Growing up, whenever the calendar paged over to December 1, our fridge and cupboards got stocked with certain kinds of foods that we normally didn’t see much of the rest of the year. Sure, the shelves brimmed with typical holiday fare like gingerbread or fudge, but you’d also find some heartier selections like a giant bowl of mixed nuts (that you had to crack yourself), sticks and sticks of summer sausage, and belly-filling eggnog.
Now that I have a family of my own, I’ve continued the tradition of decking the halls of our kitchen with these festive and delicious edibles. Because boy, do I love slicing me up some summer sausage and some really sharp cheddar cheese and making meat and cheese sandwiches (no crackers) while sitting by a fireplace and listening to some classic Christmas tunes. Throw in some mixed nuts and eggnog and you got yourself a certifiable holiday smorgasbord.
Last year as I sat munching on my plate of summer sausage and cheese, cracking nuts, and knocking back a glass of eggnog, a thought came to me: “This stuff is probably packed with cholesterol. Cholesterol is the building block of testosterone. All this deliciousness might be boosting my T!”
So I checked the labels and did some research, and sure enough, some of favorite holiday snacks also happened to be natural testosterone optimizers. And while nuts didn’t turn out to be the cholesterol powerhouses I thought they were, they’re still good for your T as well.
Below I highlight the traits and benefits of my favorite T-boosting holiday snacks.
Diet and Testosterone
For any of this to make sense, you need to understand a few basics about how testosterone is produced in the body. Testosterone levels are affected by a whole range of things, diet being one of them. While eating testosterone-friendly food is necessary for optimizing testosterone levels, it isn’t sufficient. You also need to throw in some heavy weightlifting along with some lifestyle changes like reducing stress and sleeping better. (Click here for my complete list of ways to naturally boost your testosterone.) So if you were hoping to put some hair on your chest by eating summer sausage alone, I’m sorry to say that strategy won’t cut it.
When it comes to diet, there are a couple nutrients that play a vital role in testosterone production:
Cholesterol is the building block of testosterone. Through a complex process, Leydig cells in your testicles convert cholesterol to testosterone. Sure, your Leydig cells can use the cholesterol that your body produces naturally, but if you want to truly optimize T levels you need to increase the amount of dietary cholesterol you’re consuming. Eggs, meats, and cheeses are all incredible sources of cholesterol. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to freak out about consuming too much cholesterol. For an in-depth treatment on the myths of cholesterol intake and heart disease I recommend the following articles:
- The Definitive Guide to Cholesterol
- The Straight Dope on Cholesterol Part 1
- The Straight Dope on Cholesterol Part 2
For anecdotal, n+1 evidence that consuming high amounts of cholesterol won’t put you on the path to a heart attack, you can take a look at my cholesterol levels after consuming pretty much nothing but eggs, bacon, and steak for six months, as I shared those numbers after my experiment with boosting my testosterone was complete. I’ve continued that diet (and have actually upped the daily egg consumption) and recent blood work has shown my cholesterol levels and blood pressure are optimal, and even better than they were back then.
Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) regulates the amount of free testosterone floating in our blood. The downside to SHBG-bound T is that it’s biologically inactive, meaning our bodies can’t use this type of testosterone to help build muscles or boost our mood. SHBG isn’t bad in and of itself, but too much of it is. Excess SHBG is why it’s possible to have high total testosterone levels, but still suffer symptoms of testosterone deficiency — the SHBG binds itself to too much testosterone and doesn’t leave enough of the pure stuff.
So if you want to get the benefits of testosterone, you need to reduce the amount of SHBG in your blood. Research has shown that one of the best things you can do to reduce the amount of SHBG floating in your blood is to increase the amount of fat in your diet — that means polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and yes, even that “bad” saturated fat.
Summer Sausage and Cheddar Cheese
My all-time favorite holiday snack is a plate of summer sausage and sharp cheddar cheese. When Buddy the Elf told the Gimbels Santa that he “smelled like meat and cheese,” that phony Santa should have taken it as a compliment.
Meat and cheese are loaded with testosterone-boosting cholesterol and fats. Plus, they’re delicious.
Combined, a serving of summer sausage and cheddar cheese provides 65 mg of cholesterol and 18 g of fat (most in the form of saturated fat). Of course, when I snack on summer sausage and cheese, I’m not just eating a single serving. So we can double those numbers.
Plus, sausage and cheese are a good source of protein, which builds muscles, which boosts T.
Eggnog combines two testosterone-boosting foods: whole milk and eggs. Eggs have tons of cholesterol (one egg has 187 mg of it). Sometimes before bed I’ll drink 3 raw eggs with a dash of cinnamon and vanilla to take advantage of these egg-cellent stats. Whole milk also contains a good amount of cholesterol — about 30 mg per serving, which is nothing to sniff at. What’s more, both milk and eggs provide lots of SHBG-reducing fats, particularly saturated fats.
What I found surprising is that despite supposedly being derived of eggs and whole milk, the eggnog I was buying at the store really didn’t have much cholesterol — about 45 mg per serving. Not shabby, but it could be better. Another downside is that it’s packed with waist-expanding sugar, and a big gut saps your T. It does have plenty of saturated fat, though.
I thought I could do better on the cholesterol and sugar content by making my own eggnog, so I that’s what I did. I call it “Bro-nog.” Significantly higher in cholesterol levels (419 mg!) and fat (21.6 g) and lower in sugar than store-bought eggnog, and it tastes pretty good to boot. Much better than my bedtime egg drink, which honestly, is kind of horrible.
Bro-nog Recipe (serves 1)
- 1 1/2 cups of whole milk
- 2 whole eggs
- 3 tsp of stevia
- 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
- a dash of cinnamon
- powdered nutmeg to taste (to really get that nog flavor, be liberal with the nutmeg)
Add all the ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy and frothy. Tweak the ingredient ratios as you desire. If you’re a true bro, just drink it straight out of the blender. Or you can put it in a cup and even add your favorite adult beverage (like rum) if you’re so inclined.
Nuts (Particularly Brazil Nuts)
While nuts don’t contain cholesterol, they are packed with SHBG-reducing fats, so don’t feel bad snacking on them throughout the holidays. While all nuts are great for boosting your T-levels, one nut in particular might be particularly beneficial: the Brazil nut. Besides being loaded with fat (one serving has 19g or 29% of the daily recommended amount of fat), they’re also packed with the micronutrient selenium. Research suggests that increased selenium levels can help boost testosterone levels.
Well there you go, some delicious holiday snacks, that can also help increase your testosterone levels. Festivity and virility. Put that in your pipe and smoke it like a right jolly old elf.