Throughout history, certain foods have been touted as bona fide libido boosters. But can a few strategically placed spices or a few opulent seafood options really get you all hot and bothered? Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano breaks down what actually works and what doesn’t.
Pomegranates: rich in vitamin C and Vitamin E and may lower cortisol (a hormone that reduces libido). Figs: Contains amino acids, increases blood flow and helps with erections.
The summer favorite isn’t just a refreshing snack; it’s also believed to boost sexual energy in men. Watermelon is packed with citrulline, which helps relax blood vessels and increase nitric oxide in the body to boost sex drive. It’s especially effective for men because it increases blood flow to the penis, and it can help with erectile dysfunction.
The amino acid citrulline converts to arginine, which helps boost blood flow to the penis and other parts of the body. It is also thought to help enhance muscle tone and increase exercise performance.
Strawberries are a well-known aphrodisiac food that can increase passion and sexual desire for both men and women. They are rich in vitamins A, B and C and contain phytoestrogens that improve sperm quality and lubricate the urethra, making it easier to have an erection.
Vanilla is one of the most powerful aphrodisiac foods because it can lower stress and induce feelings of warmth, love and happiness. Try using a vanilla-scented candle or creating a delicious vanilla recipe from these aphrodisiac cookbooks to set the mood.
Pistachios may seem like a weird addition to your dinner plate, but these crunchy nuts contain the same aphrodisiac pheremones as truffles and have been found to promote blood flow in men. In fact, one study showed that consuming pistachios can help men maintain firmer erections than those who don’t. They’re also rich in boron and B-vitamins, particularly folate, which has been shown to improve circulation.
Other aphrodisiac foods include asparagus, strawberries and figs, which are rich in antioxidants that improve blood flow; and oysters, which are high in zinc, a mineral that increases testosterone production. Other aphrodisiacs are believed to boost libido by enhancing sensory pleasures, such as spicy foods that increase body temperature and pheromone-rich herbs such as tulsi.
While saffron doesn’t have the same aphrodisiac effect as some of these other foods, it has been shown to improve sexual function. In a small study, men who took 30 milligrams of saffron per day for four weeks experienced a rise in libido and improved penis firmness. Other studies have linked saffron to an increase in natural lubrication.
Many so-called aphrodisiac foods and supplements claim to boost libido. However, most have no real evidence that they work. Some are simply a placebo, and others may have real effects by improving energy levels, boosting natural hormone production, or stimulating the brain’s natural pleasure receptors.
Chocolate, for example, contains phenylethylamine, a naturally occurring chemical in the body that may enhance sexual desire. The Aztecs believed it was the “crown of love.” Berries are another natural aphrodisiac because they contain flavonoids, which may help improve blood flow. Ginger, an ancient aphrodisiac, can stimulate the heart and digestive system.
Maca root, which was traditionally used in South America to boost fertility, has also been shown to improve sexual function in both men and women. It’s available as a powder in health food stores and is easy to add to smoothies or cereal. Other herbal remedies that may promote libido include St John’s Wort, Muira Puama, Korean ginseng, and ginkgo biloba. But, it’s important to note that these herbs and supplements should never be taken without consulting a doctor first.
While aphrodisiac foods may boost your desire, it’s important to remember that a healthy diet and regular exercise are still the best way to improve sex life. Aphrodisiac foods like oysters, chocolate and root veggies have ‘genitalia-like’ shapes, which can boost libido simply by making you think about them (and eat them). Plus, some foods like chillies, tomatoes and turmeric have ‘feel good’ compounds that help enhance bodily sensations. Other aphrodisiac foods like beets, ginger and tiger nuts have nitric oxide in them, which helps to dilate blood vessels and improves circulation to the genitals.
It’s also important to stay away from supplements claiming to be aphrodisiacs, which aren’t regulated and can contain hidden ingredients that can cause side effects and interact with certain medications. Instead, opt for aphrodisiac foods that have some scientific backing, like ginseng, saffron, maca and tiger nuts. For women, tiger nuts can boost oestrogen and testosterone levels, while cruciferous veggies can elevate serotonin in the brain to improve mood and increase libido. For men, lean red meat boosts libido by increasing testosterone.
Whether you’re looking to increase your libido or set the mood for your partner, there are plenty of natural ways to do it. From delicious fruit to mouthwatering dark chocolate, there are a variety of foods that have been hailed as natural aphrodisiacs.
Watermelon is known as nature’s Viagra, thanks to its abundance of citrulline. This amino acid is converted to l-arginine in the body, which helps produce nitric oxide, a compound that dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow.
Another great source of nitric oxide is arugula. This leafy green also contains zinc, which plays an important role in sexual function and reproduction in men.
Chilies, known for their ability to stimulate desire, are also said to boost libido. However, this effect is often attributed to the rush of endorphins that occurs after eating them.