by Kathleen Barnes
Today’s rates of male infertility and sexual dysfunction suggest that low testosterone is rapidly becoming a national problem.
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine epidemiologists estimate that 18.4 percent of all American men over the age of 20, totaling 18 million, have reported experiencing erectile dysfunction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 7.5 percent of all sexually experienced men under 45, or more than 4 million, have consulted a fertility doctor, suggesting it’s a serious problem among younger men.
“Both erectile dysfunction and infertility reflect elements of lifestyle choices, especially obesity, smoking and exposure to environmental toxins,” says Naturopath James Occhiogrosso of Fort Myers, Fla., author of Your Prostate, Your Libido, Your Life: A Guide to Causes and Natural Solutions for Prostate Problems and ProstateHealthNaturally.com. He says there are many ways to address low testosterone, a factor in both erectile dysfunction and infertility. He also stresses the importance of a healthy diet for healthy sexual function for both men and women.
Some foods can help, while others can hinder a man’s sexual vitality, says Craig Cooper of Newport Beach, Calif., founder of the Cooperative Health network of men’s health websites and author of Your New Prime: 30 Days to Better Sex, Eternal Strength, and a Kick Ass Life After 40. He identifies key no-nos that decrease testosterone as eating excess sugar, drinking excessive alcohol and being sedentary.
Here are the best foods for increasing testosterone:
Shrimp: Like fatty fish, this tiny crustacean is one of nature’s few food sources of vitamin D, which Harvard School of Public Health research confirms is linked to testosterone levels. Four ounces of shrimp contain 162 IU (international units), about 40 percent of recommended daily intake.
Oysters, red meat and pumpkin seeds: All of these are rich sources of zinc, which Cooper notes has a direct link to higher testosterone levels. He cautions, however, that too much zinc can cause its absorption to diminish. Men need 11 milligrams (mg) of zinc a day. Oysters are considered a food of love for a reason: One shelled oyster contains 12.8 mg of zinc. Pumpkin seeds are zinc powerhouses with 7 mg in 3.5 ounces. By comparison, 3 ounces of beef liver or dark chicken meat deliver 4.3 mg and 2.4 mg, respectively.
Lean, grass-fed beef, tuna and nuts: These are high-quality sources of omega-3 fatty acids. “Without obtaining at least 20 percent of our daily calories from fat (no less than 15 percent) we can’t function at optimum capacity, as hormones are produced through the components of dietary fats, including the sex hormones like testosterone,” says Virginia Beach, Va., Registered Dietitian Jim White, a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “A diet high in carbohydrates and too much dietary fat—more than 35 percent—will cause a gain in body fat, which can decrease testosterone levels. Balance is the key.”
Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage: Cruciferous vegetables are rich sources of indole-3-carbinol, which helps both balance testosterone and estrogen and neutralize excess estrogen in men and women, says Occhiogrosso. Yes, men have estrogen, too, just less than women, and too much blocks testosterone production.
Red grapes: This whole food is a good source of resveratrol and proanythocyanidin, which block harmful estrogen production, says White. Excess estrogen production spurred by eating foods like soy and fl ax and the growth hormones contained in big agriculture’s meat and dairy products lowers testosterone production in men.
Strawberries: Due to their cortisol-lowering vitamin C, all berries help reduce stress, including when hormones are released during a heavy workout, that can hamper testosterone production. One study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine confirms that more cortisol equals less testosterone; another in the World Journal of Men’s Health shows that high cortisol lowers sex drive and results in delayed ejaculation. Plus, two Brazilian studies showed animals with the highest vitamin C intake had the highest sperm counts among study subjects. Another good cortisol fighter is the allicin in garlic.
Pomegranates: Occhiogrosso likes pomegranates for building testosterone levels. An impressive study from the International Journal of Impotence Research showed that the performance of 47 percent of the impotent male study participants improved after consuming a daily glass of pomegranate juice for four weeks. “Food is always the first choice when I’m treating men with testosterone and fertility issues,” says Occhiogrosso. “It’s often effective without the dangers of testosterone injections.”
Kathleen Barnes is the author of numerous health books, including Food Is Medicine: 101 Prescriptions from the Garden. Connect at KathleenBarnes.com.
Health counselor James Occhiogrosso says it’s essential to know a man’s entire hormone profi le, not just testosterone levels, to understand the best way to treat problems. A hormone panel should include blood and/or saliva tests of the following: 4 Testosterone 4 Free testosterone 4 SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) 4 Progesterone and estradiol (hormones not only present in women) 4 DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), a precursor, or foundational hormone, that produces both estrogen and testosterone.
Bodybuilding Doesn’t Build Testosterone
Many people think that bodybuilders defi ne he-man muscles by producing huge amounts of testosterone. Not so, says Naturopath James Occhiogrosso, who specializes in men’s health. “Bodybuilders consume huge amounts of protein to build muscles,” he says. “When a man’s pumping 100 to 150 grams of protein into his body every day, he will actually produce less testosterone.” For healthy testosterone levels, he recommends that a man derive a maximum of 25 percent of his daily calories from protein.