementation.
Rich food sources of vitamin D include:
- Egg yolks
- Fortified dairy and plant-based alternatives
- Mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight
- Fortified tofu
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified 100% juices
Harbstreet adds, “Salmon is high in protein, omega-3s, and zinc and is one of the few foods that naturally contains vitamin D.”
“And don’t overlook plant-based foods that are high in magnesium, such as dark leafy greens,” says Harbstreet.
For men experiencing both low magnesium and low testosterone levels, research has shown elevating magnesium intake can potentially increase testosterone production.
This occurs directly and indirectly, as one of the key roles of magnesium in the body is to facilitate the conversion of vitamin D into its active form, thereby influencing testosterone levels.
As suggested by Harbstreet, dark, leafy greens are excellent dietary sources of magnesium. These include greens such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard.
Other magnesium-rich foods to consider are:
- Nuts and seeds
- Minimally processed whole grains
- Dark chocolate (at least 70%)
- Some types of fatty fish, like mackerel and halibut
Zinc is essential for male reproductive health, and a zinc deficiency can hinder the production of testosterone.
Dietary zinc is primarily found in animal products, especially shellfish, so individuals following a vegan or vegetarian diet may be at higher risk for zinc deficiency.
Routhensteine recommends oysters, pumpkin seeds, and chicken as rich sources of zinc.
Other animal-based foods high in zinc include meat, eggs, and dairy products, while zinc-rich plant-based foods include nuts, seeds, legumes, and minimally processed whole grains.
Cooked peas, corn, regular and sweet potatoes, asparagus, and dark, leafy green vegetables also contain small amounts of zinc.
Routhenstein says, “Selenium may help increase testosterone levels when combined with other minerals like zinc, magnesium, and copper.”
Selenium is not only vital for reproductive health, but also thyroid functionality, DNA synthesis, and safeguarding the body against oxidative damage and infections.
“Selenium is a mineral with potent antioxidant properties,” adds Routhenstein. She recommends incorporating dietary sources of selenium, including Brazil nuts (the richest source), halibut, and shiitake mushrooms.
Harbstreet agrees, recommending eggs as a good source. “Eggs provide protein, selenium, and can offer a little extra vitamin D. If you include them, be sure to eat the yolk vs. only the whites, as you’ll be missing out on key nutrients if you skip them,” she concludes.
Phytonutrients are plant-based compounds that protect cells, reduce inflammation, and support hormone production. Flavonoid antioxidants, a type of phytonutrient, have been linked to improved testosterone levels.
“Consuming antioxidants and flavonoids has been shown to reduce oxidative stress which may help support better testosterone production,” explains Routhenstein.
According to a 2020 study published in Antioxidants, an open-access journal, flavonoid antioxidants may delay the onset of late-stage hypogonadism, a condition associated with decreased testosterone levels in aging males.
Rich sources of flavonoids include:
- Honey and tea
- Onions, leafy greens, and vegetables like broccoli
- Citrus fruits like grapefruit
- Apples, plums, cherries, black grapes, and pomegranates
- Berries like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries
- Chickpeas, soybeans, and soy products
- Cocao power and low sugar, 70% dark chocolate
More research is needed to determine the impact of flavonoid antioxidants on testosterone levels. However, consuming plant-based foods that contain these substances can benefit overall health.
Testosterone-boosting food list
Most of these foods are available in local markets or can be conveniently ordered from online grocery or health food stores.
Here is a sample grocery list of foods recommended by dietitians to support testosterone levels:
- Strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Pomegranate juice (100% juice)
Meat & Seafood Section:
- Vitamin D-fortified dairy or plant-based alternatives
Nuts & Seeds:
- Brazil nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Ground flaxseeds
Other/section may vary:
- Whole grain cereals with wheat bran, like sugar-free muesli
- Sprouted grains like Ezekial bread
- Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content
- Chickpeas (dried or frozen)
- Other beans and lentils (dried or frozen)
- Soybeans (fresh or frozen) or soy products like unsweetened soy milk
- Honey (pure, grade A)
- Unsweetened tea like green or chamomile tea
This list is not comprehensive but provides foods that may help increase testosterone levels for informational purposes.
Before making significant dietary changes, consult a doctor or dietitian to ensure they are suitable for your health needs.
The Bottom Line
Optimal testosterone levels can be supported by consuming foods rich in nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and flavonoid antioxidants.
However, increasing your intake of a specific nutrient may only provide benefits if you lack that nutrient in your diet.
And while correcting a nutrient deficiency may help bring testosterone levels back to a normal range, it won’t necessarily boost testosterone levels above average or healthy ranges.
Seek individualized testing and treatment advice from a healthcare professional if you have concerns about low testosterone.
The content presented in this article is intended solely for informational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Readers should seek advice from a healthcare professional before initiating any dietary modifications, lifestyle changes, or supplement regimens.
We review published medical research in respected scientific journals to arrive at our conclusions about a product or health topic. This ensures the highest standard of scientific accuracy.
 Dietary supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid rich fish oil increases circulating levels of testosterone in overweight and obese men: https://www.plefa.com/article/S0952-3278%2820%2930162-9/fulltext
 Omega-3 Fatty Acids: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
 Causal Link Between Vitamin D and Total Testosterone in Men: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30896763/
 Vitamin D: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/
 Magnesium: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer/
 The Interplay between Magnesium and Testosterone in Modulating Physical Function in Men: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24723948/
 Zinc Deficiency: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493231/
 Zinc: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/
 Role of Selenium and Selenoproteins in Male Reproductive Function: A Review of Past and Present Evidences: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6719970/
 Selenium: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-Consumer/
 Flavonoids: an overview: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5465813/
 Improvement of Testicular Steroidogenesis Using Flavonoids and Isoflavonoids for Prevention of Late-Onset Male Hypogonadism: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7139932/