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Aphrodisiacs: Fact or Fiction?

Food really can put you in the mood; find out how.
WebMD Expert Column

Can certain foods truly stimulate sexual desire, or is it all in our heads? Research shows us that it's mostly the latter -- but when it comes to aphrodisiacs, we should never underestimate the power of sensual suggestion.

Between 25% and 63% of American women (many of them postmenopausal) have some type of sexual dysfunction. And several major news articles have been published recently that paint a troubling picture of how many married couples today are lucky if they end up "getting lucky." (It seems that job demands, stress, and busy schedules are to blame.)

Enter aphrodisiacs. Basically, foods considered aphrodisiacs are those that aim to stimulate the love senses (sight, smell, taste, and touch). But can food, or even the simple act of eating, put you in the mood for love? The answer is YES -- but not in the way you might think.

No food has been scientifically proven to stimulate the human sex organs. But foods and the act of eating can suggest sex to the mind, which in turn can help stimulate desire in the body. And it certainly doesn't hurt to stack the sexual odds in your favor by enjoying foods you and your partner find sensual!

The 5 Types of Aphrodisiacs

Historically, most aphrodisiacs have fallen into five general types, all based on unproven theories:

  • Are you "hot" yet? Foods that create warmth and moisture (like chili or curry) were thought to arouse "heated" passion, while cold foods (like lettuce and purslane leaves) were supposed to "chill" passion.
  • If it looks like a sexual organ ... Foods that resemble male or female genitalia were believed to increase desire. The infamous oyster is one example, as are some fruits, and root vegetables like carrots.
  • The remarkable reproduction hypothesis. Reproductive organs and eggs (fish roe and bird eggs, animal genitals) were thought to increase sexual desire and potency.
  • If it's exotic, it must be erotic. Foods considered rare (and consequently expensive) were believed to be sexually exciting. When many of these foods, like potatoes and cocoa, became more widely available, their reputations as sexual stimulants waned.
  • Stimulate the senses, stimulate desire. Foods that stimulate the senses (sight, smell, taste, and touch) in a pleasurable way were thought to stimulate passion.

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