Chocolate dipped strawberries. Oysters. Chili peppers. And even, eh, sex dust (yes, really). There are no shortage of suggestions and listicles online of foods touted for their aphrodisiacal qualities.
But it can be hard to separate fact from fiction, ardent anecdote from science-backed fact. “There’s a lot of supposition,” says Rosy’s founder and CEO Lyndsey Harper, MD. “But the reality is we don’t have any great data when it comes to how nutrition directly effects desire.”
Keep it simple
What we do know is that, for the vast majority of people, no obscure ingredients or fancy supplements even come close to doing as much as good diet and exercise can for your sex drive. You don’t need to hunt out wild herbs found in the Himalayan mountains – some basic lifestyle changes can have a much bigger impact.
When it comes down to it, eating fresh foods that are easy to digest (more whole foods, fewer heavily processed ones), having smaller meals and going for a brisk walk to get your blood flowing can do a lot to help get you in the mood. “Being a healthy human, eating good-for-you foods and staying active definitely benefits your sex life,” says Dr. Harper. “There’s even a study that showed that women who exercise three times a week for twenty minutes prior to sex had better overall sexual function.”
Of course, the converse is true as well. “When you’re unhealthy, when you feel that in your own skin, when you’re eating the wrong foods or you’re overeating – that definitely translates into your sex life as well,” explains Dr. Harper.
And while there are a lot of roundabout ways that nutritional deficiencies can cause low desire (for example, if you have an iron deficiency and you’re very anemic, that can create fatigue, which is almost guaranteed to impact your libido), what is more common is that a poor diet can leave you feeling sluggish and uninterested in sex. “What I see more often is people who have complaints about how their nutrition effects their physical functioning in general,” says Dr. Harper. “So it’s not about, say, eating an oyster and it will make you want to have sex. It’s more, ‘If I eat like crap or I just ate a big meal late my stomach hurts and then I don’t want to have sex.’”
Cancel the dinner date
Speaking of which, a big romantic meal is ironically not the best way to go about boosting your chances of fun between the sheets. “The only thing a seven-course meal and extravagant dessert will make you want to do is sleep,” laughs Dr. Harper. “It’s probably one of the worst things you can do! Instead, why not have sex before your date? Pretend you’re getting ready.”
Of course, there are some nutrients that have been shown to help things along. So, instead of rich amuse-bouches, consider incorporating some of the below ingredients into your next date night dinner.
Why are there myths around oysters? It could be because they contain the mineral zinc, and people with higher levels of zinc in their system have been shown to have a higher sex drive than those with lower levels (also, deficiencies in zinc have been shown to be a risk factor for infertility caused by low testosterone levels). Other foods high in zinc include pine nuts (hello, pesto), shellfish, legumes and beans, eggs and whole grains.
While spinach might not seem like a likely addition to your sexy food list, it is very rich magnesium, which decreases inflammation in blood vessels, increasing blood flow. Better blood flow can not only increase arousal, but actually make sex more enjoyable, even making it easier to reach orgasm.
Dark chocolate has been shown to increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, which in turn help reduce stress. Some research has also shown that cocoa relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow too. Any excuse, right?
Turns out, chili peppers can indeed spice up your sex life. Hot peppers (think habanero, cayenne or bird’s eye) stimulate endorphins, speed up your heart rate and yep, they get blood flowing too. Just don’t forget to wash your hands extremely thoroughly after handling them.
It’s not quite “nature’s viagra”, as previously thought, but watermelon is rich in the powerful antioxidant lycopene and the amino acid citrulline, both of which have been shown to relax and dilate blood vessels. You could try swapping your regular OJ for a generous serving of watermelon juice every now and then.
None of these ingredients alone are a quick fix solution of course, but, combined with a healthy diet and fun exercise regime, they can offer a tasty boost. Perhaps even the fact that you’re cooking with them in the first place, with the intention of releasing any libido-boosting powers, will be enough to help get things going!