Science-Backed Aphrodisiacs: Exactly What To Eat To Ramp Up Your Sex Drive
Suffering from a low sex drive? Try changing up your diet. What you eat can boost your libido, improve your stamina, and enhance your performance in the sheets.
For centuries, various foods have been considered aphrodisiacs. Some gain that reputation simply because they remind us of parts of the anatomy (bananas, avocado, peaches, and the infamous oyster). Spicy foods such as hot peppers cause sweating, increased heart rate, and sensations normally associated with getting it on. By virtue of their procreation status, reproductive foods and organs like fish roe, eggs, and animal genitals were believed to increase sexual desire and potency. Then there are some dishes containing vanilla or licorice that give off pleasing aromas that put us in the mood for sex.
So, maybe the answer to your bedroom woes can be found on your plate.
Foods that make you feel frisky.
Aphrodisiac foods are certainly the stuff of myth, folklore, and legend. But what does science say? As it turns out—a lot! There are several scientifically validated foods and nutrients that can indeed rejuvenate libido:
Throughout history, aphrodisiac traits have been attributed to chocolate. Turns out, there's solid truth behind this belief. This divine and luscious-tasting food is packed with flavonoids, beneficial plant compounds that, among other benefits, activate nitric oxide1 (NO) in the body. NO dilates blood vessels, including those in the penis. Translation: firmer erections.
Chocolate also contains a substance called phenylethylamine2 (PEA), a natural amphetamine manufactured by the brain in response to the feeling of love. And PEA is believed to be responsible for that hormonal rush during sex. No wonder the Aztec ruler Montezuma supposedly swilled 50 cups of chocolate liqueur every day before heading off to his harem!
Indulging in a little chocolate won't mess up your diet either. If you find yourself craving something sweet, enjoy a piece of dark chocolate, with a content of 75% or more cacao (the seeds of the cocoa plant from which chocolate is made). Incidentally, the cocoa plant is endowed with more health-saving antioxidants than most foods, a 2011 review concluded3.
And speaking of PEA, cheese can contain up to 10 times more PEA than chocolate4, making it easier to get the mood-boosting effect in a slice or two. Grilled cheese sandwich, anyone? Other foods with good PEA concentration are natto, eggs, and legumes.
Here's a fruit that looks like female genitalia, and thus, believed by ancient civilizations to stimulate sexual desire—and it actually does. That's because it is rich in the antioxidant glutathione, required to make sex hormones. This antioxidant also protects every cell, tissue, and organ in your body—and slows down aging. Other foods high in this cell-regenerating nutrient are spinach and the cruciferous family of vegetables (think broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts) and mushrooms.
This sweet root vegetable is often called the Peruvian Viagra because in South America it's commonly used to boost fertility. Grown predominantly in the mountains of central Peru, maca is a member of the cruciferous family that includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage. There is plenty of research on maca, supporting both its libido-enhancing effects, as well as its ability to improve fertility. One study5 observed that taking maca improved erectile dysfunction; another found that treatment with maca improved sexual desire6. Researchers have also found that maca improves semen quality7—which leads to better fertility.
Maca powder is easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Enjoy it in smoothies and shakes, with tea, or dissolved in a glass of water.
These healthy fats are well known as sexual energizers! They are building blocks of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that play a huge role in sexual health. Found in fish, seafood, nuts, and seeds, omega-3 fats help your body absorb vitamin D, necessary for the healthy function of your sex hormones. Results: increased libido8 and more spark between the sheets!
These delicious, nutritious nuts have wonderful benefits, including helping to reduce blood pressure, normalize cholesterol, and thus lower your odds of heart disease. Here's one of the best parts: They're notable for improving erectile dysfunction. In one study9, men who ate 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of pistachio nuts daily for three weeks had better blood flow to the penis and, as a result, firmer erections. So, guys: Start snacking on pistachios!
This delectable shellfish is a powerhouse food with libido-boosting compounds. One is zinc, a mineral required for testosterone and sperm production in men and enhanced lubrication in women. Another is D-aspartic acid10, which has been shown to stimulate the release of both testosterone and estrogen, which, in turn, stimulate sexual desire and performance.
What is the best diet for sex?
One final piece of advice: Follow the best diet for the best sex. And what would that diet be? According to a 2018 study in the journal Nutrients, it is a ketogenic diet11, especially for women. Researchers put the participants on a keto diet for four months. At the end of the study, women self-reported the following: feeling more excited during sex, experiencing greater lubrication, and having more orgasms. Translation: A keto diet definitely boosts your friskiness factor and your satisfaction!
I'm not really surprised by what research reveals about a keto diet. Many keto foods boost oxytocin, the bonding hormone that plays an important role in the brain's impulses to be intimate. Foods known to enhance oxytocin include vitamin-C-rich foods such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, and healthy fats.
If you want to go keto, I always recommend that you make the diet "keto-alkaline." This means adding more greens, avocados, nuts, and other alkaline foods to your eating plan. When the body is in an alkaline state, it functions better and can stave off some of the side effects of the keto diet like keto flu.
You can definitely nourish your libido and sexual appetite with the proper foods and diet. Try these suggestions and see what happens next in your bedroom!
Dr. Anna Cabeca is a menopause and sexual health expert currently working in Georgia. She received her doctor of osteopathic medicine in gynecology and obstetrics from the Emory University School of Medicine. Cabeca is the creator of many products for hormone and dietary support and is the author of The Hormone Fix, a comprehensive diet and lifestyle plan for women approaching or in menopause. She has been featured on NBC, CBS, and ABC and in the Huffington Post and Reader's Digest.