June is Men’s Health Month, so let’s talk about an important hormone that’s on the top of many men’s minds: testosterone. Commonly known as the male sex hormone (though women produce small amounts as well), testosterone is responsible for sperm production, sex drive, bone mass, muscle size and strength and more—all things you (and the women in your life) care about. Levels of circulating testosterone in your blood begin to fall after the age of 30.
Low serum testosterone levels are correlated with a lower desire for sex, diminished erectile quality, fatigue, mood imbalances, decreased muscular mass and increased abdominal fat.
Aging is rough and reduced testosterone levels just make it rougher. A trip to the doctor’s office will reveal if you have low testosterone and there are several treatment options available if your levels fall critically low.
The best thing you can do to be proactive about your testosterone level is to keep up your healthy lifestyle. Getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and reducing stress all help to support testosterone levels. Beyond making sure that you eating enough calories, macro and micronutrients to support your level of activity, adding more of the foods below to your diet can also help to support healthy testosterone levels. (And no, ladies, eating these foods below you won’t start sprouting chest hair or dropping several vocal octaves—your body won’t use these foods to produce testosterone because of your hormonal chemistry).
Zinc is an essential mineral found in every single cell of your body. It stimulates the activity of over 100 enzymes and is essential for testosterone production. In the standard American diet, red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc. Phytates from whole grains and legumes reduce zinc absorption, so if you’re eating a mostly plant-based diet, zinc is a mineral to make sure you’re getting enough of.1 Adult men should aim to get 11mg of zinc a day. If you eat an exclusively plant-based diet you may require as much as 16mg a day.2
Plant-based sources of zinc3:
- Wheat germ (3.5mg per ¼ cup)
- Sesame seeds (2mg per ounce)
- Pumpkin seeds (2mg per ¼ cup)
- Crimini mushrooms (1mg per cup)
- Miso (1mg per 2 Tbsp)
- Maple syrup (1mg per ¼ cup)
- Chickpeas (1.3mg per ½ cup)
- Almonds (1 mg per ounce)
Soaking beans, grains and seeds in water for several hours before cooking them as well as sprouting can increase the bio-availability of zinc in plant-based foods.2 For a zinc-rich meal make Mushroom Miso Soup, followed by a protein-rich salad stacked with spinach, shelled hemp seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, followed by a dessert of raw chocolate.
Vitamin-D Rich Foods
Preliminary research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is correlated with low testosterone levels in the blood.4 Your body can naturally produce vitamin D by getting 5 to 10 minutes a day of direct sunlight.
Plant-based sources of vitamin D:
- White, kidney and black beans (sources of both vitamin D and zinc)
- UV-exposed Mushrooms
- Healthy Fats e.g. Omegas
Cutting fat from your diet can decrease your testosterone levels, since hormones require dietary fat to be produced.5,6 So don’t skimp on your healthy fats!
Plant-based sources of healthy fats:
- Seeds (chia seeds, sacha inchi seeds, hemp seeds in particular)
- Cold-pressed oils
- Coconut oil
Eating these foods, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, catching enough ZZZs and managing stress levels is important keep up healthy testosterone levels as you age. If you’re concerned about your testosterone levels, book an appointment at your doctor’s office and keep prioritizing your health!
How are you making your health better during Men’s Health Month?
- Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S. (2008). Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy. Saunders Elsevier. 12th ed.
- National Institute for Health. (2013). Fact Sheet for Health Professionals: Zinc. Accessed on 6/4/15 from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional.
- United States Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/food
- Lee DM (2012). Association of hypogonadism with vitamin D status: the European Male Ageing Study. European Journal of Endocrinology. Accessed on 6/4/15 from: http://eje-online.org/content/166/1/77.full.pdf+html
- Wang C (2005). Low-fat high-fiber diet decreased serum and urine androgens in men. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 90(6):3550-9
- Dorgan JF (1996). Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 64(6):850-5. Accessed on 6/4/15 from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/64/6/850.long