History and folklore around the world tell of foods that enhance sex and improve fertility. In China, licorice was rumored to increase a lady's libido. The ancient Romans recommended garlic before a sexual tryst — advice that is unlikely to be popular today.
Current evidence suggests that a balanced, nutritious diet is the best overall way to improve sexual energy and performance. There are, however, a handful of foods that may be better than average for increasing desire.
Myth has it that when Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and sex, emerged from the seas, she was standing in the shell of an oyster. Since ancient times, oysters have been thought to stimulate and improve sexual drive. Research indicates that oyster meat is high in antioxidants and could be helpful in inducing and enhancing sexual activity.
Almonds are a healthy snack that can increase blood sugar and aid smooth muscle contraction, two effects that are helpful during sex. One study took this further, adding almond to the diets of diabetic rats. Diabetes can cause sexual dysfunction by reducing the amount of sexual hormones the body produces. In the rat group that ate almonds, this effect was reversed. There is also evidence that nutrients in almonds can increase the frequency and quality of erections.
Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel can improve heart health. These fish are rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. One study on couples attempting to conceive in Michigan and Texas found that those who ate seafood with omega-3 had higher fertility and more frequent sexual intercourse than couples who did not.
Farmed salmon is the highest and most easily accessible source of omega-3s, though light tuna, sardines, mackerel, cod, and trout are also good choices.
Apples are affordable, highly nutritious, and there is evidence they can improve sexual performance in women. Women who ate apples daily had higher scores on the Female Sexual Function Index, a scientific measurement that ranks sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, pain during sex, satisfaction, and orgasm.
Nutrients in apples may stimulate sex hormone production and reverse some effects of aging, leading to higher energy and more pleasurable intercourse.
A glass of red wine is a date night staple for good reason. While overconsumption of alcohol can be harmful to sexual health, there's evidence that moderate red wine consumption can improve desire and stamina. Interview subjects who consumed a glass of red wine daily reported that they had an easier time becoming aroused and better sexual performance than those who drank more than two glasses per night or did not drink at all.
Pomegranates contain a wealth of healthy nutrients. Acids and biophenols in the fruit can help protect against heart disease, lower blood pressure, and reduce pain. Pomegranate juice also seems to have a positive effect on mood. Those who drank it had lower productions of cortisol, a key stress hormone, and reported better mood and overall quality of life.
These effects on both heart health and mood could help improve the sex lives of people who drink pomegranate.
A spice related to ginger that's common in Southeast Asian cuisine, fingerroot, or Chinese ginger, has long been used in traditional herbal medicine. Research finds fingerroot has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antioxidant properties. It has been used for centuries in China, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and there is evidence that this plant may help with erectile dysfunction and testicular health.
Fingerroot can be found in many specialty Asian grocery stores and is used in Thai curries, Chinese stir fry sauces, and Javanese Terasi.
The chemical capsaicin is what gives spicy foods their slightly painful heat. It gives the vegetable a means of survival, warning predators not to eat it, but many people enjoy the fiery taste of chillis. This could be partially because the rush of heat to the skin and tingling sensation is similar in some ways to the feelings experienced during arousal. Chillis increase circulation and sensitivity and can ignite passion.
The Aztec word for avocado, Ahuacuatl, means testicle, in recognition of the fruit's evocative shape. It's been associated with sex for centuries, and the reasons may be more than aesthetic. Avocados are high in energy-improving healthy fats, potassium. and vitamin B6. They also contain oils that improve heart health and blood flow, which can aid erection.
Perhaps the most famous aphrodisiac, chocolate features in everything from romantic movies to Valentine's Day gifts. Research into chocolate's scientific benefits is mixed, with some studies indicating it might be age, rather than consumption of chocolate that improves sexual performance.
The pleasurable taste, however, combined with compounds which help relax smooth muscles could still have a positive impact.
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