Can You Actually Eat To Boost Libido? Doctors & RDs Weigh In

Contributing Food Editor By Liz Moody
Contributing Food Editor
Liz Moody is a food editor, recipe developer and green smoothie enthusiast. She received her creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody is the author of two cookbooks: Healthier Together and Glow Pops and the host of the Healthier Together podcast.
Medical review by Heather Moday, M.D.
Allergist & Immunologist
Heather Moday, M.D. is the founder of the Moday Center for Functional and Integrative Medicine in Philadelphia, where she practices both traditional medicine and integrative medicine.
Can you actually eat to boost libido?

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Lack of libido is a common problem among women and men. While there can be a number of underlying causes (and if you suspect hormonal imbalance, definitely check in with a functional doctor), there are a few foods that have been shown to make a big difference. 

"Over the years, there has been talk about aphrodisiacs that can stimulate libido to help get you in the mood," explains Nicole Rivera, D.C. and founder of Integrative Wellness Group. "Aphrodisiacs specifically modulate the hormone testosterone in both men and women, which can promote a healthy libido." 

It's also important to make sure you're eating a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet, explains Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian, mbg Collective member, and author of the upcoming The Little Book of Game Changers: 50 Healthy Habits for Managing Stress & Anxiety.

"Making sure that you're following a diet that covers your nutritional needs is important because when you're dealing with nutrient deficiencies or hormone imbalances, that can show up in a lower libido," she explains. "Also, if you're exhausted because you're not getting enough calories or are dealing with energy crashes and mood swings because you're not eating in a way that supports stable blood sugar, it may be harder to get enthusiastic about getting busy."

Cording also recommends paying attention to seasonal shifts. "For example, if you get really down during fall and winter when your vitamin D and serotonin levels dip because you're getting less sun, make sure you're accounting for those shifts by adjusting the foods and supplements that are a regular part of your routine," she explains. 

Having adequate blood flow to your genitals is also important for increasing sensitivity, so foods that enhance circulation can be beneficial. You also want to make sure you've done an elimination diet and aren't eating any foods that are causing digestive issues. "If there are foods that upset your system, avoid eating those before you're planning to have sex, as that's an obvious mood killer," says Cording.

Want a few specific add-ons that will make getting in the mood a little bit easier? Try adding these foods to your diet: 

1. Mushrooms

According to Rivera, dopamine is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to wanting to have sex. "Dopamine is thought to create feelings of pleasure, thereby motivating you to seek out certain behaviors such as sex," she explains. A main precursor to dopamine production is L-theanine, which is present in mushrooms, so make a stir-fry for dinner and dive in. 

2. Green tea

Similar to mushrooms, green tea contains L-theanine, which raises dopamine levels. And yes, matcha counts, so sip up!

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3. Oats

Serotonin also plays a key role in pleasure, so paying attention to tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, is important. "Seek out tryptophan-rich foods like animal proteins, honey, oats, and chickpeas," says Cording.

4. Beans & lentils 

"Iron-rich foods support efficient blood flow through the body, so incorporating plant-based sources of iron like beans and lentils can be helpful," says Cording. Try these black-bean tacos, which take minutes to make, leaving you plenty of time to get busy.

5. Oysters

"Oysters are rich in zinc, a key nutrient in supporting male fertility by aiding in testosterone production," says Cording. 

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6. Salmon

"Omega-3-rich fatty acids also play a role because of its impact on mood, so making sure you're eating fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines a few times a week can help," explains Cording. Try this 15-minute poached salmon recipe.

7. Chili 

"In ayurveda, spicy foods may truly spice up your sex drive by stimulating both the senses and libido," says Aviva Romm, M.D. and author of The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution. Western medicine backs this up, as spicy foods increase blood flow, which increases sensitivity. "Given chocolate's sexy-all-around vibe and mood-boosting benefits, as well as some possible aphrodisiac qualities to vanilla (the scent of it has been shown to arouse men), I recommend including some chili-spiced chocolate, with some vanilla in it as a dessert or liquor on the menu for a romantic evening to heat things up," Romm suggests. 

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