It’s hard to overestimate the role that testosterone plays in the health and life of any man. It directly affects our physical performance, sex drive, fertility, enhances the build-up of muscle and promotes the growth of facial hair. In a sense, you could say that testosterone is one of the main hormones that determine masculinity itself.
But it’s a well-known fact that most foods that boost testosterone levels are animal products. Beef, tuna, egg yolks, oysters… Delicious stuff, but what if you are a vegetarian or vegan? Will you have to make the dreadful choice between your manliness and lifestyle philosophy?
The short answer is NO, as recent studies have revealed that vegans actually have higher testosterone levels than meat lovers and even vegetarian folks. How is that even possible?
Let’s dig into the subject by starting from the basic terms.
Who is a Vegan?
A vegan is a person who doesn’t consume any kind of animal products and usually avoids using them in other aspects of his or her life as well. In other words, vegans don’t eat meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey. But that’s just the start.
Vegans don’t use ordinary soap (as it’s often made out of animal fat) and cosmetics that include any sort of animal product. They don’t wear leather, woolen or silk clothes, and they don’t sleep on pillows that have goose or duck feathers inside. Yep, it’s a quite strict doctrine, so certain folks choose to stop at the dietary aspect of it.
Dietary vegans are sometimes called “strict vegetarians,” as they’ve brought the principles of vegetarianism one step further by passing on the eggs and dairy too, not just meat, poultry, and fish.
Okay, but can such a diet be healthy and provide people with all the nutrients and minerals they need? What about their hormones? Can a healthy male be vegan and still have normal testosterone levels?
Yes! But don’t take our words for granted. Let’s take a look at serious scientific studies that confirm the general thesis that vegan males aren’t necessarily bound to have low T levels.
How Does a Vegan Diet Affect Testosterone?
- More T, less cancer! The British Journal of Cancer indicates that vegan men have 9% less IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1, considered to be a risk factor linked to prostate cancer) than meat-eaters and vegetarians, and 13% more testosterone. Some other studies confirm that many vegans are likely to have their T levels higher than omnivores (people who don’t abstain from eating any kind of food).
- Vegans have on average a 5 points lower BMI (body mass index) than non-vegetarians. And guess how is that related to serum total testosterone levels? Yep, there is a significant inverse correlation between these two parameters. The lower your BMI, the higher your T usually is. This is explained by the fact that adipose (fatty tissue) produces a substance called aromatase, which transforms testosterone into estradiol, an estrogen. Roughly speaking, excess body fat transforms your male hormones into female ones, and this is far from being something beneficial for a man.
- Like all steroids, testosterone is produced from cholesterol, which is absent in plant foods. The trick (and good news for all vegans) here is that 80% of your cholesterol is produced internally, and does not depend on your diet. But several other components are just as essential! For example, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and zinc deficiency are known to lower T levels. Vegans usually do their best to get enough of all necessary nutrients and microelements, as they are aware of the colossal importance of these substances. Also, vegans consume on average more vegetables and fruits than a usual Western diet adept does.
- On average, vegetarians and vegans exercise more often than omnivores, as they are more keen to follow a healthy lifestyle. And it is a well-known fact that aerobic exercise increases testosterone levels, especially in overweight people.
Quick Tips for Vegans
- Regardless of your diet, get enough sleep. A study that was published in 2011 indicates that a single week of sleep restriction to 5 hours per night (sounds familiar, eh?) lowers testosterone levels by 10-15%.
- Eat enough vitamins. As said above, vitamin A, vitamin D and zinc are quite important for the synthesis of testosterone, so make sure you’re getting enough of those!
RDA: 900 micrograms daily for men, 700 micrograms daily for women.
Best sources of vitamin A for vegans: leafy green vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, cantaloupe, kale, broccoli, mango, apricot.
RDA: 15 micrograms daily for both men and women
Best sources of vitamin D for vegans: fortified almond or soy milk, exposure to sunlight (10-15 minutes per day).
RDA: 11 mg daily for males, 8 mg daily for females
Best sources of zinc for vegans: kidney beans, chickpeas, nuts (cashew, almonds, peanuts), oatmeal, tofu, lentils, tempeh.
Exercise regularly. This is important not only to boost your T levels directly but also to get rid of excess weight, an established factor that could lower your testosterone levels regardless of your diet.
If you find yourself having trouble in getting enough of the required nutrients daily, consider the possibility of trying out safe supplements that could aid you in the matter.
Veganism is the philosophy and practice of excluding all animal products from your life, both from your diet and general lifestyle. Throughout the years, this concept gained a lot of popularity and adepts from all around the world, but the question remained open: can a vegan diet really provide its followers with all necessary nutrients for their health? For example, wouldn’t men suffer from lower testosterone levels if they were to give up meat and other animal products?
Initial researches confirmed that there is a possibility of such a scenario indeed, but later it was confirmed that vegans may actually have higher testosterone levels than vegetarians and even omnivores (people that don’t have dietary restrictions). In any case, it is necessary to follow several principles to keep your testosterone levels on a healthy mark, regardless of your diet and philosophy of life. Get enough sleep (not less than 7 hours each night), eat enough vitamins in your food, and do your best to exercise regularly. To learn more in depth ways to increase T production visit our increase testosterone section.