Testosterone is the hormone often considered the "male" hormone, produced in the male testes, the female ovaries and the adrenal cortex of both genders responsible in part for the body's musculature and libido. Diet can influence a body's production of testosterone, as can use of certain herbs. Estrogen, the primary "female" hormone, inhibits the body's production of testosterone. Therefore, foods and herbs that decrease estrogen levels may indirectly promote increased testosterone levels as well. Check with your doctor if you have concerns about testosterone levels and before attempting to self-treat, especially if you have other health problems.
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To promote testosterone production, researchers recommend a diet of at least 30 percent fat. Monounsaturated fats and saturated fats have been associated with increased testosterone production, although polyunsaturated fat has not. While increasing saturated fats in one's diet is not generally recommended because of related health risks, such as heart disease, monounsaturated fats do not have such health risks associated with them. Foods high in monounsaturated fats include almonds, pistachio nuts, seeds, avocados, yogurt, olives and olive oil. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in testosterone production and are described in Ori Hofmekler's "The Anti-Estrogenic Diet" as estrogen-lowering nutrients. Sardines and other fatty fish, as well as flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and canola oil, are all high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Animal protein sources such as beef have been associated with higher testosterone levels than vegetarian protein sources. In terms of the ratio of protein to the other macronutrients, however, high protein diets in general have been associated with reduced testosterone levels, no matter the protein source. A 1987 "Life Sciences" study found that men on a high-carbohydrate diet for 10 days had consistently higher testosterone readings than men on a high-protein diet for that same length of time. The consensus among nutritionists and personal trainers is that the ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein for keeping testosterone levels high is approximately 2:1.
Vitamins & Minerals
The vitamin and mineral most beneficial to testosterone production are vitamin B and zinc. The B vitamins are instrumental to testosterone production, and aid in absorption of zinc. Zinc deficiencies have been associated with reduced testosterone production. Foods high in B vitamins include avocados, eggs, watermelons, bananas and raspberries. Foods high in zinc include chicken, lamb, oysters, sesame, pumpkin seeds, peanuts and cocoa powder.
Horny goat weed is widely marketed for its ability to increase testosterone levels, but according to the Langone Medical Center at New York University, the research cited to back up those claims is inconclusive at best. Other herbs reported to increase total or free testosterone levels despite a prevailing lack of supporting evidence include maca and oat straw. Garlic, however, contains a substance called allicin that has been found to raise testosterone levels. In the February 2009 issue of "Biology of Reproduction," the Chinese herb prunella vulgaris, more commonly known as self-heal, was found to have anti-estrogenic properties. Ask your doctor before trying herbal treatments.