15 Aphrodisiac Foods That Put You in the Mood

When you’re preparing your romantic menu, consider using some of these ingredients, noted throughout history for their aphrodisiac qualities.

June 14, 2017
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Adapted from Men's Health Guide to the Best Sex in the World

The point of courtship is spending time together, talking, and having fun. And that doesn't have to cost a lot. In fact, Cupid has no more potent arrow in his quiver than The Romantic Dinner—and it won't cost you more than the price of a bag of groceries and a couple of decent bottles of wine.

Women love men who cook. And you've got to love how it moves the ball forward; there's no kind of foreplay that will get you where you need to be faster than a well-seasoned risotto or the perfect chocolate mousse. The whisper of sex and attraction shared between two people can turn any meal—yes, even one you've cooked—into a veritable feast (one that includes these red velvet desserts).

More: 30-Second Love Plays for a Better Sex Life

And there are plenty of foods out there that can enhance the already-in-the-mood meal both visually and texturally. An indulgent, relaxed state of mind can be heightened by a sweet taste. A glass of wine causes the skin to flush, emulating the glow of sexual arousal.

When you're preparing your romantic menu, consider using some of these ingredients, noted throughout history for their aphrodisiac qualities: 

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1. Asparagus

It's sweet, it's tender, and its phallic look is so very suggestive. This full-flavored veggie is jam-packed with vitamins and minerals that naturally boost your sex drive! Potassium and vitamin A are a major boon to general health and well-being, but what makes asparagus so sexy is the folate. What's so sexy about that? Folate stimulates the production of histamines, a lack of which has been associated with the inability to have orgasms. So more asparagus = more folate = less risk of having to fake it.

Serve it: Make this Asparagus & Mushroom Rice Bowl for two or turn it into breakfast with this Poached Eggs Over Asparagus & Toast recipe. 

avocado toast
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2. Avocado

The avocado hangs in pairs. Many peoples and cultures across history have taken note of this buttery-fleshed fruit's resemblance to testicles, but it was the ancient Aztecs who actually gave name to the suggestive fruit tree: ahuacuatl, which translates to "testicle tree."

The Aztecs, Mayans, and Incans all enacted fertility rituals in which nubile nobles supped on the flesh of the avocado. Thought to enhance sexual desirability, this sensuously curved fruit with its soft, smooth meat and large pit embedded within was so feared that when the conquering Spanish returned to Europe with news of the sexy fruit, the Catholic church forbade its members even a taste.

In the early part of the 1900s, an Aphrodisiac Avocado ad campaign took the United States by storm. The purpose was to convince the public that avocados were an aphrodisiac by denying that they were—a bit of early reverse psychology. The campaign was wildly successful.

Serve it: Merge avocado toast with an everything bagel to create an Everything Avocado Toast or serve dessert in the form of a Chocolate Crunch Avocado Mousse

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3. Bananas

Bananas may have the highest aphrodisiac pedigree of all. Ancient Islamic myth tells of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, covering their no-longer-innocent parts with banana leaves instead of fig leaves; another tells of the Eve-tempting serpent hiding in a bunch of bananas while he spies his innocent quarry.

Rich in potassium and B vitamins that stimulate sex hormone production, this witness to temptation is also associated with erotic energy in the Tantric tradition. A mid-afternoon snack just may lead to a mid-afternoon romp.

Serve it: A Banana & Peanut Stuffed Puff Pastry will be one scrumptious dish or serve an energy-boosting treat in the form of Chocolate-Banana Cupcakes with Almond Butter "Frosting."

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4. Basil

Sweet, lemony, peppery—basil has many faces, including that of a fertility booster (unlike these fertility killers). Said to be a stimulant to the sex drive, basil also increases a general sense of well-being—and being in a good mood might very well translate to being good while in the mood. In times past, women would dust their breasts and other parts with dried and powdered basil, since the mere smell of basil perfume was rumored to drive men wild.

Healthwise, the herb promotes a healthy circulatory system, and increased bloodflow is always an aid to a stand-up sex life.

Serve it: In the form of Basil Julep Ice Cream or simple Grilled Margarita Pizzas

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5. Carrots

It will make them "rut like wild beasts"—or so Roman emperor Caligula once said of feeding the entire Roman Senate a feast made entirely of carrot dishes. The ancient Greeks used carrot as a love potion to "make men more ardent and women more yielding."

Early Middle Eastern royalty included carrots on the menu in hopes that the phallic-shaped veggie would get diners in the mood. They're high in vitamins and beta-carotene, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, and folate.

Serve it: Offer your love some Brown Butter Sautéed Carrots or a SoCal Gourmet Carrot Dog to get them right in the mood. 

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6. Celery

It's good for the digestion, it cleans your teeth, it's great fiber, and its consumption releases female-attracting hormones. Yep, you read right (and it's a favorite zero-calorie food). Celery contains androsterone, the male hormone thought to stimulate sexual arousal in women. The androsterone is released through perspiration, and though her nose may not be able to actually detect the smell of the hormone, her brain will. Lunch may be cozy.

It worked for the ancient Romans—they dedicated celery to the god of sex, Pluto. 

Serve it: A Clean-Out-the-Fridge Minestrone Soup or a simple Vegetable Quinoa are quick and easy ways to serve the flavor-packed veggie. 

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7. Chocolate

Called the "nourishment of the Gods" by the Aztecs, this is certainly the sweetest and, some may argue, most effective aphrodisiac food. Chocolate contains two key ingredients—theobromine and phenylethylamine—that release the most feel-good chemicals the brain has to offer. Phenylethylamine (aka the "love chemical," said to induce feelings of excitement, attraction, and euphoria) sends dopamine coursing through the system, a process that peaks during orgasm. Theobromine packs a double punch: It unleashes serotonin, which relaxes the body and provides a general sense of well-being, and arginine, an amino acid known to enhance the level of arousal and sensation in both men and women. Arginine has been dubbed "nature's Viagra"—it allows increased bloodflow and the relaxation of smooth muscle, especially in the genitalia.

Serve it: Your chocolate dishes are practically endless. From Chocolate-Coconut Pie to Chocolate Hazelnut Pie, and Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Chip-Walnut Cookies to these Quick & Easy Homemade Chocolate Snacks, you have plenty of tasty options. 

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8. Fennel

The Kama Sutra includes this sweet herb in a recipe for love along with ghee (clarified butter), licorice, milk, cardamom, and honey. Fennel's chemical makeup contains compounds that mimic estrogen, a female hormone. Studies show that the herb increases the libido of both male and female rats. Drizzle olive oil over a combination of fennel, walnut, orange, mint leaves, and pomegranate seeds on a bed of arugula to kickstart your romantic dinner for two.

Serve it: As a Grapefruit and Fennel Consommé or in Italian-Style Black Quinoa & Spinach Summer Rolls for a light pre-bedroom snack. 

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9. Figs

The erotic act of eating figs is a centuries-old turn-on. Figs were rumored to be Cleopatra's favorite food. Ancient Greeks associated the fig with love and fertility largely because an open fig strongly resembles the female sex organs. In some Southern European countries, it's traditional to throw figs, instead of rice, at retreating newlyweds as a symbol of a fertile marriage. Breaking open a tender fig and peeling the skin back to reveal the luscious, juicy flesh can be the first and final step to seduction. 

Serve it: Give your love Fig Jam Cookies for breakfast or dessert, or a Caramelized Onion and Fig Pizza for dinner. 

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10. Licorice

Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine say that licorice is particularly stimulating to women. Men aren't exactly immune, though: Studies have found that the smell of black licorice increases bloodflow to the penis by 13 percent. Try chewing bits of licorice root—it's 50 times sweeter than sugar.

Serve it: Licorice tea is one of the easiest ways to serve it. 

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11. Nutmeg

Research shows that nutmeg stimulates mating behavior in mice. Don't go too crazy with it, though. In large quantities, nutmeg can cause hallucinogenic effects. Get high on love instead.

Serve it: A seasonal Rum-Based Eggnog will be perfectly holiday-friendly or Welsh Cakes can be served all year long. 

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12. Oysters

Romans first made aphrodisiac claims for these mollusks in the 2nd century A.D., based on their resemblance to female genitals. In 2005, a team of Italian and American researchers found rare amino acids in oysters that trigger greater levels of sex hormones, and the more sex hormones you have, the more you want to get busy. These amino acids can't be found in a bottle at the health food store. As Casanova, the legendary Italian lover, knew, you have to go straight to the natural source. He was purported to eat several dozen oysters a day.

Serve it: Follow these quick and tasty ways to serve shellfish to make sure that you're not giving your partner less-than-great seafood

Pine nuts
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13. Pine nuts

Considered an aphrodisiac for their rich store of zinc, a mineral necessary for male potency, pine nuts are also alluring because they play hard to get: The nuts are tucked into the cones of the pine tree. Like a lot of nuts, pine nuts offer good fats, are heart-friendly, and are packed with minerals.

Serve it: Turn it into a diet-friendly lunch with a Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich with Cranberries & Pine Nuts or as a salad: Farro with Nectarines, Basil, and Toasted Pine Nuts

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14. Vanilla

In the 18th and 19th centuries, vanilla tinctures were administered to men as an aphrodisiac. Research shows that a major component of vanilla, helitropin, calms the nerves and relaxes the body. To set a relaxing mood, try natural vanilla scented candles or drop vanilla beans into a flute of bubbly. 

Serve it: Your dessert is about to get a makeover with either Vanilla-Scented PalmiersGluten Free Vanilla Almond Biscotti, or a Banana Pudding With Vanilla Wafers

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15. Wine

A glass or two will lend a glow to the skin, relax the body, and stimulate the senses. Much more than that and you'll be too drowsy for much more of anything. Hold the glass gently, make a toast, meet her eyes over raised glasses, and drink to romance. 

Serve it: A chilly Honeydew and Mint Wine Pop is what you need if you don't want to go for a straight glass. 

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