February has arrived and love is in the air, complete with romantic candlelight dinners and flirtatious glances across the table. Have you ever wondered what foods might enhance the mood?
Certain foods and food compounds are considered aphrodisiacs, or foods or drinks that stimulate sexual desire. Many of them don’t have much scientific backing specifically linked to libido, yet they still contribute to a healthy sex drive. They have nutrients that:
- contribute to healthy blood flow
- increase nitric oxide synthesis, relaxing blood vessels
- support healthy testosterone levels, which fuels sex drive
In addition, the scent, shape, texture and color of certain foods can trigger arousal through the brain, which is our most potent sexual organ.
Try out a few of these aphrodisiacs to see if they enhance your mood. Try several at once in this libido-boosting chocolate chili bark.
Chocolate has long been associated with romance and for good reason. Chocolate has compounds such as phenylethylamine and tryptophan, which are known to have mood-enhancing effects. Eating chocolate may stimulate the release of the feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. It may also increase cortisol, which can heighten arousal. Chocolate is also a good source of magnesium, which has muscle-relaxing properties.
Given that chocolate is so commonly associated with romance, the simple act of eating it with a romantic partner can trigger feelings of intimacy.
Maca is a sweet root vegetable whose origins are the Andes mountains in Peru. The Incas revered it for its ability to boost arousal and fertility. While the mechanism of how maca influences sexual function isn’t fully understood, some theories have been proposed.
- Maca has adaptogenic properties that help the adrenals regulate the stress response.
- Some studies suggest that it may work on the endocrine system, regulating sex hormones.
- It may have vasodilatory effects, increasing blood flow.
- It may increase feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
- One study suggests that maca increases sperm count.
Maca comes as a powder or supplement. As a powder, maca can be used as a tea or put in smoothies or desserts.
Oysters are commonly thought of as an aphrodisiac, with various cultures believing that they can enhance libido and sexual performance. This is largely attributed to their high zinc content.
The mineral zinc is essential for the production of testosterone, the hormone associated with sexual desire in both men and women. A zinc deficiency is linked to lower testosterone levels, which can decrease libido and sexual function. Zinc also is needed to produce healthy sperm.
Some people find the texture and shape of raw oysters to be erotic as well, contributing to a romantic mood.
Figs have been considered a symbol of sensuality in part because of their sensual appearance, scent and texture. They have been associated with increased libido and fertility.
Figs contain amino acids, especially histidine and arginine, that support the production of sex hormones and may also enhance stamina. Arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide, which helps relax blood vessels. Histidine is a precursor to histamine, which plays a role in sexual response.
There is some evidence that avocados may have a positive effect on libido. They are rich in various nutrients that are important for sexual health, such as:
- Vitamin E – a potent antioxidant that plays a role in hormone production, and may have a positive impact on the libido
- B-Vitamins – important for overall health, and especially important for energy and vitality
- Healthy fats – full of healthy monounsaturated fats that are excellent for cardiovascular health
- Potassium – plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and blood flow, which is essential for sexual arousal
An interesting tidbit about the avocado is in the origins of its name. The Aztecs named it āhuacatl, which directly translates to “testicle.” Coincidentally, avocados typically grow in pairs.
Korean Red Ginseng
Ginseng has been used for 5000 years as an aid for sexual arousal and erectile dysfunction. Some studies have demonstrated that Korean red/Panax ginseng improves sexual function, arousal and satisfaction in both men and women. Results vary by study, by the type of ginseng, and by individual. It is believed that ginseng works by:
- Increasing nitric oxide levels and blood flow
- Exerting an adaptogenic effect, helping the body adapt to stressors that can negatively affect libido
Red ginseng can be taken as liquid, powder or capsules. It can also be bought as the dried root to boil in water for tea.
Ginseng may interfere with blood-thinning medications and the treatment of hormone-sensitive cancers. Check with your doctor before taking if you fall into those categories.
Korean red ginseng is not to be confused with American or Siberian ginseng.
The red color and heart shape of strawberries give strawberries a reputation for enhancing libido. Their high amount of Vitamin C supports a healthy sex life and is thought to boost libido.
Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, which is needed for testosterone production. They also are full of protein, healthy fats and citrulline, which is important for blood vessel health.
Chili peppers contain capsaicin, the chemical that makes them spicy. This spicy heat increases heart rate and circulation, supporting a healthy blood flow.
Preclinical studies indicate that pomegranates boost testosterone by inhibiting the aromatase action that converts testosterone to estrogen. Pomegranates also contain potent antioxidants and have been associated with fertility and abundance because of their abundant arils (seeds).
The bottom line is that there is some scientific evidence that many of these foods have aphrodisiac effects. Other studies show no effects, and their effects vary from person to person.
Overall vibrant health sets up the body for vibrant sexual health. Of primary importance to sexual health is eating a nutrient-dense diet, and balancing hormones by getting enough sleep, managing stress, getting exercise and finding avenues of joy in life.
At Radiance Functional Medicine, we believe that food is medicine. We hope that you will allow us to help you heal your gut, balance your hormones, or find a way of eating that helps you thrive! Schedule an appointment to get started. Whether you are looking for a Nutritionist or Functional Medicine Doctor in Denver or your local area, we see patients in person and virtually. Call our office at 303.333.1668 to schedule your Initial Consultation.