Hormones impact many aspects of your health and wellbeing.
Having hormonal imbalances can cause negative symptoms and might even raise your risk of developing other health issues.
There are medical ways to treat hormonal imbalances, but you can also promote a healthy hormone balance through your everyday food choices.
Keep reading to find out some foods that boost testosterone and lower estrogen.
Normal testosterone and estrogen levels for men
Testosterone is a hormone made by both men and women, but it’s more prevalent in men. Testosterone is primarily made in the testicles of men and the ovaries of women.
Some of the important roles of testosterone include:
- The development of the penis and testes
- The deepening of the voice during puberty
- The appearance of facial and pubic hair starting at puberty; later in life, it may play a role in balding
- Bone growth and strength
- Sex drive (libido)
- Sperm production
Testosterone levels can become a problem if they’re too high or too low. A normal testosterone level for men is between 300-1,000 nanograms per deciliter. Using a simple blood test, you can have your testosterone levels checked at your healthcare provider’s office.
Estrogen is a hormone primarily found in women, but men have small amounts of estrogen as well.
Here are the normal amounts of estrogen (as both estrone and estradiol) in men:
|Prepubescent male||Undetectable–16 pg/ml||Undetectable–13 pg/ml|
|Pubescent male||Undetectable–60 pg/ml||Undetectable–40 pg/ml|
|Adult male||10–60 pg/ml||10–40 pg/ml|
Symptoms of high testosterone
High and low levels of testosterone can be problematic. Symptoms of abnormally high testosterone in men include:
- Low sperm counts, shrinking of the testicles and impotence
- Heart muscle damage; increased risk of heart attack
- Prostate enlargement with difficulty urinating
- Liver disease
- Fluid retention with swelling of the legs and feet
- Weight gain, perhaps related in part to increased appetite
- High blood pressure and cholesterol
- Increased muscle mass
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Stunted growth in adolescents
- Uncharacteristically aggressive behavior (although this has not been well studied)
- Mood swings, euphoria, irritability, impaired judgment, delusions
Symptoms of low testosterone
Low levels of testosterone in men may be due to hypogonadism. Low levels of testosterone can cause symptoms like:
- Reduced body and facial hair
- Loss of muscle mass
- Low libido, impotence, small testicles, reduced sperm count and infertility
- Increased breast size
- Hot flashes
- Irritability, poor concentration and depression
- Loss of body hair
- Brittle bones and an increased risk of fracture
Symptoms of high estrogen
High estrogen levels in men is associated with:
- Swelling or enlargement of breast tissue (gynecomastia)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Delayed puberty
- Short stature
How diet impacts your hormone levels
Your diet can impact your hormone levels in several ways. According to a study in Clinical Biochemistry, diet affects hormones through “direct actions on the gut, by nervous reflexes, through changes in the concentration of various metabolites in the blood, or secondary to changes in circulating gut hormone levels.”
Your diet can impact your gut health, insulin sensitivity, and inflammation, among many other aspects of your health. Some foods can boost testosterone and lower estrogen, while other foods might have the opposite effect.
Your overall health and the presence of any other health conditions impact your hormone levels. For instance, there is a clear link between diabetes and low testosterone.
Foods that boost testosterone
It’s normal for your testosterone levels to decrease slightly with age – around 1-2% of a decline per year is normal.
You can do your part to support healthy testosterone levels for your age. Here are some foods that might help boost testosterone:
Foods rich in vitamin D play an important role in your reproductive health, including maintaining healthy testosterone levels. Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods, but it is naturally occurring in fatty fish like salmon.
Fatty fish and fish oil are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to fight inflammation. Low levels of testosterone are associated with inflammation, which shows that there may be a relationship between controlling inflammation and boosting testosterone levels.
Low-fat diets may be a culprit behind low testosterone levels. Fatty fish is rich in healthy unsaturated fats, the type of fat that isn’t associated with increasing your cholesterol levels.
A diet rich in these types of fats (similar to a Mediterranean diet) can improve your overall health, not just your hormone levels.
Nuts & seeds
Nuts and seeds are a good source of magnesium, a mineral that may be beneficial in raising testosterone levels, particularly in older men.
According to a study on older men, magnesium status is strongly and positively associated with testosterone levels. This means that the more magnesium you get from foods, the more your testosterone levels might be boosted.
Other sources of magnesium include spinach, dark chocolate, whole grains, avocado, and broccoli, to name a few.
In addition to being a good source of magnesium, Brazil nuts have something else to offer to help boost testosterone levels. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium, a mineral that may play a role in testosterone synthesis.
Other sources of selenium include tuna, halibut, sardines, and shrimp.
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Foods that lower estrogen
Foods high in fiber may help lower your estrogen levels. Fiber can help minimize the absorption of cholesterol, which helps form hormones such as estrogen.
High levels of estrogen can increase breast cancer risk in women. According to a health study, women with the highest amount of fiber intake had lower risks of breast cancer.
While this study isn’t specifically on men and estrogen levels, it’s worth noting due to the potential relation between fiber and lowering estrogen levels.
High-fiber foods have other health benefits such as promoting healthy cholesterol, supporting healthy blood sugar levels, and promoting digestive health.
Some good sources of fiber include:
- Whole grains like whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, etc.
- Fruit with the skin and seeds
- Artichoke hearts
- Brussels sprouts
- Nuts & seeds
Foods to avoid
Sweetened foods & drinks
A typical Western diet tends to be high in added sugars from processed foods and sugary drinks. A Western diet is correlated with higher levels of estrogen.
Added sugar isn’t always easy to identify. Sugar is often added to foods that might otherwise seem healthy like yogurt, nutrition and protein bars, and granola.
Check the nutrition facts label and try to avoid foods with more than five grams of added sugar per serving. Aim to keep your added sugar intake below 30 grams per day.
Red & processed meats
There is an association between meat consumption and increased estrogen levels. Eating meat in moderation can be a part of a healthy diet, but avoid eating excessive portions of meat if you want to lower estrogen levels.
Processed soy products
According to a study, soy protein powder consumption causes lower testosterone levels in healthy adult men. In addition, soy products tend to raise estrogen levels, so staying away from them might help lower estrogen levels.
Processed soy products seem to be more problematic in terms of raising estrogen compared to natural soy sources.
Eating natural sources of soy, such as edamame, will likely have less of an effect than eating soy protein powder or other processed soy products.
Taking in large amounts of mint might lower your testosterone levels. This can be beneficial in some people such as women suffering from PCOS, but it isn’t desirable in men who want to boost their testosterone levels.
According to an animal study, female rats given spearmint oil had lower levels of testosterone afterward.
Eating mints and chewing mint-flavored gum is likely fine, but avoid taking in large amounts of mint essential oils, which are usually very concentrated.
While there isn’t an abundance of high-quality, long-term research in terms of foods that boost testosterone and lower estrogen, there are several correlations between certain foods and levels and testosterone and estrogen.
You might not be able to fix severely low testosterone levels with diet alone, but you can work on your diet and boost your consumption of foods that support healthy levels of testosterone and estrogen in men.