I have written so much about pregnancy and women’s health that I decided to balance it out and write about something manly, lest this column becomes a girls-only resource.
Here are a few foods that balance testosterone levels and help to keep a manly man the way nature intended—you guessed it—manly.
Butter: Yes, I am famous for going on and on about the health benefits of butter and allowing my boys to eat slices of butter like they’re candy but there’s a reason for that. Butter from healthy cows that have been fed grass instead of grain is rich in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), the only trans-fat found in nature and one of the most manly fatty acids out there. In fact, if you take a break from reading this blog and do a search on CLA I bet you will come upon a host of bodybuilding websites, and what is more manly than a bunch of overly tan men, greased up with Crisco, dancing around on a stage and posing in tiny underpants? But back to butter. It contains CLA, which helps to balance levels of insulin, estrogen, and testosterone. And this is why it’s a popular supplement for bodybuilders. Butter also contains activated vitamin A, which is necessary for production of testosterone.
Grassfed beef: This is another great source of CLA and also a wonderful way to get plenty of protein and zinc – two precursors needed for testosterone production. Please note that I am making a distinction here between grassfed meat and butter and regular commercial meat and butter. Sadly, commercial cows are raised in feedlots, fed grain that lowers their levels of CLA (cows get CLA from the fermentation of grass in their gut done by bacteria that are killed off when feedlot cows are fed grain and antibiotics), and in some cases are even given doses of synthetic estrogen to make them grow faster and produce more milk. These factors end up having the opposite effect on testosterone and they are the reason that foods containing saturated fat have such a bad reputation these days.
White button mushrooms: Aromatase is an enzyme that turns androgens (man hormones) into estrogens (lady hormones). This is most important in the development of hormone dependent cancers, which is why foods that have anti-aromatase activity are heavily studied so that drug companies can figure out how to make drugs with the same activity. White button mushrooms are one of the foods that you will find in these studies, though I suspect that most mushrooms have the same benefits (white buttons are just the cheapest, so probably they are the easiest to study in large amounts – that is purely my speculation though). If you’re going to go off the deep end on eating mushrooms, make sure that you cook them first (in grassfed butter!). Eating raw mushrooms in large amounts can expose you to a toxin inherent in mushrooms which is broken down when they are exposed to heat.
Cruciferous vegetables: This includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, radish, turnip, and watercress. Cruciferous vegetables contain sulfur-based compounds, including one called I3C (indole-3-carbinol), that help to balance hormone levels and detoxify excess estrogen. These compounds are widely studied for their anti-cancer effects, and when I worked in a clinic we used to give men a supplement containing these sulfur-based compounds to help them with urinary frequency problems. Some of them came back reporting an increase in function in the “love area”, which I’m guessing would be due to a balancing of their testosterone levels!
Pumpkin seeds: Rich in zinc (another important nutrient for balancing hormone levels), pumpkin seeds also contain phytochemicals that are especially nourishing to the prostate. The two studies I read found that pumpkin seed oil effectively reduced prostate size in cases of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia – also known as an enlarged prostate) that were caused by hormone imbalance. And for all you coconut lovers out there – I found a study from Cuba that showed coconut oil to have the same benefits on BPH!
Ladies – I know the focus of this article is on men, but keep in mind that testosterone levels are important for women, too! In fact, testosterone is the single most important hormone related to sex drive for women. So you may want to re-read this article with that in mind.