Foods that may reduce testosterone

Medically reviewed on February 17, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Testosterone is one of the main androgens in the human body. Androgens are male sex hormones, though they are important for all genders, essential to various functions, from physical development to general health.

The body requires a gentle balance of hormones to ensure proper health and functions. Too much or too little of any hormone can quickly lead to issues. This goes for testosterone as well.

There are a variety of personal and environmental factors that can affect testosterone levels, and some people may be more sensitive to hormonal fluctuations than others. Food can also play a significant role in reducing testosterone levels. While taking a testosterone level test can tell you your levels and whether or not you need to increase your testosterone, it’s also worth learning about some foods that kill testosterone and lower hormone levels in the first place. Continue reading below (and consider learning more about the at-home Testosterone Test).

BlogCTA_v3

1. Soy and Soy-Based Products

Soybeans are packed with a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including folate, copper, thiamine, and vitamin K1. For many vegetarians and/or vegans, soy and soy products are a primary source of protein and amino acids. Aside from whole soybeans, this includes tofu, edamame beans, and tempeh.

As nutritious as soybeans are, they may potentially have an influence on one’s testosterone levels. Soybeans are high in phytoestrogens, which are essentially plant chemicals nearly identical in structure and function to human estrogen. Estrogen is the female sex hormone, though much like androgens, everyone of every gender has some amount of estrogen in their system. In women, estrogen is important for physical development during puberty and general regulation of the female reproductive system. In men, estrogen also supports healthy sexual functioning.

The potential problem with estrogen is that, in high levels, it may inhibit testosterone production. The studies on soybeans’ effects on hormones are contradicting, with some studies suggesting that they may reduce testosterone levels while other studies suggest no interaction between soy and testosterone [1, 2]. The latter studies suggest that, despite the similar structure, phytoestrogens don’t get processed or metabolized in the body the same way normal estrogen does.

Studies on soy’s interactions with hormones are still ongoing. If you already have certain sensitivities to hormonal fluctuations, it may be a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before making soy products a significant part of your diet.

2. Alcohol

Alcohol can be among the top testosterone-killing foods for some people. For the average person, the occasional drink or two per day is fine and shouldn’t have a particularly significant effect on health; however, excessive alcohol consumption and/or chronic alcohol abuse can lead to low testosterone levels. This occurs through several mechanisms, including:

  • Alcohol results in the release of endorphins, which are the classic feel-good hormones. This is what leads to the generally pleasant, relaxed feeling when you enjoy a drink. However, endorphins can also interfere with the body’s ability to synthesize testosterone hormone levels.
  • Leydig cells in the testes are responsible for producing and secreting testosterone. Excess alcohol can cause damage to these cells, which then affects testosterone synthesis.
  • NAD+, a coenzyme, synthesizes testosterone and metabolizes alcohol. When you have enough alcohol in your system, the coenzyme is occupied with metabolizing that alcohol instead of synthesizing testosterone.
  • Alcohol may increase cortisol, the main stress hormone. Cortisol is a known inhibitor of testosterone synthesis.
  • Some amount of testosterone in men is converted into estrogen. This is natural and necessary to maintain healthy testosterone levels. However, alcohol may speed up this process and result in more estrogen turning into testosterone.

Moderation applies to just about everything in life, including alcohol. Assuming you don’t have a liver issue or problems with alcohol abuse, moderate alcohol consumption shouldn’t have any significant effect on your hormones. However, having more drinks and/or drinking more often can potentially reduce testosterone levels.

3. Flaxseed

Flaxseed, often simply known as "flax," is a popular food for its high nutritional value. It is especially high in fiber, which is good for digestion and general gut health, and omega-3 fatty acids, which may help to reduce inflammation and/or support healthy joints.

However, flax is also high in lignans. Lignans are a family of compounds related to fiber. These polyphenols have been studied as a precursor to phytoestrogens. Studies suggest that lignans may influence the metabolism of both androgens and estrogen [3]. Pilot studies on the effects of flaxseed in cases of polycystic ovarian syndrome also suggest a reduction in testosterone, but further research is warranted to more conclusively understand possible effects.

4. Mint

A common breath freshener and addition to calming teas, mint is an aromatic herb used in countless foods and household items. Menthol, specifically from peppermint and spearmint, may potentially reduce testosterone levels [4]. In one trial, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome were given spearmint tea. Results showed a significant reduction in androgen levels, suggesting that the tea may have anti-androgenic properties [5]. Studies on the effects of mint on testosterone in men are limited, and more research on male human models is necessary to determine potential long-term effects.

More on testosterone: What to Know About Testosterone Supplements and Boosters

5. Sugar

Sugar and sodium are found in many foods, but excessive sugar intake may cause a hormonal imbalance. In one study, men were given sugar-sweetened beverages and tested for various biomarkers. On average, the men in the study had a decrease in testosterone levels after the sugar ingestion [6].

The exact mechanisms here might vary and involve insulin (the chemical that helps you metabolize sugar) or luteinizing hormone (the hormone that stimulates the production of hormones), but the point stands: high sugar intake may equate to lowered testosterone levels.

The effects in existing studies are relatively short-term. However, if you are prone to eating dense, sugary foods throughout the day, it’s worth noting the potential effect on testosterone levels.

6. Trans Fats

Many people tend to get the wrong idea about fats. The body needs fats in general to function properly. However, some dietary fats are better than others. Trans fats, particularly artificial trans fats, are known to be bad for health. Consuming too much trans fats is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems.

Trans fats may also influence testosterone, with studies suggesting that high consumption of trans fat was associated with lower testosterone levels [7]. Trans fats were also found to potentially affect sperm count and testicular volume and function.

Discover more: What You Need to Know About Ashwagandha and Testosterone

It’s important to note that no singular food will significantly reduce testosterone. Eating one piece of tofu will not lead to a dramatic hormonal shift. However, it’s always worth considering the foods that you eat, especially if you have existing hormonal issues. If you believe that you have testosterone issues, consider using the Everlywell at-home Testosterone Test to measure your testosterone levels from the comfort of your home.


References

1. Goodin S, Shen F, Shih WJ, et al. Clinical and Biological Activity of Soy Protein Powder Supplementation in Healthy Male Volunteers. Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers. 2007;16(4):829-833.

2. Hamilton-Reeves JM, Vazquez G, Duval SJ, Phipps WR, Kurzer MS, Messina MJ. Clinical studies show no effects of soy protein or isoflavones on reproductive hormones in men: results of a meta-analysis. Fertility and Sterility. 2010;94(3):997-1007.

3. Flaxseeds and Breast Cancer. Oncologynutrition.org. URL. Accessed February 17, 2022.

4. Akdogan M, Ozguner M, Kocak A, Oncu M, Cicek E. Effects of peppermint teas on plasma testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone levels and testicular tissue in rats. Urology. 2004;64(2):394-398.

5. Grant P. Spearmint herbal tea has significant anti-androgen effects in polycystic ovarian syndrome. A randomized controlled trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2010;24(2):186-188.

6. Chen L, Xie Y-M, Pei J-H, et al. Sugar-sweetened beverage intake and serum testosterone levels in adult males 20–39 years old in the United States. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. 2018;16(1).

7. Mínguez-Alarcón L, Chavarro J, Mendiola J, et al. Fatty acid intake in relation to reproductive hormones and testicular volume among young healthy men. Asian Journal of Andrology. 2017;19(2):184.

Everlywell makes lab testing easy and convenient with at-home collection and digital results in days. Learn More