By Ian Kerner, Ph.D., LMFT
It's been said that the way to a lover's heart is through his (or her) stomach, and there's no doubt that the very act of preparing a delicious meal for your partner could score you points. But can certain foods actually increase your sexual desire?
We've all heard claims that foods and beverages like oysters, chocolate and red wine can boost libido, but the science behind these isn't particularly strong.
There may not be much research to support the effects of food on arousal, but it's true that great nutrition can promote great sex. Some foods and beverages, or, more specifically, the vitamins, minerals and other compounds they contain, may indeed help improve your sex life.
Overall, what benefits your heart also tends to benefit your libido, because our genitals need optimal blood flow to function properly. And other foods may look, feel, or taste sensual and I think that's reason enough to add them to your plate.
With this in mind, it might be time to indulge in a little "sex diet" with your partner. The goal here isn't to lose weight, but to enjoy the bonding process of cooking and eating together as a couple.
In a 2006 survey of 1,500 couples conducted with John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus, nearly 83% of those who said they cook together at least three times a week rated their relationship as excellent, compared with just 26% who said they rarely or never do. By getting hotter in the kitchen, you might also get things smoking in the bedroom: 58% of those couples who cooked together also reported having satisfying sex lives, compared with a third of those who don't.
When you're planning your next romantic meal, consider putting these foods on the menu:
Fruits and veggies. Greens in general are rich in L-arginine, while asparagus is an especially good source of folic acid, which increases the histamine production necessary for the ability to reach orgasm. (Its phallic shape also gives it a reputation as an aphrodisiac.) Avocados, arugula, watermelon, mangoes and figs all have long histories of use as libido boosters, too.
Nuts. Almonds are a traditional aphrodisiac food and are believed to promote fertility and libido. Walnuts, peanuts, and cashews are packed with L-arginine, a compound that appears to promote healthy erectile function in men and clitoral tissue in women.
Seafood. Oysters are the stereotypical aphrodisiac dish, possibly because they're rich in the mineral zinc, which has been linked to male fertility, potency and sex drive. Though it may not seem quite so sexy, a simple salmon filet may be even more important for good sex: salmon and other fatty fish like mackerel and sardines are great sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can also help improve mood.
Spices. Chili peppers are rich in capsaicin, a compound known to stimulate nerve endings and get your pulse racing, not unlike romance. Licorice and anise seed also have long been believed to increase arousal.
Chocolate. I'm not suggesting you scarf down a box of sweets every night (even if it's heart-shaped!), but a piece of good-quality dark chocolate may be just what the sex doctor ordered. It's been said that the Aztec emperor Montezuma drank up to 50 cups of chocolate daily in the hopes of improving his love life. He may have been on to something: eating it triggers the release of the chemical phenylethylamine, leading to feelings of excitement that are conducive to sex.
Honey. They call it a "honeymoon" for a reason: newlyweds once drank beer and wine containing honey (believed to be the nectar of the love goddess Aphrodite) in hopes of increasing fertility.
I wouldn't be surprised if the supposed sexy effects of these and other aphrodisiacs are mainly due to a placebo effect. If you believe they will turn you on, they will. But what does it matter? If you can enjoy a sensual meal with your partner, it may help you turn up the heat: not just in the kitchen, but between the sheets.
What do you think? Do you cook with your spouse? If so, do you find cooking together helps with a sense of connectedness? Are there foods you find sexy?