We usually attribute testosterone to male aggression, yet this male sex hormone is so much more. It plays an important role in men’s reproductive and sexual development, fat production, and even bone health. With that said, similarly to estrogen decline for women, as men grow older testosterone naturally begins to decrease. While this is natural, low testosterone levels can be attributed to many unwanted side effects including low sperm count, easily fractured bones, shrunken testes, low sex drive, loss of muscle mass, loss of hair, and even impotence.

Enter testosterone boosters!

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Testosterone can be provided a natural boost via diet, supplements and lifestyle factors. Here’s what I learned about testosterone, aging, diet, and lifestyle!

What is Testosterone?

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If you’re familiar with estrogen, then you can think of testosterone as its sibling. Testosterone is “the main sex hormone that men have,” and — as estrogen controls female physical features — testosterone controls male physical attributes. With that said, testosterone is not relegated to men. Women actually have very small amounts of testosterone as well.

With that said, testosterone has far more powerful effects on the male body than the female.

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In the male body, testosterone is produced in the testes, yet the production is controlled by the “brain and the pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain.” From the testes, “testosterone moves through your blood to do its work.” Testosterone plays an important role in the growth of the penis, testes, male body hair (including facial and pubic), growing taller, and building strong bones. Yet, testosterone also has effects on other male-specific attributes such as the deepening of the voice, creation of sperm, and the building of muscles.

Testosterone and Aging

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As we age, testosterone begins to naturally decline, generally decreasing by one percent a year beginning at around the age of 40. By 70 years of age, “the average man’s testosterone production is 30 percent below its peak.” With that said, some men may suffer from testosterone deficiency before the natural decline begins.

A slight deficiency is generally not an issue, yet major deficiencies an lead to Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome, also called Hypogonadism. This is a condition in which “a man’s body does not produce sufficient testosterone,” and generally affects “older men, but younger patients can also be affected for a variety of reasons.” Symptoms of testosterone deficiency syndrome include reduced libido, increased body fat production, loss of muscle and bone density, depression, and even difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

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Plant-Based Foods to Boost Testosterone Production

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Diet plays an integral role in overall hormone production, including the production of testosterone. Recent research has found a link between diet and unbalanced or disrupted hormone levels. In response, researches have concluded that the “best diets are ones that include mostly whole foods and offer a healthful balance of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.” With that said, there are some specific plant-based foods — those that are rich in magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, and protein — which have been shown to boost testosterone levels.

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Vitamin D + Fortified Foods

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Vitamin D is an essential component of overall health. It plays an important role for the proper function of muscles, heart, lungs, and your brain, as well as aiding in bone strength and immune system health. Plus, vitamin D “helps regulate testosterone levels.” Most of the vitamin D in your body comes from sunlight. Only very small amounts are sourced from the food you eat. This is where vitamin D supplements and fortified foods come in to play.

When it comes to supplements, look for non-GMO or organic brands such as this NOW Vitamin D-3 supplement or this Garden of Life Vitamin D3 supplement. Some of the most vitamin D-rich fortified foods include plant-based milk, such as this Soy Dream Enriched Original Organic Soymilk, or cereals. Plant-based sources of vitamin D are somewhat rare. One of the best sources of vitamin D in the plant world is through mushrooms, one cup of mushrooms is equal to one percent of your daily value of vitamin D. Try out With that said, it’s super easy to integrate mushrooms into your diet, such as in this Truffle Oil Mushroom Bruschetta With Fermented Garlic, this super simple Creamy Mushroom Skillet with Pumpkin or even this Homemade Spicy Italian Sausage.

Beans

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While beans may not offer vitamin D, they are a great source of zinc and magnesium. One cup of cooked kidney beans has 74 milligrams of magnesium and 1.8 milligrams of zinc. One cup of cooked black beans has whopping 120 milligrams of magnesium and 1.9 milligrams of zinc. One cup of cooked white beans offers more of each with 122 milligrams of magnesium and 2.0 milligrams of zinc.  Plus, beans are one of the most diverse plant-based ingredients for meatless recipes such as this Quinoa and White Bean Burger, Italian Sausage on Baguette, Bean Patties in Beet and Chickpea Wraps, or these Swedish Veggie Meatballs.

Ashwagandha

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This ancient medicinal herb, also referred to as an adaptogen, has a variety of health benefits including lowering blood sugar, reducing cortisol, boosting brain function, and reducing anxiety and depression. Plus, ashwagandha supplements have also been linked to increased testosterone levels and male fertility. For instance, in one study conducted on “75 infertile men, the group treated with ashwagandha showed increased sperm count and motility,” and “the treatment led to a significant increase in testosterone levels.”

There are a variety of ways to consume ashwagandha. Supplements are the easiest form of ashwagandha, yet, as always, make sure they are non-GMO, organic, and vegetarian or vegan — such as this Organic India Ashwagandha Herbal Supplement. You can also purchase a powder form to add to smoothies, soups, and stews, such as this organic, raw, all natural SUPERWELL Ashwagandha Super Root Powder. Ashwagandha is also available to consume via tea, such as this organic Zokiva Nutritionals Ashwagandha Tea.

Lifestyle Habits to Boost Testosterone

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While diet plays an integral role in testosterone levels, there are also lifestyle habits that can also naturally boost testosterone. By integrating both diet and lifestyle factors, you can avoid supplementing synthetic forms of testosterone.

Increase Resistance Training

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Exercise is a key component of a healthy body. When it comes to boosting testosterone levels, focus on resistance training. Recent studies have found that “people who exercised regularly had higher testosterone levels.” Through research, it was also discovered that “the best type of exercise to boost testosterone in both the short- and long-term,” was resistance training, such as weight lifting, followed closely by high-intensity interval training.

Decrease Cortisol Levels

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Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, “is mainly released at times of stress and has many important functions in your body.” Yet, it’s important to have a balanced level of cortisol as problems arise “if your adrenal gland releases too much or too little cortisol.” Along with other health factors, “unnatural elevations in cortisol can quickly reduce testosterone.” Stress can also cause unwanted weight gain, which increases harmful body fat and “negatively [impacts] your testosterone levels.”

Get Enough Sleep

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We all know that getting enough high-quality sleep is incredibly important for our brain and body, yet sleep also affects our hormones. Recent studies have illuminated the major impact sleep has on testosterone levels. For instance, one study found that “sleeping only 5 hours per night was linked to a 15% reduction in testosterone levels,” and another long-term study “observed that those who slept only four hours per night had borderline deficient levels.” When it comes down to sleep, the more you get the higher your testosterone levels will go. In fact, one study calculated that “every additional hour of sleep you get, testosterone levels rise 15% higher, on average.”

We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

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