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Weekly Diet News Digest

by John McGran, Columnist

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I first interviewed fitness trainer Mike Levinson shortly before Father's Day. The image here shows Levinson in great shape, but he swears he only got that way after gaining 50 pounds with the birth of his first child. Levinson says he got his head back in the game and whittled away the weight while toning up.

His common sense matter-of-fact manner made me hungry for seconds, so last week I hunted down the author of Buff Dad: The 4-Week Fitness Game Plan For Real Guys (HCI), for this follow-up.

Ladies, don't be turned off by the title of Levinson's book -- or the fact these powerfoods are great for boosting testosterone and helping build muscle in men. Levinson promises women too will benefit from including the super 10 foods in their diet.

The Top 10 Testosterone Powerfoods

The Buff Dad Dietary Plan includes the 10 powerfoods. The 10 foods that boost testosterone levels naturally and help develop more muscle tone are:

1. Lean Beef

What’s Inside: Protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, saturated fat.

The Facts: “Few things have as positive an impact on testosterone levels as lean meats,” says Larrian Gillespie, retired assistant urology professor and author of many health and nutrition books. Beef specifically offers the added benefit of having high protein and zinc â€" two nutrients key to optimizing testosterone and muscle-building potential â€" in one source. While too much saturated fat is not a good thing, you require some to produce testosterone.

How to Get It: Grill or broil a lean cut of steak a few times a week.

2. Beans

What’s Inside: Protein, fiber, zinc.

The Facts: Beans pack a bigger shot of zinc than any other member of the veggie family; some (like baked beans) even rival the zinc content of red meat. Add it to a food that’s high in protein and fiber and low in fat, and you have a winning combo.

How to Get It: Baked beans, lima beans, navy beans, and kidney beans are all good choices. Canned versions are just as nutritious as dry.

3. Poultry

What’s Inside: Protein and little fat.

The Facts: “High-protein diets have a positive impact on muscle mass and thus testosterone levels,” says John E. Morley, director of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at St. Louis University. “High fat has the opposite effect.” So while chicken and turkey lack high zinc levels, their protein-to-fat ratios make them important to your diet.

How to Get It: Roast or grill skinless, boneless portions of turkey or chicken several times a week. Or choose chicken and turkey cold cuts for lunch.

4. Eggs (preferably egg whites)

What’s Inside: Protein and cholesterol.

The Facts: “Testosterone is synthesized from cholesterol, and as such, food containing cholesterol is a good source of building blocks for testosterone,” says Robert S. Tan, M.D., associate professor of geriatric medicine and andrologist at the University of Texas in Houston. (An andrologist specializes in male diseases, especially those affecting the male reproductive system.) Eggs are a source of pure, unadulterated cholesterol, and one recent study shows that the excess cholesterol in eggs isn’t as harmful as previously thought.

How to Get It: Start your day with three or four eggs or egg whites cooked in olive oil or fat-free cooking spray. Egg whites are lower in calories and are recommended in most of the Buff Dad recipes.

5. Cottage Cheese (1 percent milk fat)

What’s Inside: Protein with very little fat.

The Facts: One cup of 1 percent cottage cheese has more protein and less fat than a serving of lean beef or chicken. Have it as a snack or with a meal for testosterone-boosting potential.

How to Get It: Eat 1 cup of cottage cheese each day. Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon for extra flavor.

6. Broccoli

What’s Inside: Indole-3-carbinol, fiber.

The Facts: “Elevated estrogen levels lead to fat accumulation and can interfere with muscle growth,” says Chris Aceto, author of Championship Bodybuilding. In a clinical study, indole-3-carbinol found in broccoli reduced the female hormone estradiol by 50 percent in men, resulting in increased lean muscle and decreased fat.

How to Get It: Eat as many servings of broccoli as you can stomach.

7. Cabbage

What’s Inside: Indole-3-carbinol, fiber.

The Facts: In addition to exhibiting the same estradiol-restricting properties as other cruciferous vegetables, cabbage is high in fiber. Because fiber is satisfying, you eat less overall. Moreover, keeping weight down has an anti-estrogen impact.

How to Get It: Load up that fat-free brat with sauerkraut and have a side of slaw. (Just go easy on the mayo.)

8. Brussels Sprouts

What’s Inside: Indole-3-carbinol, fiber.

The Facts: Listen to your mom: Brussels sprouts do help you grow up big and strong. Like the other vegetables on the list, Brussels sprouts specifically target bad estrogen and pack in the fiber.

How to Get It: Hold your nose and power them down.

9. Garlic

What’s Inside: Allicin (an enzyme produced within the clove).

The Facts: In clinical studies, garlic’s active ...    Continue

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@ 3:02pm ET on June 30, 2008
What about all the hormones that are added to chicken, cows and other livestock when they are farm-factory raised? When we ingest those hormones don't they increase the estrogen in our bodies?

@ 9:27pm ET on June 30, 2008
Yah! Is any one but me a vegetarian here? Meats are not healthy! If everyone would follow a non-animal diet everyone would benefit. Please consider my advice...

@ 12:06am ET on July 1, 2008
I was wonder the same thing youloveradha is.

@ 10:05am ET on July 1, 2008
I will forward your responses to Mike... we'll see what he has to say. I know meat is a great way to get protein -- and protein is important for building muscle. I also know many people refuse to eat meat. Thanks for posting all!

John McGran

@ 11:34am ET on July 1, 2008
Here are Mike's responsese to the above queries/concerns:

"What about all the hormones that are added to chicken, cows and other livestock when they are farm-factory raised? When we ingest those hormones don't they increase the estrogen in our bodies?"

MIKE: Many hormones are used by farmers to raise their animals faster and more efficiently. Much of the controversy surrounds beef, since hormones are given to more than 90 percent of cows in the U.S. The FDA permits six hormones to be given to livestock. Both livestock and humans naturally produce three: estradiol, testosterone and progesterone. These hormones are also reproduced from plant hormones in the laboratory. Trenbolone acetate, melengestrol acetate and zeranol are synthetic hormones used on animals.

The FDA has concluded that the amount of hormone residue in our food is negligible compared to the amount that the body produces naturally. Nevertheless, two hormones–estradiol, a type of estrogen, and progesterone–are considered probable carcinogens by the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health. Estrogen has been linked with breast cancer in women and testosterone with prostate cancer in men, while progesterone has been found to increase the growth of ovarian, breast and uterine tumors.

When it comes to animals other than cows, the situation isn’t quite as grim. According to the FDA’s National Center for Veterinary Medicine, no hormones are approved as growth promoters for chickens or pigs. And while farmers also use another category of hormones called estro-synchronization products, designed to make animals give birth at the same time, these are approved only for sheep and cattle and, again, not for chickens and pigs.

"Is any one but me a vegetarian here? Meats are not healthy! If everyone would follow a non-animal diet everyone would benefit. Please consider my advice..."

MIKE: I believe going vegetarian is a healthy alternative to eating animal products. Keep in mind there are many levels of vegetarians including lacto-ovo and vegans. For all those vegetarians make sure you get enough iron fortified foods and good sources of protein such as soy, combination of nuts and seeds and other foods.

Protein: You don't need to eat foods from animals to have enough protein in your diet. Plant proteins alone can provide enough of the essential and non-essential amino acids, as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs.

Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and nuts all contain both essential and non-essential amino acids. You don't need to consciously combine these foods ("complementary proteins") within a given meal. Soy protein has been shown to be equal to proteins of animal origin. It can be your sole protein source if you choose.

Iron: Vegetarians may have a greater risk of iron deficiency than nonvegetarians. The richest sources of iron are red meat, liver and egg yolk -- all high in cholesterol. However, dried beans, spinach, enriched products, brewer's yeast and dried fruits are all good plant sources of iron.

Vitamin B-12: This comes naturally only from animal sources. Vegans need a reliable source of vitamin B-12. It can be found in some fortified (not enriched) breakfast cereals, fortified soy beverages, some brands of nutritional (brewer's) yeast and other foods (check the labels), as well as vitamin supplements.

Vitamin D: Vegans should have a reliable source of vitamin D. Vegans who don’t get much sunlight may need a supplement.

Calcium: Studies show that vegetarians absorb and retain more calcium from foods than nonvegetarians do. Vegetable greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli, and some legumes and soybean products, are good sources of calcium from plants.

Zinc: Zinc is needed for growth and development. Good plant sources include grains, nuts and legumes. Shellfish are an excellent source of zinc. Take care to select supplements containing no more than 15-18 mg zinc. Supplements containing 50 mg or more may lower HDL ("good") cholesterol in some people.

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