Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/18/2023
As a man, maintaining normal levels of testosterone is critical not just for your health, but also for your quality of life and well-being.
Testosterone is more than just the hormone that puts hair on your chest. It also plays an important role in regulating your sex drive, fueling your reproductive health and allowing you to maintain stable levels of energy, healthy bones and an optimal red blood cell count.
Unfortunately, many men struggle to maintain normal testosterone levels. Low testosterone, or “low-T,” affects as many as five million men in the United States alone, and it isn’t just the older men, according to an article published in the Boston University School of Medicine journal, Sexual Medicine.
Though testosterone production naturally starts to decline after you reach the age of 30, low-T appears to affect younger and younger men with every passing year.
Luckily, we're finding out more about the effects of low testosterone all the time, as well as the most reliable treatment options for increasing testosterone levels.
Interestingly, the food that you eat on a daily basis might have an impact on your testosterone levels, and adding certain testosterone-friendly foods to your dietary plans (or avoiding foods that aren’t so ideal for testosterone production) may help to boost your testosterone levels.
Below, we’ve listed 12 foods that may help to increase testosterone, as well as the most recent scientific evidence behind each one.
We’ve also shared some other strategies that you may want to consider if you’re worried about your testosterone levels, including medical treatments for low testosterone.
Your diet has a huge impact on your health, including on certain aspects of your body’s ability to produce and use hormones.
Over the years, researchers have discovered that some foods appear to have a direct impact on hormone production. This is because your body uses a variety of nutrients to produce hormones such as testosterone.
Since issues like obesity can affect your testosterone levels, your diet also has an indirect effect on your hormonal health. When you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you’re more likely to be able to maintain a healthy weight that promotes optimal hormonal levels.
In short, the answer is both yes and no. While a balanced diet might not be enough to treat very low testosterone levels on its own, prioritizing the right foods may have a positive effect on your body’s ability to maintain healthy testosterone production.
We’ve long known that diet has an impact on men’s health and wellness. Over the last few decades, research on certain foods and cooking ingredients has started to explore their potential impact on the production of hormones, including testosterone.
Since we know you don’t want to wait too long to find out which specific foods may play a role in the production of testosterone, here they are:
Vitamin-enriched milk and other dairy products
Now, before we get into the specifics of each food, it’s important to give a little disclaimer. Right now, we only have limited information about the effects of certain foods on your body’s ability to produce testosterone.
In fact, certain foods aren’t directly linked to testosterone at all -- instead, they contain omega-3 fatty acids, cholesterol and other essential chemicals that are used to create testosterone within your body.
Although these foods may help to increase testosterone levels, not all of them are backed up by studies showing a clear causative relationship.
Put simply, it’s best to think of your diet as one of many factors that might increase testosterone production -- not as the sole cause of high or low testosterone levels.
With this out of the way, let’s get started with a few readily available cooking ingredients that you can add to your diet for healthier hormone levels.
Coconut is rich in saturated fats, with research published in the Ghana Medical Journal suggesting that consumption of coconut causes an increase in blood cholesterol levels.
Although high cholesterol levels are linked to poor cardiovascular health, cholesterol is a critical substance that’s used to treat testosterone within your body. In fact, your Leydig cells, which are found inside your testicles, function specifically to convert cholesterol into testosterone.
Animal studies published in the journal, Nutrition, also suggest that coconut oil is associated with high testosterone levels, as well as increased testicular antioxidants.
However, there currently isn’t any high quality research that shows a clear link between coconut consumption and changes in testosterone production in humans.
Olive oil has long been promoted as a healthy oil for cooking and seasoning food. Research is also increasingly suggesting that it may offer benefits for promoting healthy levels of hormones such as testosterone.
In one study published in the journal, Natural Product Communications, researchers found that men who replaced butter with olive oil for a period of three weeks showed a 17.4 percent increase in testosterone levels.
The men also showed a 42.6 percent increase in levels of luteinizing hormone, which is closely associated with testosterone and sperm production.
To access the health benefits of olive oil, try using it as a replacement for butter or your existing choice of cooking oil.
Rich in antioxidants, pomegranates have been used medicinally throughout history as a remedy for high blood pressure, heart disease and certain forms of sexual dysfunction.
Although there’s little research into the effects of pomegranate juice on testosterone in humans, animal studies published in the journal, BMC Complimentary Medicine and Therapies, have found that pomegranate juice is associated with increased levels of in male sex hormones such as testosterone and luteinizing hormone.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that pomegranate boosts testosterone in men, but it’s certainly a promising sign that it may have some effects.
More recently, a small study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition involving elite weightlifters found that pomegranate juice produced an increase in the testosterone/cortisol ratio after exercise.
However, both testosterone and cortisol levels returned to their baseline values over the course of 48 hours, suggesting that pomegranate’s effects on hormone levels may be temporary. The effect of pomegranate juice on testosterone was also less than that of a placebo treatment.
It’s also worth noting that this study only involved a sample of nine people.
Although whey protein is best known for its muscle-building properties, some research suggests that it may also offer hormonal health benefits.
For example, a small study involving 10 people published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2013 found that men who used a whey protein isolate supplement in the morning for 14 days showed a blunted cortisol response after exercising.
Although there’s no direct link between whey protein and testosterone, research published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine has found that large amounts of cortisol -- a stress hormone -- can reduce testosterone levels.
By reducing cortisol response, whey protein may help to reduce the effects of cortisol release on testosterone production, all while supplying amino acids that function as building blocks for your muscle mass.
Garlic is associated with numerous potential health benefits, including reducing total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. It might also help to increase testosterone levels due to its rich content of allicin, a compound that targets cortisol.
Allicin appears to reduce levels of cortisol within your body -- a hormone that competes against testosterone inside muscle cells.
Although there’s no human research into garlic’s effects on testosterone, animal studies published in the Journal of Nutrition suggest that garlic supplementation may be linked to higher testosterone levels, as well as a reduction in plasma corticosterone concentrations.
Known as an aphrodisiac, oysters are packed full of nutrients that offer health benefits, including large amounts of zinc.
Zinc plays a key role in numerous processes within your body, including cellular metabolism and immune function. It’s also linked to wound healing, cell division, taste, smell, healthy growth and the synthesis of DNA.
Research suggests that zinc plays a role in modulating testosterone levels. In one study published in the journal, Nutrition, a team of researchers found that men’s average testosterone levels declined when they stopped eating foods that contain zinc.
They also found that men deficient in zinc showed an increase in testosterone levels after using a zinc supplement.
In addition to oysters, you can try other zinc-rich foods as well, such as beef chuck roast, Alaska king crab, lobster, pork, beans and fortified cereals.
Tuna is a lean, healthy protein source, with few, albeit healthy fats and a significant amount of protein per serving. According to an article published by the NIH, it’s also rich in vitamin D, or calciferol -- a fat-soluble vitamin that’s critical for proper calcium absorption, bone health and immune function. Similarly, other fish, like mackerel or sardines, are high in vitamin D.
Vitamin D is linked to testosterone production, with one study published in the journal, Hormones and Metabolic Research, in 2011 suggesting that vitamin D supplementation could lead to higher testosterone levels.
Honey has long been used as a medicine, with literature dating back centuries depicting it as a natural antibacterial agent.
In addition to its sweet taste and potential benefits for preventing infection, honey may offer real benefits for stimulating testosterone production, according to an article published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine.
This is because honey is a good source of a mineral called boron, which is linked with increased levels of testosterone, according to an article published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal.
Honey also contains metabolites of nitric oxide -- a signaling molecule that plays a major role in promoting blood flow throughout the body, according to an article published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.
Since blood flow to the penis plays a key part in promoting healthy erections, this suggests that foods and ingredients like honey may offer benefits for promoting heart health and reducing the severity of erectile dysfunction.
Milk and other dairy products are rich in nutrients, including protein, calcium, riboflavin, zinc and numerous important vitamins, according to an article published in the journal, Nutrients.
Milk also contains significant amounts of boron, which may mean it is a testosterone-boosting food, according to a different article published in the journal, Nutrients.
Although just about any type of milk can offer benefits for your health and well-being, milk that’s enriched with vitamins and other minerals (often called fortified milk) can make it easier to take in the nutrients you need for optimal testosterone production and overall health, aiding in health conditions such as zinc deficiency.
Eggs are highly nutritious, with significant amounts of protein and vitamin D. As we mentioned earlier, vitamin D is thought to play a role in testosterone production, with research suggesting that supplementing vitamin D may increase testosterone levels.
Although there’s no precise link, the albumin in eggs was also associated with an increase in serum testosterone levels in a study of overweight men published in the journal, Nutrients.
Another study published in the Human Kinetics Journal found that the cholesterol intake from egg yolks may have some effect on testosterone levels.
To increase your protein intake and potentially maintain optimal T-levels, try adding egg yolks to your diet in the form of a breakfast omelet or hard-boiled snack during the daytime.
Ginger has been used as a traditional medicine for more than 2,500 years in China. It’s also a common ingredient in countless dishes and herbal remedies, including for common issues such as nausea and vomiting.
Research suggests that ginger may also boost testosterone levels. For example, one review published in the journal, Biomolecules, found that ginger is associated with increased testosterone production in men, particularly in oxidative stress conditions.
Try adding ginger to your diet as a flavoring ingredient in home cooked food, as ginger tea, or in the form of a ginger supplement.
Onions are versatile vegetables that can be used to add stronger flavor to hundreds of different dishes, from salads to grilled meats.
Researchers have studied the potential link between onion consumption and testosterone levels for decades, with studies revealing numerous promising findings.
In one review published in the journal, Biomolecules, in 2019, onion consumption was associated with enhanced antioxidant activity in the testes, reduced free radical damage, increases in nitric oxide production and enhanced testosterone levels.
Add onions to your diet by sautéing them and serving with your favorite meat, adding them to a salad or using them to enhance the flavor of a pan sauce.
If you’ve ever searched online for information about increasing testosterone, you’ve likely come across lists of foods that can purportedly reduce your testosterone levels.
Although there are some foods to avoid when it comes to optimizing testosterone production, it’s important to understand that the theory behind lots of “testosterone-reducing” foods isn’t backed up by real scientific evidence.
As such, it’s best to take any claims you see on Facebook, in forums or elsewhere online with at least a generous pinch of salt.
For example, the popular theory that soy reduces testosterone in men doesn’t appear to be true, at least based on existing scientific evidence.
According to a review published in the journal, Reproductive Toxicology, in 2021, analysis of over 40 peer-reviewed studies shows that there’s no association between soy intake and lower levels of testosterone in men.
In short, there’s no need to worry about a little extra soy sauce, a bowl of miso soup or a serving of tofu reducing your testosterone production.
However, there are a few foods that you’ll want to avoid if you’re aiming for healthy testosterone production. These include foods that contain trans fats, which are linked with lower testosterone levels in otherwise healthy men, according to an article published in the Asian Journal of Andrology.
There’s also a link between industrial chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS), which are used in certain plastics, and low testosterone in men, according to an article published in the journal, Fertility and Sterility. However, the small amounts of these chemicals used in food packaging may not have any effect on sex hormone levels.
So, why is it so important to maintain healthy, consistent testosterone production in your thirties and beyond?
Testosterone plays a key role in almost every aspect of your health and well-being as a man, according to an article published in the journal, Clinical Interventions in Aging. It’s involved in regulating your interest in sex and general sexual function, promoting strong muscle tissue and bones, maintaining your mood and even promoting good cardiovascular health.
It also plays a central role in promoting fertility, with optimal sex hormone levels critical for your sperm health and ability to maintain healthy erections.
There are several factors that contribute to low testosterone, especially in older men. While it’s normal for your production of testosterone to naturally slow down after age 30, having very low testosterone levels as a young man isn’t very common.
In healthy men, the normal level for testosterone is between 300 and 1000 nanograms per liter of blood.
Issues that can affect your testosterone levels include chronic illness, disorders that affect your pituitary, thyroid or adrenal glands, problems with your hypothalamus, sleep difficulties, excess body fat and chronic stress.
Certain medications, including antiandrogens and medications used to treat cancer, also have the potential to affect your sex hormone levels.
If your testosterone levels are abnormally low and you’re starting to experience one or several unpleasant symptoms, your healthcare provider might recommend certain lifestyle changes or other forms of treatment.
These include exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, taking steps to minimize your stress levels and, if necessary, weight loss.
Our guide to how to boost testosterone levels goes into more detail about simple habits and lifestyle changes that you can use for healthier testosterone production.
When lifestyle and diet changes alone aren’t enough to increase your testosterone production, your healthcare provider may suggest testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
TRT can provide real improvements in your testosterone levels. However, it can result in side effects, including a reduction in your sperm count, prostate enlargement, sleep problems and cardiovascular health issues.
As such, it’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider and pay attention for any side effects if you’re prescribed testosterone.
Testosterone is critical for just about every aspect of men’s health, from your muscle mass and skeletal strength to your mood, energy levels and reproductive function.
For optimal testosterone production, try to eat a balanced diet that includes the foods above, along with plenty of fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables and a healthy intake of fatty fish.
If you’re worried that you may have low testosterone, it’s best to reach out to your healthcare provider. They’ll be able to check your blood testosterone levels and, if appropriate, suggest steps that you can take to maintain healthy testosterone production.
If you have sexual health worries, you can view our range of erectile dysfunction medications and premature ejaculation treatments online.
Considering a natural testosterone booster? Our guide to the safety of testosterone boosters goes into more detail about what to expect, as well as potential side effects and safety issues that you should be aware of before using testosterone supplements.