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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and if you have a “boo thang” in your life, chances are you’re gearing up for quite the romantic evening—unless you’re not into this holiday and are planning on treating it like any other day, because that’s OK, too. But if you’re looking to put on the romance and need a little bit of help, you may be able to turn to the food you eat on a daily basis. In fact, there are quite a few aphrodisiac foods that have been found to help boost libido.
According to Pharmacognosy Review, an aphrodisiac is any substance—this can be a food or drug—that increases your sexual desire. To be even more specific, the same review states that aphrodisiacs can play any of the three main roles, or multiple roles at once: increasing libido, enhancing pleasure, and/or improving potency.
Some of the foods that count as aphrodisiacs may surprise you. For example, chocolate—which has been associated with romance for quite some time—didn’t make the list. This is because there is hardly any research on its actual aphrodisiac effects, and a study that tested chocolate and women’s libidos found that once all of the data factors were adjusted, there was no difference in libido among chocolate eaters and non chocolate eaters.
But what about the foods that did make the cut? Read on to see which of these 7 foods you may want to add to your Valentine’s Day meal, and for more healthy eating tips, make sure to check out The 5 Worst Foods Destroying Your Sex Drive.
There is nothing sexy about slurping down oysters, and yet, they’re arguably one of the most well-known aphrodisiacs. According to Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our Medical Expert Board, they get their libido-boosting name because “they are rich in the mineral zinc, which may play a role in regulating testosterone production.”
“Oysters are high in omega-3s, which may increase blood flow and aid in erectile and testicular function,” Young explains.
Another connection between oysters and your bedroom is that zinc has been found to improve levels of dopamine in the body. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is connected to your senses of pleasure, and studies have found that there is a connection between dopamine and sex by way of improving erectile dysfunction.
If you haven’t cooked with saffron yet—a spice used in many Indian and Moroccan dishes—you’re missing out for two key reasons. For one, it’s full of flavor. And not only does it add a ton of spice to your food, but saffron has also been found to contain aphrodisiac qualities.
In one study from Phytomedicine, a group of men who had erectile dysfunction (ED) were given a 200 milligram saffron tablet every morning for ten days. After the ten days were up, it was discovered that the saffron tablets had a positive effect on ED cases. More specifically, it increased the number of erections and how long each one lasted.
Another study, which was published in Human Psychopharmacology, found that 30 milligrams of saffron a day was associated with increased arousal in women, as well as higher levels of natural lubrication.
According to Young, you may want to make some extra guacamole or throw a few pieces of frozen avocado into your next smoothie.
“This fruit contains healthy unsaturated fats, and including healthy fats in the diet is important for hormone health,” says Young. “Avocados also contain the B-vitamin folate, which makes histamine, a compound that is released during orgasms or when one gets aroused.”
A small research study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research found that pistachio nuts may have aphrodisiac-like qualities. However, the sample size consisted only of 17 male participants, so more research is certainly needed on this topic.
The men who participated had all reported having erectile dysfunction for at least 12 months. They each ate 100 grams of pistachios every day for three weeks, and at the end of the study, their erectile function had improved. Not only that, but LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) was lowered, and HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind) had increased.
Maca is technically a cruciferous vegetable—think same family as kale or broccoli—but its most common edible form is powder that people sprinkle into dishes or smoothies. To some, this powder is known as the “viagra of superfoods,” and research shows that this may be true.
In a small study published in the First International Journal of Andrology, a group of males with erectile dysfunction were given maca supplements or a placebo for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12-week period, the men who were given maca reported an increase in their sex drive and overall sexual well-being.
Another study looked at post-menopausal women who were experiencing low libido due to taking antidepressants—also known as SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. At the end of the study, a positive association was found between consuming maca and increased libido.
A common root plant that grows in many Asian countries, red ginseng is known as a helpful aphrodisiac food. You can buy this root in whole pieces, as a capsule, an extract, or in powder form. Certain teas may also include red ginseng as a major ingredient. Research has found that this plant has a variety of possible health benefits, ranging from cardiovascular protection, enhanced immunity, antioxidant properties, and yes, even the ability to boost libido.
One study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine gave menopausal women either 3 red ginseng capsules a day or a placebo, and the results showed that the ginseng increased sexual arousal in participants. Red ginseng has also been shown in other studies to improve erectile dysfunction and slow down premature ejaculation.
According to Young, berries are another food you may want to consider adding to your aphrodisiac plate—especially blackberries.
“They are healthy overall and may also help men keep erections, because foods rich in flavonoids (blackberries are particularly full of them) have been linked to a lower risk of erectile dysfunction,” says Young.
Research from Pharmacognosy Review also found that flavonoids may have the ability to improve the quality of sperm in males.
So, whether or not you plan on having a romantic Valentine’s evening, or are just looking for an extra boost in the bedroom, these foods may be able to help. However, if you’re experiencing recurring troubles related to libido, talk with your doctor or another medical expert to talk about next best steps.