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Foods that Can Lower Testosterone

By Dr. Jacey Folkers
November 5, 2021

Did you know that the average man from 100 years ago, had a testosterone level that was from 50 to 100% higher than the average man today?

Normal Testosterone Levels by Age

Why was it that their testosterone levels were so much higher than our average levels are today? One of the more significant things that impact your testosterone today is what you eat and what you don't eat. Let’s discuss some of the foods that do have a negative impact on testosterone levels today.   

Typical adolescent male levels ages 13-17 are 208.08 to 496.58. While Men's typical levels tend to drop after the age of 35. Most doctors agree that a “normal” reading falls anywhere between 300 to 1,000 nano grams per deciliter (ng/dL). About 40% of men over age 45 will have levels that come in below that range. But a low reading by itself isn't enough to warrant alarm.

Before we dive in, please understand there are a few different ways these foods affect testosterone. First, some foods do affect your total and free testosterone levels directly. The second effect has to do with the testosterone to estrogen ratio. Many of these foods we will mention can skyrocket your estrogen level. These foods can simultaneously lower your testosterone or not affect it. When this occurs, you are often left with an unhealthy testosterone to estrogen ratio. Thirdly, there is a molecule in your bloodstream called a sex hormone binding globulin. When levels of sex hormone binding globulin go too high, this will bind up most of your free testosterone. So, in effect, you have a lower testosterone level, even though your lab tests may say that your level is normal. 

Number one is foods made containing soy. This would include soybeans, anything baked with soy or anything cooked in soybean oil, tofu, edamame, soy milk and miso. Soy is in a plethora of processed foods also.  Everything from baby formula to granola bars to sports drinks.  Soy has snuck into more and more foods over the past decade especially.  One part of the plant that has affected testosterone are the phytoestrogens.  Phytoestrogens are also known as plant estrogens.  These compounds have the ability to bind to our hormone receptors the same way human estrogen does which can potentially reduce testosterone 

So let’s talk about some of the foods that can cause low T levels and make us less manly than our great grandfathers.  

Number two is sugar.  Especially liquid sugar found in sweetened soft drinks. Things like Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper Mountain Dew.  They can destroy your testosterone levels.  Let's not forget fruit juices, even though those are full of natural sugar from fruit sugar.  It is still sugar, and your body cannot tell the difference between glucose and fructose, whether it comes from Pepsi, or whether it comes from organic non GMO freshly squeezed orange juice.  Too much sugar can lead to lower testosterone levels. 

Number three is many protein bars.  Wait…What? Here is why. With protein bars we need to read the label. We must look at the ingredients and the nutritional facts. Most protein bars are carbohydrate bars, because they have more grams of total carbohydrate than they do grams of total protein. And so, carbohydrates, all of them break down into sugar, and so we're right back to the one we were talking about before.  If you must eat a protein bar, then you need to really look at the ingredients in the nutrition facts label on the back and make sure you're not in fact eating a carbohydrate bar.  

Number four is vegetable oils, specifically, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, peanut oil. All of these are very high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are not great, they are very inflammatory. What happens is when you cook in vegetable oils, when you eat something that was cooked in vegetable oils, or when you eat something that contains these vegetable oils if it's been heated at all, a goodly amount of the polyunsaturated fatty acids, turn into something called trans-fat.  The United States has banned the adding of trans fats into our foods.  However, when you eat something that's made with or cooked in vegetable oils, you're getting a large dose of trans fats. These trans fats can really tank your testosterone level.  

Number five is flaxseed, and flaxseed oil. Flaxseed contains something called a lignans, which binds to testosterone and causes you not to be able to use it and causes you to excrete it at much higher levels. Now if you're just having something with a few flax seeds sprinkled on top or it has a few drops of flaxseed oil for flavor that's probably not a big deal, but if you're putting a copious amount of flax seeds into your smoothies or trying to really eat lots of flax seeds because you think they are full of magical phytonutrients, you're most likely lowering your testosterone.  

Number six is ingesting too much alcohol. The research is clear that if you drink more than the equivalent of three drinks a day, you're going to substantially lower your testosterone.  If you can stick to just one or two drinks a day you may not be affecting your testosterone too much. But if you're drinking three or more drinks a day this will lower your testosterone.  

Number seven is grains. So, things like pasta, bread, pastries, anything made of grains. Grains contain phytoestrogens, which are going to effectively raise your estrogen and therefore throw off your testosterone to estrogen ratio.  Some grains will lower your testosterone while others raise your estrogen so much that it effectively lowers the ability of your testosterone to do what it should be doing inside your body.  

If you're wanting to optimize your testosterone and keep your estrogen levels at a healthy range, you will need to avoid many of those baked goods. Especially the ones we tend to overindulge with. All the breads, cakes, cookies, and pies. Unfortunately, most things that contain grains are also going to make your testosterone levels less than optimal.  

The good thing is all of these foods listed are things we have a choice on whether we decide to consume them or not. Choosing to not eat these foods could be the beginnings of getting our testosterone levels more like that of men from 100 years ago. 

Dr. Jacey Folkers, MD/PhD

Learn more about diagnosis and testosterone replacement therapy treatment at Blokes.CO.

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