When your love life is lacking, you're tempted to try almost anything to reignite the spark. Well one answer may lie as close as what’s on your plate.
Sari Greaves, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and co-author of the Cardiac Recovery Cookbook, says, "For centuries, the smell, taste, and appearance of food has been touted as passion-producing."
Certain foods are reputed to strip away inhibitions, put you in the mood for lovemaking, or improve blood flow to your genitals, all of which could enhance your performance and your pleasure.
In truth, there’s not much scientific proof to substantiate the link between food and passionate sex. But that's no reason why you and your partner should shy away from these so-called natural love potions.
Experts say that most notorious food aphrodisiacs are a treasure trove of nutrients that are needed for sexual prowess and good health. It’s a win-win situation.
Sexually Suggestive Fruits and Vegetables
Some people find produce erotic. Bananas, asparagus, cucumbers, and carrots speak for themselves.
Avocados were prized by the Aztecs, who called them "testicle trees" because they grow in pairs. Ancient Greeks and Romans feasted on figs to promote potency. Pomegranates were also known as "love apples."
Ever wonder where the term "honeymoon" came from?
Centuries ago, newlyweds in Europe drank honey wine during the first month of marriage to improve their sexual stamina. As a bonus, the long-ago lovebirds also got small amounts of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from honey.
Perhaps Montezuma valued chocolate for its feel-good qualities too. Cocoa beans contain phenylethamine, a compound that triggers the release of endorphins, compounds associated with pleasure.
Cocoa powder processed without alkaline provides the biggest bang for the buck. It contains the highest levels of the antioxidants associated with lower blood cholesterol levels, reduced inflammation in blood vessels, and maximum blood flow. Darker chocolate contains more cocoa powder.
Oysters are dripping with dopamine, a compound that stirs feelings of sexual desire and pleasure. These mollusks are also bursting with zinc, a mineral that fosters the production of testosterone, necessary for arousal and pleasure in men and women.
You may need to resist the temptation to ply your paramour with raw oysters -- your romantic interlude could end with a severe case of food poisoning. Some raw oysters in the U.S. carry a bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus. Healthy people are unlikely to have adverse effects from eating raw oysters. But those with diabetes, liver disease, immune systems disorders, AIDS, and other chronic diseases can end up with a severe infection that may be fatal.
You can't get down when you're uptight. Eating salmon can help brighten your disposition.
"Salmon harbors an abundance of omega-3 fats, which qualifies it as a natural mood booster," says registered dietician and author or The Good Mood Diet, Susan Kleiner.
Salmon also supplies large amounts of vitamin D. Researchers at the University of Toronto have found that vitamin D appears to work in the brain like many antidepressant medications do: by raising levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that induces feelings of calm and banishes bad moods.
Rich in antioxidants that protect against cell damage, garlic is said to stir sexual desire and increase blood flow, Greaves says.
Just be sure to eat as much as your bed partner because the effects of garlic can linger on your breath for hours.
A glass of the bubbly can help set the mood. But remember, though a drink a day may help reduce the risk of heart disease in healthy people, too much booze can turn your tryst into a snooze fest. Alcohol is a central nervous system downer. Chronic drinking is also linked to erectile dysfunction, which will put an even heavier damper on lovemaking.
The Couple that Eats Together, Sleeps Together?
If you enjoy foods with a reputation for making you hot to trot, you may be thinking about whipping up meals that will knock your partner’s socks off. Well, there's more involved than just what's on the menu.
"A delicious meal can be a prelude to sex," Kleiner says. The act of cooking together can even be a form of foreplay, and the smell of food can ignite intimacy.
Research has shown that for men the aroma of pumpkin pie, cheese pizza, and buttered popcorn induces blood flow to the penis, and the combination of pumpkin pie and lavender does the best job. Women, on the other hand, respond to a combination of Good & Plenty and cucumber.
The smell of vanilla is particularly alluring. "Add vanilla extract to whole grain French toast or drop a vanilla bean into your champagne," Greaves says.
If you're not interested in any of the foods with a reputation for enhancing your love life, are you doomed to a lust-free existence? Not at all.
What matters most is that you and your partner dine on meals that include foods you both enjoy, as long as you don't overeat or drink yourself into a stupor, Kleiner says. "What you eat on a daily basis is far more important to overall sexual satisfaction than a single meal."
Good Health Is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac
Judith Reichman, MD, author of I'm Not In the Mood: What Every Woman Should Know About Improving Her Libido, says, "If you want better sex, take care of your health." Peak physical and emotional well-being is the most important factor in a satisfying sex life.
You don't need to be model-thin to have a wonderful sex life, but if you're uncomfortable with your weight, you may not be at your best in the bedroom for a few reasons.
Extra body fat also raises the specter of elevated blood glucose levels that can damage the blood vessels and nerves that allow for arousal and sexual pleasure. It also increases the risk for high blood pressure and clogged arteries.
Clear, flexible arteries allow maximum blood flow to all the right places during sex, enhancing your pleasure.
But don't cut too many calories. According to Reichman, menopausal women lose 90% of their circulating estrogen, which may result in less blood flowing to the genitals and diminished capacity for arousal. Body fat offers some protection, because, like your ovaries, it produces estrogen.