We all know that we should eat healthier and exercise to help ward off disease and live a long life.
But you might not be aware that the foods you eat not only influence your health in old age but also drive your vitality today in ways that are just plain sexy. I’m not talking about having ripped six-pack abs or lithe thighs—I’m talking about something people of all body types and ages can appreciate: libido.
The emerging data on nutrition is showing that what we eat influences every element of human health, including things like sex drive that aren't typically associated with diet.
To understand how diet drives libido, first consider these recent discoveries: for men, a decrease in calorie and fat consumption (along with an increase in exercise) has shown a nearly 50 percent increase in testosterone production. And a two-year study on women showed that the Mediterranean diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and olive oil) significantly increased scores on the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), a measure that includes assessment of arousal, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain.
As a doctor with four board certifications, I know that everything in health is multifactorial—eating the right foods must be combined with exercise and mental health to achieve the most benefit. And if you want to keep it simple, the Mediterranean Diet and almost daily moderate exercise will do more for your libido (and overall health) than any single food.
Still, if you suffer from sexual dysfunction or an especially low libido, you may want to consider increasing your consumption of specific foods that have been shown to bolster the hormonal and vascular systems associated with sexual function and drive.
Everyone’s heard that oysters are an aphrodisiac, but a single serving of oysters is probably about as effective in improving low libido as a single anti-inflammatory is at healing a broken leg. A better approach is to add the following foods to your everyday lifestyle:
The Spanish priests forbade the Aztecs from eating avocado due to the natives' use of the fruit as a libido booster. Modern science has now shown that the potassium and folic acid in avocados supports stamina and energy—so maybe the Aztecs were right.
2. Wild Salmon
The omega-3 fatty acids found in wild salmon support vascular health and improve circulation for sexual function. They also increase blood flow to the brain, supporting feelings of well-being and relaxation—the state of mind most conducive to a roll in the hay.
3. Red Wine
This might not surprise you, but now we actually have proof of the sexual benefits of red wine: in a 2009 study, a group of Italian women were broken down into three groups based on their daily drinking habits: moderate (one to two glasses of red wine), teetotalers, and alcohol consumers (more than two glasses or consumption of other alcohol types). The results showed that the group consuming one to two glasses of red wine scored better on the standard FSFI indicators of arousal, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain as well as desire and lubrication.
4. Dark Chocolate
Sugar, in the amounts consumed by the Western diet, is a metabolic and hormonal disaster; if I were to write an article on how to kill your libido, sugar would be first on the list.
That's why even though chocolate can increase the brain’s serotonin and dopamine levels, you must carefully weigh those benefits against chocolate’s sugar content. To receive the libido-enhancing effects of chocolate, I recommend dramatically reducing sugar consumption in the rest of your diet and only eating dark chocolate.
Call it Nature’s Viagra. Lycopene is a most powerful antioxidant—twice as effective as the more famous beta-carotene—and it occurs at the highest levels in tomatoes. Lycopene relaxes blood vessels and improves circulation. For maximum lycopene content, only buy high-quality and ideally organic tomatoes, and choose fresh tomatoes over the processed variety because nutrients are lost in the oxidation that accompanies even the simplest mechanical processing.
These five foods that boost libido are a great example of an emerging school of health. It makes the argument that the lifestyle factors that lower the risk of chronic diseases later in life will also improve the quality of your life today.
And think of it this way: who doesn't want to walk out of the doctor’s office with a prescription for chocolate, avocados, tomatoes, salmon, and red wine?