Every time you choose a meal, you have the opportunity to bolster your health—and that includes your sexual health. Dozens of studies link a healthy sex life to a stronger immune system and lower prostate cancer risk.
Sex also serves as a natural pain reducer and antidepressant, thanks to the feel-good hormones and endorphins it releases. Best of all, people who have healthy sex lives tend to live longer. Luckily, choosing certain healthful foods can provide a healthy boost in mood and sexual desire. Just remember to choose organic foods, or your plan could backfire. A 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that atrazine, one of the most commonly applied herbicides in the world, messed with more than just weeds. In animal studies, even diluted concentrations slashed sex drive and hormone levels, damaged fertility, and (YIKES) even turned some male frogs into females. Not sexy!
Asparagus has been considered an aphrodisiac for hundreds of years, thanks to medieval folklore. Turns out, our ancestors were probably right. Asparagus, apart from being one of the best foods to heal your gut, is one of the richest vegetable sources of folate, a nutrient that helps promote healthy nitric oxide functioning, something that can deter erectile dysfunction.
Libido Foods Trick! Serve up an asparagus and mushroom rice bowl for a protein-filled libido boost.
The authors of The Men's Health and Women's Health Big Book of Sex know a thing or two about the best libido foods. Here's their tip: If you suffer form a bit of sexual anxiety, eat a banana before you hook up. Banans deliver the feel-good neurochemical serotonin into the blood stream, which elevates mood and calms the nervous system.
Libido Foods Trick! Make it a dessert. Whip up a batch of banana pudding with vanilla wafers and snack with your sweetie.
Beans and lentils are bursting with B vitamins and iron, two components vital to promoting neurotransmitter health, particularly boosting serotonin levels. "Serotonin has been called the happiness molecule, but it's also at the center of a lot of other important functions, like mood and appetite, but also sex drive," explains Dr. Ramsey.
Libido Foods Trick! The best part, beans and lentils are one of the most affordable foods you can purchase (check out these 7 other cheap superfoods), making them extra efficient.
An excellent source of many antioxidants, broccoli also has a lot of vitamin C, which helps your blood circulation, and it's been linked to an improved female libido. But some people just don't dig it," says Keri Glassman, author of the Slim Calm Sexy Diet. "Researchers have even discovered the gene that makes some of us hate its bitter taste (also found in watercress, mustard greens, turnips, rutabagas, and horseradish)."
Libido Foods Trick! Instead of eating raw, try blanching (briefly cooking it in boiling water) to help tame the bitterness. If that still doesn't cut the taste down, pair it with something tangy. Try adding a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
"Fortified breakfast cereals and breads contain niacin, a vitamin that's essential for the secretion of histamine, a chemical our bodies need in order to trigger explosive sneezes—and orgasms," write the authors of The Men's Health and Women's Big Book of Sex. "They are high in thiaminand riboflavin, too, vitamins that help you use energy efficiently and that are important to proper nerve function, which translates into more stimulation and pleasure during sex."
Libido Foods Trick! Eat up these healthiest breakfast cereals for adults at any point in the day.
This spice is known for being rich in capsaicin, an antioxidant that can help keep you slim, but it also has powerful links to sexual health and has been shown to be effective in combating some types of prostate cancer. These peppers also have anti-inflammatory properties—the hotter the better.
Libido Foods Trick! Be careful: Those habanero and Scotch bonnets are wild! A simple way to experiment with the intensity? Sprinkle it on plain old chicken breasts.
Hot peppers don't just excite your taste buds. They quite literally make you hot, causing an elevated heartbeat and even sweaty palms. Capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their kick, could also fire up your libido. The feel-good endorphins boost that eating peppers releases has been compared to the endorphin rush associated with orgasms.
Libido Foods Trick! Incorporate hot peppers into any of these 5 Chili Pepper Recipes for a kick of hotness in the kichen, and the bedroom.
Chocolate's a go-to gift on Valentine's Day—and with good reason. A compound in dark chocolate, phenylethylamine, releases the same feel-good endorphins triggered by sex. Scientists even discovered that just one cube of dark chocolate a day could improve sexual function. It's also chock full of arginine, an amino acid that converts to nitric oxide. (Viagra also works by increasing nitric oxide levels). Want more amazing reasons to indulge in a few with your sweetie? Here are 7 amazing health benefits of chocolate that'll convince you it's a Valentine's Day must-have.
Libido Foods Trick! Choose organic chocolate so you don't also get a punch of the pesticides used to grow cocoa beans.
Often mistakenly believed to lack nutrients, celery stalks are actually loaded with androstenone and androstenol, a pair of pheromones that work to jumpstart your sex appeal. The effect is immediate: Men start emitting these pheromones just moments after chewing on celery; the compounds travel to the man's nose, boost his arousal, causing his body to send off scents and signals that attract women.
Celery also contains phytochemicals called phthalides, which relax muscle tissue in artery walls and help keep your blood pressure under control, even when things are out of control in the bedroom.
Libido Foods Trick! An adult take on the classic "ants-on-a-log" can give you a new benefit in the bedroom. Spread nut butter on the celery stalk for a protein-rich snack, and stay full without overeating.
"A study at a university in India, where cloves have been used to treat male sexual dysfunction for centuries, found clove extracts 'produced a significant and sustained increase in the sexual activity of normal male rats,'" says Glassman. "If it can rev up a rodent, I bet it can do the same for you."
Libido Foods Trick! Put it in one of these overnight oats recipes instead of cinnamon.
"Alright, so coffee breath may not be that alluring, but java does possess some sexy properties," Glassman says. "A study from Southwestern University found that the female sex drive perks up after a little joe, which stimulates the part of the brain that regulates arousal."
Libido Foods Trick! One caveat: Because getting back to a healthy sleep pattern is so important for your overall health, be sure to pay attention to your afternoon cutoff time. For many people, no caffeine after 2 p.m. is a good rule of thumb.
"One way to boost libido is to make sure you're eating a diet that prevents depressive symptoms," explains psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, MD, coauthor of The Happiness Diet. "That's one of the most classic signs of depression, that people lose interest in sex completely."
Eggs are an important component of sexual health, because they are a dependable source of L-arginine, an amino acid that can help eradicate erectile dysfunction. Egg yolks from hens raised on pasture also provide ample amounts of vitamin B12, one of the necessary building blocks for serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter that directly affects libido. To better understand which carton you should grab at the supermarket, find out how to read the egg carton labels, and get an idea of what the very, very, different terms mean.
Figs were a favored food of ancient Greeks and Romans, perhaps due to the fruit's potent sex-boosting mineral profile. Figs are rich in magnesium, a component your body needs to manufacture sex hormones (and more sex hormones means more of these 6 great benefits of sex). Need another reason to indulge in figs? The fruits support proper pH levels, increasing your body's ability to pathogens, and they'll even help you live longer.
Libido Foods Trick! Serve up a caramelized onion and fix pizza, and put a sexy twist on pizza day.
"Men's erections require a steady release of nitric oxide (and drugs like Viagra work on these pathways)," Glassman adds. "This substance is manufactured in the lining of blood vessels, or endothelium, and the healthier his heart and vascular system are, the better he'll be in bed. The omega-3s found in fish are one of the most proven nutritional paths to heart health we've got."
Libido Foods Trick! Some fish are certainly better than others. Check out this list of fish you should (and shouldn't) eat to find out which ones to add to your menu.
Welcome, flaxseed, a true superfood. "A rich source of dietary lignans, these tiny seeds have been proven to be a powerful source of omega-3s as well, and to be strongly linked to a healthier heart and vascular system," Glassman says. "Flaxseed also has some very real connections to sexual health. Although there's plenty of conflicting data, it's considered to have some potential in helping men with prostate cancer, and it has a bigger impact on women's hormonal levels than soy."
Libido Foods Trick! Add some flaxseed oil to your regular diet — studies show it can be just as effective as fish oil!
Eating this disease-fighting superfood can actually make you hot (And check out these other foods that can help fend off illness). Just like chile peppers, garlic can help improve blood flow to all parts of your body, which creates a warming effect. (You have organosulfur compounds to thank for that.)
Libido Foods Trick! Worried that garlic breath could ruin the mood? Make sure you have a sprig of fennel on hand: The herb's active compound, anethol, helps neutralize garlic breath.
Ginger root is best known as a natural remedy for morning or motion sickness, but it's been used for centuries as an aphrodisiac, too, because it purportedly increases blood flow to erogenous zones.
Libido Foods Trick! Heat up your palate, as well as your sex drive, with these 5 Spicy Ginger Recipes.
"In a study at the University of Hawaii, researchers found that women who consumed a supplement that contains ginseng saw a big increase in their libido in four weeks, and 68 percent said that their overall satisfaction with their sex life rose," Glassman reveals.
Libido Foods Trick! Dabble in some of the yummy ginseng tea varieties at your natural food store.
According to the editors of Men's Health and Women's Health, "honey's B vitamins aid in the production of testosterone, and its boron content helps the body use estrogen, which is a key factor in proper blood flow and arousal."
Libido Foods Trick! In the kitchen, drizzle it on your oatmeal or yogurt. In the bedroom, drizzle it on any lickable surface.
"The University of Guelph researchers found that this type of mustard plant, found in the Andes, increased desire in those who ate it," says Glassman. "Currently, there are studies under way to see how, specifically, it affects women with low libido."
Libido Foods Trick! Stick to the maca teas and powders (they're one of the three best natural energy boosters for smoothies), and skip the supplements —they haven't been tested enough yet.
"Researchers in India have shown that nutmeg makes male rats go nuts, increasing their sexual behavior whenever they get near a receptive female rat, so maybe you want to be careful how much you give your guy," Glassman adds. "We all grew up associating this heavenly smell with pumpkin pie, but it's also great with many vegetables."
Libido Foods Trick! Winter squash and carrots are naturals, but you'll be amazed at how great it tastes on green vegetables. It's awesome sprinkled over spinach or almost any spring greens.
It's been long debated whether oysters really are oceanic aphrodisiacs, but when you consider the potent zinc content the shellfish boasts, it's hard to deny the food is a boon to sexual health. Zinc is a key component for testosterone production, a hormone that boosts sexual desire in both men and women.
Oysters benefit us in other ways, too. Wild oyster reefs help stabilize shorelines, protecting them against erosion caused by strong storms. Enjoy It!
Libido Foods Trick! Wild oyster reefs are under attack, thanks mostly to invasive species, so choose farmed oysters. If you happen to live in New York state, check out Cornell University's Southold Project in Aquaculture Training--the program trains amateurs in raising oysters along waterfront properties or community shellfish gardens.
"Their high vitamin C count makes them something of a fertility drug for your guy," Glassman says. "Higher consumption results in better sperm counts and less sperm clumping (don't ask!).
Libido Foods Trick! Frozen slices, which you can toss into a smoothie, are actually a little higher in vitamin C than the fresh ones.
Throughout the ages, the pomegranate has been revered for its medicinal qualities. Many world religions consider the fruit sacred. In Judaism, its many seeds symbolize fertility and prosperity, relating to the first commandment of the Torah: "be fruitful and multiply."
In the Old Testament, The Song of Solomon compares the cheeks of a bride behind her veil to the two halves of a pomegranate. In China, a picture of an open pomegranate is a popular wedding gift. With such a fertile cultural history, you might expect the many-seeded fruit to have powerful sexual properties. Indeed, a study in the Journal of Urology found that pomegranate juice was good for healthier erections—in rabbits. So far, human studies haven't been very promising. Still, there are a lot of good reasons to eat and drink this fruit.
When scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles studied this ruby-red fruit, they found that pomegranates are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that allow blood to flow through your veins—a key component of good sex. And Israeli researchers discovered that men who drank two ounces of pomegranate juice a day for a year lowered their systolic blood pressure by 21 percent and dramatically improved blood flow to their hearts, proving that eating pomegranates is one of the 15 best heart-healthy things you can do.
Libido Foods Trick! Sip throughout the day, or start each morning with a pomegranate juice "shot."
Scientists at the Smell and Taste Treatment Research Foundation in Chicago found that the intermingled scents of pumpkin pie and lavender resulted in a 40 percent increase in penile blood flow. For ladies, the natural fragrance mix caused an 11 percent increase in arousal.
Libido Foods Trick! Avoid the temptation to grab scented candles advertising these sexy scents, though. Many contain toxic chemicals, such as benzene, and are linked to diabetes and obesity. Instead, pop a homemade pumpkin pie in the oven, hang some dried lavender in your home to optimize attraction!
"Its mild, delicate flavor is very popular in Spanish and other Mediterranean dishes, and University of Guelph researchers report that saffron is among the very few substances that actually lives up to its legend and improves sexual performance," Glassman notes. "Treat it with respect: It's one of the most expensive spices there is."
Libido Foods Trick! The best way to bring out its flavor is to soak the threads in hot (but not boiling) water or broth for 15 minutes and add the "tea" to your grain or soup recipe.
Women who eat spinach and other foods rich in B vitamins have a 25 percent lower risk of getting premenstrual syndrome, according to a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. What could be sexier or more freeing than avoiding a few days of tension and bloating?
Libido Foods Trick! For a surprisingly delicate flavor, toss some into a Green Goodness fruit smoothie.
"Beef is a great source of zinc, plus plenty of endurance-fueling protein and B vitamins," Glassman says. "And there's something so tantalizing about the sounds and smell of steak sizzling on the grill—like foreplay you can eat! It's good for sexual performance and has that special-occasion feel to it."
Libids Foods Trick! Make it grass-fed, and it's extra healthy.
Your skin is your largest sex organ. Keep it soft, supple, and wrinkle-free by limiting exposure to the sun, one of the primary reasons men and women age prematurely. In addition to applying sunscreen, ingest some SPF by eating sweet potatoes. European researchers recently found that pigments from beta-carotene-rich foods—like sweet potatoes and carrots—can build up your skin and help to prevent damage from ultraviolet rays.
Libido Foods Trick! Reach for a handful of roasted sweet potatoes as a snack, or dinner side.
This juicy favorite has an unusually high level of an amino acid called citrulline, which the body uses to make arginine, an amino acid that's related to vascular health that can translate to healthier erections. It has also been linked to increased libido in women, according to research from the University of Hawaii. And there's something kind of slurpy-sexy about a big slab of melon any day!
Libido Foods Trick! There are—at the very least—16 hot ways to eat watermelon, so don't shy away from this favorite.