When you think of someone following a vegan diet, what do you picture? If you’re like most, the stereotypical image of a weak and frail person might come to mind. But recent studies suggest otherwise. In fact, the vegan diet is being adopted by athletes including bodybuilders, powerlifters, and mixed martial artists.
With the popularity of the vegan documentary, The Game Changers, new studies are emerging and older studies are being uncovered that overturn once-held beliefs about the diet including vegan testosterone.
Let’s take a look at how the vegan diet can help or hurt your testosterone levels, depending on how you follow it. We’ll also take a look at the best vegan testosterone boosters, which can be used by vegans and meat-eaters alike.
Testosterone is often referred to as the male sex hormone because it plays a critical role in the physical development of men and it promotes masculine features. Testosterone is responsible for facial hair and body hair growth, sexual organ development, and deepening of the voice.
While testosterone is naturally present in women, it’s not nearly as prominent as the sex hormone, estrogen, which is associated with feminine features. In comparison, estrogen promotes breast development and wider hips. It also helps with the menstrual cycle.
There has long been a negative association with vegan diet testosterone levels. Since vegans can have trouble getting some nutrients into their diets such as protein, B vitamins, and vitamin D, they tend to have issues with their testosterone levels.
However, when a vegan diet is followed correctly, just the opposite can happen.
One study followed almost 700 men over the course of three years; one-third of the group were meat-eaters, one third were vegetarians, and one third were vegans.
Researchers concluded that although vegans had lower levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), they had more testosterone than both the meat-eaters and vegetarians.
How much more testosterone did the vegans have? Thirteen percent more! It’s also important to note that some studies suggest there could be a correlation between IGF-1 levels and cancer. So, the fact that they had lower levels of IGF-1 could be a good thing.
Despite this study, vegan low testosterone is still a serious concern. This is because most newcomers don’t eat a well-balanced vegan diet that incorporates enough of certain testosterone-supporting nutrients.
In fact, some of the foods they eat can cause a plummet in testosterone levels while increasing estrogen levels. Don’t make this mistake! Let’s review the best and worst foods for vegan testosterone.
If you are interested in starting a vegan diet, we recommend incorporating the following foods as they can contribute to a well-rounded nutrition plan that supports testosterone levels.
A tasty vegan snack, Brazil nuts contain several testosterone-boosting nutrients; most notably, zinc and selenium.
Studies show that selenium can increase available testosterone levels while improving symptoms related to infertility.
Did you know that the mineral zinc is one of the best natural testosterone-boosting nutrients? Studies show that zinc has a direct impact on testosterone levels. One study found that male subjects who supplemented with 30 milligrams of zinc per day had higher levels of free testosterone.
One of the best ways to add flavor to your food can also help to boost your testosterone levels. Studies show that garlic can increase testicular testosterone while decreasing cortisol.
The latter is a catabolic hormone that can lower testosterone levels and contribute to muscle loss.
To receive all of the benefits of garlic, we recommend eating it raw. If you can’t stand the taste, simply cut it up into small pieces and swallow those with a glass of water. You can also take garlic capsules, but you won’t get the same level of benefit from the allicin.
Cruciferous vegetables will form the foundation of your vegan diet. They include the following:
Each of these vegetables contains a compound called diindolylmethane, better known as DIM. Studies show that DIM can support testosterone levels by metabolizing estrogen. In other words, it helps to break it down and process it out of the body.
DIM also ensures that more of your total testosterone is available, which will increase your free testosterone levels. Finally, DIM naturally decreases aromatase activity, which is how estrogens are formed in the body.
Since cruciferous vegetables are already a major part of your diet, you shouldn’t have any trouble incorporating them. We recommend eating them both raw and cooked as certain nutrients become active after being exposed to light heat.
Beans form the backbone of meals on the vegan diet. They provide plenty of protein and fiber, but they also contain two key micronutrients that support healthy testosterone production: vitamin D and zinc.
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is a precursor to sex steroid hormone production in the body. It should come as no surprise that when someone has a vitamin D deficiency, they tend to also have low testosterone levels.
Studies show that increasing vitamin D in your diet can help to increase testosterone levels. You may want to supplement with sunlight as this is how vitamin D can be processed in the body without dieting.
As we already discussed above, incorporating zinc-rich meals into your diet has been shown to support healthy testosterone production.
We recommend mixing up your bean choice; don’t just stick with kidney or white beans. Here are some great choices:
Dietary fat once suffered from a long-standing reputation as being a contributor to weight gain and heart disease. Hence the surge of low-fat diet trends.
Thankfully, recent studies have revealed the truly beneficial nature of dietary fat, especially when it comes to testosterone levels.
Fats, saturated fats in particular, are needed for healthy hormone production. Thankfully one of the healthiest sources of fats is readily available on the vegan diet: coconut oil.
Studies show that this plant-based source of healthy fats can elevate free testosterone levels by as much as 15%. It should be noted that this study was performed on animals, but the science is clear that the healthy fats in coconut oil provide the building blocks for testosterone production.
Coconut oil can be added to a number of dishes including salads. You can also put it in your coffee or cook with it since it has a high smoke point.
Not all of the supposed vegan-friendly foods are going to be beneficial for you. There are three types of foods that can quickly zap your testosterone levels.
Soy is a popular form of protein on a vegan diet, but some forms of soy can be terrible for your testosterone levels. It all starts with growing soybeans.
Soy that is allowed to reach full maturation and placed in a fermentation process is healthy and can support your health. Studies show that soybeans that don’t fully mature contain a compound called equol, which is a phytoestrogen.
Higher levels of phytoestrogens in your diet, especially when consumed in excess, can lower testosterone levels.
If you’re following a vegan diet, it is essential that you take the recommendation of buying organic produce, not conventional fruits and vegetables. Why? One word: pesticides.
One of the health issues associated with pesticide-laced foods is low testosterone. Many of the foods that would ordinarily be great for your health and testosterone levels can become harmful when they are treated with pesticides and eaten in excess by you.
Studies show that the pesticides sprayed on common produce choices like apples, strawberries, and kale can negatively impact-free and total testosterone levels.
Continuing with the point above, vegans need zinc for healthy levels of testosterone.
But here’s the thing: zinc isn’t like fat-soluble vitamins, which are stored in the body. You have to ingest it through food and supplements each day to maintain healthy levels.
Since vegan diets cut out many common sources of zinc such as eggs and chicken, one of the most common side effects of the vegan diet is low zinc levels. As a result, vegan testosterone levels drop.
Great vegan food sources of zinc include oatmeal, beans, nuts, and fortified cereals and bread. You can also supplement with zinc. Most studies suggest no more than 30 milligrams per day.
Make no mistake about it: the foundation of your vegan diet must come from whole foods. However, one way to ensure that you’re getting enough natural testosterone-boosting nutrients is with supplements.
Here are several vegan testosterone boosters that have been proven to support or increase testosterone production.
A Peruvian superfood, maca has been used for thousands of years as a way to improve health and longevity. In the modern-day, maca is a popular and proven way to boost libido and fertility; something that ancient cultures knew about long before a study confirmed it.
Studies also suggest that maca can help to naturally increase testosterone levels. In particular, black maca root is especially helpful for men’s health and testosterone levels.
The recommended dosage is 3,000 milligrams (3 grams) daily. Maca can be taken as a powder or in capsule form.
Tribulus Terrestris is regarded as one of the best testosterone-boosting herbs for a vegan diet. Studies show that Tribulus Terrestris can increase levels of both total and free or circulating testosterone. What’s the difference?
Studies suggest that 750 milligrams of Tribulus Terrestris – 250 mg taken three times per day – is ideal for supporting vegan testosterone.
Ginseng is a dietary staple in Asian countries, especially South Korea, Japan, and China. While you can find it in many multi-vitamins and brain-boosting supplements, Panax ginseng is also a foundational ingredient in testosterone boosters.
Several studies found that when taken daily, ginseng can help to increase testosterone levels, boost libido, and support sexual performance.
How much Panax ginseng do you need to see results? One study found that a five-percent ginseng extract supplement, also referred to as a tincture, was enough to increase testosterone levels.
But if you’re taking a powder-based supplement, you can take between 1,400 and 2,700 milligrams each day. Just make sure to divide the dosage and take it two or three times throughout the day.
While the bulk of nettle leaf supplements are sourced from parts of Asia and North Africa, it is also a common backyard weed in the United States.
Stinging nettle leaf has some conflicting studies, but many researchers suggest it could have a positive effect on your testosterone levels.
Some studies suggest that stinging nettle leaf can inhibit a compound known as 5-alpha-reductase, which helps to convert your testosterone into dihydrotestosterone or DHT.
Obviously, if your testosterone is converted into another androgen, it’s not going to be available as free testosterone. By taking stinging nettle leaf, you might be able to boost your testosterone levels by preventing the conversion of it into DHT.
The common dosage for stinging nettle leaf is 500 milligrams in capsule form.
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You shouldn’t have to be scared about lower testosterone levels if you’re following a vegan diet. What’s important is that you eat a well-rounded selection of vegetables, fruits, and superfoods. You can also incorporate vegan supplements.
If you’re not sure about your nutritional needs on a vegan diet, we highly recommend that you hire a nutritionist who can create a custom meal planner based on your medical history, fitness experience, and goals.
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