Whether you're trying to get stronger at the gym or getting older and noticing your body is behaving a bit differently than it use to, our hormones have a lot more control over us than we might think. We may try to convince ourselves we are in control, but more often than not we become passengers, just along for the ride. There is hope however! When it comes to declining levels of testosterone, it isn't always about what you can do to raise it, but just as importantly what you can do to stop it from declining. Here is a list of 7 things you may be eating that could be causing your testosterone to drop!
I'll admit, this is not the most cut and dry place to start. I could write an entire other article on the benefits flax can have for a person. In this case however, it does tend to be estrogen promoting in nature, and if testosterone gains are your goal, it should be avoided. Fun side note, flaxseeds have been shown to lower oxidized LDL cholesterol, the actual "bad" cholesterol responsible for hearth disease and arterial wall plaques.
2. Vegetable Oils
The vegetable oils in particular are those highest in Omega-6 Fatty Acids. These include; Sunflower oil, Corn oil, Cottonseed oil, Soybean oil, Peanut oil and Canola oil. While Omega-6 Fatty Acids are not always bad for our health, the ratio in which we consume them compared to Omega-3 Fatty Acids is. Omega-6's are the more inflammatory of the 2, and when there is an imbalance we tend towards inflammation. When this ratio heavily favours Omega-6's, testosterone production seems to decline. Saturated fats and high Omega-3 diets on the other hand, tend to be more testosterone boosting!
This one may come as a bit of a surprise to most, but anything from the mint family (spearmint, peppermint, ginger mint...etc) has the ability to lower testosterone and raise estrogen. It is important to note that the amount of mint required to reproduce these effects is quite large, so the occasional tea would not be a concern, however if you are someone who indulges in mint flavoured chocolates and teas and candies constantly throughout the day, you may be damaging your testosterone levels!
There aren't many things alcohol is good for aside from cutting tension in awkward situations. It should be no surprise to see it making this list. There are a few ways alcohol acts to decrease testosterone, but what I believe to be the most significant is it's ability to increase aromatization. Aromatization is bad for testosterone because it directly converts it to estrogen. Fun fact, 1 glass of red wine a day may actually work towards raising testosterone levels.
Probably not a huge surprise on this list, buy soy products can be damaging to testosterone levels. They have estrogenic properties and account for a pretty prominent source of exogenous ketones in both men and women. Coupled with the fact soy is one of the most genetically modified foods out there, our Western digestive tracts are just not well equipped to deal with what it has to offer. Soy products include; edamame beans, tofu, soy milk, soy nuts, tempeh, soy sauce, and soy oil which can be found added to a lot of different foods so make sure to read the ingredients lists on pre packaged products!
6. Trans Fats
Trans fats are the fats that have given fat a bad reputation. If you want to make the biggest possible impact to changing your health for the better (not just speaking to testosterone levels here), eliminating numbers 6 and 7 on this list from your diet will do wonders for you. Trans fats are fats that occur naturally in small amounts, but are used in unnaturally high amounts in a lot of packaged foods. They are fats that are altered to be more shelf stable, add a certain texture to food and boost the flavour. Anything with the word "Hydrogenated" is a trans fat containing food. These fats work to destroy testosterone in the same way the vegetable oils do, but are much better at it (I mean that in a bad way). Not only will you gain weight a lot easier on diets full of these fats, but you'll work towards clogging your arteries and increasing inflammation throughout your body at an incredible rate. When inflammation and stress is raised, cortisol is secreted. When cortisol is serrated, testosterone production tanks. Avoid trans fats at all costs! These foods include: Margarine, deep fried foods, frosting, pastry/pie crust, cakes, cookies, muffins, shortening, fast food (including ice cream) and a lot of peanut butters as well.
7. Refined Sugars
Last but most certainly not least we have refined sugars. These again play on that inflammatory pathway and cause a spike in cortisol, effectively lowering testosterone levels. Sugars also make it very easy to gain weight, and not the good kind either. The extra body fat then adds to the mess since fat tends to promote more estrogen production. Sugar is just not good for us. If I had to personify it, sugar would be the older sibling that is always up to no good, bullying and causing random destruction to everyone around, but when sugar is confronted, it passes the blame off unfairly to it's younger sibling fat, who can't defend itself. Get rid of sugar as much as possible and I promise you will start feeling better very quickly! Refined sugars would include: added sugars, white bread/pasta/pizza, any syrups (especially corn and agave - yes, agave is very bad), fruit juices, candy, chocolate and most dairy beverages including dairy alternatives unless they are the unsweetened version.
Whether you want to get stronger in the gym, lose some of that extra weight, or improve your mood and libido, try taking these 7 things out of your diet for a time and start to notice how different you will feel!
Dr. Rob Raponi ND, CISSN, B.Kine(Hons)