Foods That Lower Testosterone: What They Are and How They Work

There are hundreds of products out there that are meant to boost a guy’s testosterone. It makes sense because having low testosterone is related to all kinds of serious health problems, like depression, weight gain, and a low sex drive. Having high testosterone, on the other hand, can help with muscle building, libido, and self-confidence.

But, before you spend a boatload of cash on supplements, it’s worth examining the foods that you put into your body every single day. You may actually be consuming foods that lower testosterone without even realizing it.

Understanding foods that lower testosterone

Testosterone (sometimes just called “T”) is not a simple nutrient, like a vitamin, with a recommended daily dose. It is a human hormone that has complicated and far-reaching effects on male sexual, mental, and physical health. So, understanding how to sustain healthy testosterone levels through diet is not a straightforward task. First of all, it should be noted that no foods actually contain testosterone.

There are foods that contain testosterone boosting agents, and there are foods that contain testosterone-blocking agents. But even these classifications are not simple.

For example, there was a study that found that carbohydrate foods can lower testosterone levels in men in the short term. However, there is also evidence that heavy carbohydrate intake over longer periods of time can actually help boost testosterone. So, understanding how any given food might affect your testosterone levels requires a holistic understanding of your body.

That said, there are definitely some foods that have been consistently shown to block your testosterone, and they can do so in many different ways.


Of the major ways that food can lower your testosterone levels is by introducing harmful pesticides into your body. These pesticides come on all kinds of otherwise healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables.

A group of researchers recently looked at the effects that 37 widely used pesticides had on male hormones. They found that 30 of them blocked or mimicked male hormones. While ‘mimicking’ male hormones might not sound so bad if you want to boost your testosterone, this is not the way to do it. When a pesticide mimics a male hormone, it actually can block the function of the real hormone, rather than boost it. You can avoid pesticides by buying organic products.

Animal and plant hormones

Many people have heard stories about a man who eats too much tofu and then grows large breasts. This is a classic example of what can happen when someone consumes the plant hormones called phytoestrogen. While phytoestrogens are not conclusively bad for your health, and in some cases can be beneficial to your health, there is the risk that when consumed in large amounts they can mess with your hormonal balance.

Other unnatural hormones that can get into your system through your diet don’t come from the vegetarian’s favorite dish, but the carnivore’s.

While the FDA has approved certain growth hormones in dairy cows, beef cows, and other livestock, there is still some controversy about their safety. In fact, the European Union even banned beef imports from the U.S. at one point due to worries about these hormones. While there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that the hormones in your meat will kill your testosterone, there is evidence that suggests that organic, grass-fed beef can help increase testosterone levels.

Testosterone and insulin

One thing that dieticians have been learning more about recently is the negative health impacts of a high sugar diet. Besides leading to obesity and cavities, a high sugar diet can also lead to insulin resistance, which correlates with lower levels of testosterone.

It’s not known exactly how testosterone and insulin resistance are linked, but it is thought that insulin resistance does somehow lead to decreases in testosterone. For this reason, a diet that is lower in refined sugars is thought to be beneficial for male hormone health.

Glycyrrhizic acid, menthol, and other testosterone blockers

Glycyrrhizic acid is one of the main ingredients in licorice, and it is what gives it its sweet taste. However, it has also been identified as a testosterone blocker. This is because it blocks the enzymes 17-HSD and 17-20 lyase, which play a key role in testosterone production. There are other substances, like those in mint and menthol flavored products, that can lead to testosterone blockages by promoting or suppressing certain enzymes in the male body.

Avoiding processed foods that lower testosterone

One of the best ways to keep your hormones at healthy levels is to get the appropriate levels of nutrients for your body-type, lifestyle, and health conditions. One of the easiest and most successful ways of getting these nutrients is through a whole foods diet that’s rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and other natural, unprocessed foods.

Processed foods lack zinc and other testosterone boosters

One of the biggest reasons that men consume foods that lower testosterone levels are that they are consuming highly processed foods that contain almost no testosterone promoting nutrients. For example, there is just .1 mg of zinc in a standard slice of processed white bread, while there is .7 mg in a slice of whole wheat bread. The discrepancies in canned vs. non-canned vegetables are also pronounced, with 1.2 mg of zinc in a single cup of canned green peas, and 1.8 mg in a cup of raw green beans.

Having healthy levels of dietary zinc plays a major role in healthy testosterone production, so the differences between these processed vs. unprocessed foods are not negligible. Other nutrients, like vitamin B6 and magnesium, are also very important for testosterone levels and are more abundantly found in unprocessed, whole foods.

The dangers of plastics

Another way that testosterone plunging substances can end up in your body comes not from the actual food you eat, but from its packaging. Many processed foods come in plastic bottles, shrink wrap, vacuum sealed containers, or single serve plastic packets. Many of these containers contain plastics with phthalates.

Phthalates are chemicals that are added to plastic to make it more pliable. They are present in all kinds of things we use daily, from shower curtains to laundry detergent. But they can also be present in food packagings like squeezable sauce packets or yogurt containers. The Endocrine Society has warned that these chemicals in plastics can disrupt regular hormone production, including testosterone. They cite a finding that among “boys ages 6-12, increased concentrations of metabolites of a phthalate called di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, was linked to a 24 to 34.1 percent drop in testosterone levels.”

Some foods that kill testosterone

It is important to recognize that many factors can influence a man’s hormone levels. Everyone’s body is different. Many underlying health conditions can influence the way that a certain nutrient or food will react in the body. Thus, it’s difficult to say that certain foods are always bad for someone’s hormone production or functioning.
If you are concerned that you may have low testosterone levels, then you should consult your doctor.

A prescription medication or lifestyle change may be necessary to get your health back on track. That said, there are some foods that have been shown to cause certain hormone disruptions in many men. Avoiding these foods may help you to naturally boost your testosterone levels.


It seems like flax seeds are making their way into everything these days, from granola to energy bars. These seeds are rich in omega-3s and fiber, making them a favorite of health food gurus. However, studies have shown that they can have a deleterious effect on male hormone production. In fact, they are such a powerful anti-T food that doctors sometimes suggest that men and women who want to lower their testosterone levels take flax seeds as medicine.


Foods that lower testosterone

This one might be a real bummer for some guys. While having a drink or two might increase your libido and your self-confidence, it’s actually lowering your male hormones as the alcohol is processed by your body. That’s because alcohol is very hard on your liver, which is also the main organ responsible for producing proteins like albumin and SHBG, which are vital for healthy testosterone production.

Shrimp and other seafood

This article talks above about the role of pesticides as endocrine disruptors. Well, one food that has a ton of those endocrine disrupting pesticides is farm raised shrimp. Shrimp is often farmed using a pesticide called 4-hexyl resorcinol, which has been especially linked to hormone disruption.

It’s not just shrimp, but also farm-raised tilapia, eel, and salmon that are often treated with this same testosterone killing pesticide. So, be careful about the seafood you consume. Tuna, on the other hand, has often been suggested as a testosterone boosting food.


Another testosterone blocker is the phytoestrogen. This plant hormone mimics the human hormone estrogen, which is most commonly known as the female hormone. Although men naturally produce estrogen and need some levels of it to be healthy, too much of it can mess with the hormone balance in the body and tank your testosterone levels.

Soy has been showing up in all kinds of products, from soymilk to vegan sausages. Soy is often in the sauces of Asian cuisine and the additives of processed meals. A little bit won’t really mess with your T levels at all, and it could even be good for you as a non-meat protein substitute. But eating large amounts of soy every day is definitely something to watch out for.

Strawberries, Blueberries, and Raspberries

To be more specific: non-organic strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries can cause disruptions to your male hormones. That’s because they contain some of the highest levels of pesticides of any food that you can buy. Other foods that have similarly high levels are peaches, apples, cherries, and kale. Of course, if you buy organic produce you don’t have to worry about these pesticides at all.


If you are trying to boost your testosterone levels, you might want to avoid excessive amounts of cheese, or any dairy product, for that matter. An occasional slice of pizza is not going to lower your sperm count, but if you are eating excessive amounts of cheese, you may be absorbing estrogen and other hormones that can mess with your body’s healthy balance.

Most cheese is made from cow’s milk, and most cow’s milk is produced from dairy cows that are kept pregnant for most of their lives in order to produce milk. This means that they have consistently high levels of estrogen. In fact, one study found that 60-70 percent of animal-derived estrogens found in the human body come from dairy products.

Refined Sugar

As mentioned above, a high sugar diet can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance often means that you’re on the road to diabetes, which can have its own effects on your testosterone levels. But even if you avoid diabetes, insulin resistance can tank testosterone levels on its own. When you are trying to maintain healthy testosterone levels, it’s definitely good to avoid foods that are high in refined sugars, like soda, granolas, candy, and fruity drinks.


It’s not just mint. Peppermint, spearmint, menthol and any other member of the mentha family can have a negative effect on your testosterone levels. Multiple studies have shown that even modest amounts of menthol can lead to a drop in free testosterone levels. So, watch out for that soothing peppermint tea, or even those mentholated cigarettes.


We already talked above about the role of glycyrrhizic acid in blocking the testosterone promoting enzymes, 17-HSD and 17-20 lyase. But, did you know that licorice may be lurking in more than just your candy drawer? It’s also found in all kinds of herbal teas and remedies. If you’re worried that licorice might worsen your testosterone problems, then make sure to read that label before you take your next health supplement!

Testosterone and diet overview

It’s difficult to say anything with 100 percent confidence when it comes to diet. That’s because everyone’s body is different, and each food must be analyzed in a context of your overall diet, lifestyle practices, and your underlying health conditions.

Avoiding foods that lower your testosterone will definitely not automatically make you big and strong, and it probably won’t lead to any immediate increase in your libido. But knowing the effects of what you put in your body can help lead you to a healthier diet, overall, which is always good for your hormone levels and sex drive, even if you do still occasionally indulge in food that kills testosterone. Over time, the results of avoiding some of these foods can seriously add up.

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Strong Health Team
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