Do aphrodisiac foods really exist? Although thousands of years of human tradition associate certain foods with sex and libido, there’s not a lot of scientific evidence that specific snacks will you make you needy for a snacc.
Okay, excuse the awful pun, let’s dig in to figuring out what an aphrodisiac is — and if any of them actually work.
What Are Aphrodisiacs?
The word ‘aphrodisiac’ comes from ‘Aphrodite,’ the Greek goddess of love and beauty. But when it comes to ancient Greeks and sex, you might first think of Dionysus (or his Roman name, Bacchus). Dionysus was the god of all things pleasurable and hedonistic, namely: good wine, good food, and good…well, let’s call them, ‘group fertility rituals.’ He must have been on to something, because the lowered inhibitions from alcohol can definitely help people get over their anxieties when it comes to sex. But in the long run, Dionysus had it totally wrong!
It’s Not What You Think
Alcohol is a nervous system depressant, which is why it makes you feel relaxed. But that also means that it makes your nerves less sensitive to both pain and pleasure. The decreased sensitivity can make it harder to become sexually aroused or to reach an orgasm. Long-term alcohol use can have more serious effects, particularly in men, as its impact on blood flow, hormones, and nerves can become more severe with repeated use.
Other foods traditionally hailed for aphrodisiac qualities don’t necessarily trigger desire on a physiological level. Oysters are a good example, as Giacomo Casanova — yes, that Casanova — repeatedly praised oysters in his infamous writings on sexual affairs. He particularly lauded the soft, moist texture, bringing to mind other soft, moist things.
Phallic-shaped foods have a similar reputation. Although suggestive handling of a banana or zucchini might trigger some giggles at the juvenile joke, eating those foods won’t necessarily affect your sex drive. It feels silly to use a vegetable for an innuendo, but with the emojis in text conversation nowadays, humans probably do it even more now than ever. Just imagine the historians hundreds of years from now, writing their PhD theses on the role of eggplant and peach emojis in early 21st century sex habits!
What Actually Helps?
As far as modern scientists can tell, there’s no single ‘aphrodisiac’ food that is actually proven to cause immediate sexual arousal. There are specific nutrients that benefit your sexual health over time, so let’s look at those and make sure your diet includes them!
You might already use a moisturizer with vitamin E, but getting it through food means you’ll support healthy mucous membranes inside your body too. In addition to its skin-plumping benefits, vitamin E also plays a large role in producing hormones. Nuts, avocado, and red peppers are all great options for snacks rich in vitamin E. Just don’t take this PETA ad too seriously and actually finger a chili pepper as foreplay — at least not without very thoroughly washing the chili oil off your hands afterwards!
Zinc is vital to your body’s production and regulation of hormones. Red meat and shellfish are the most efficient ways to get it, so oysters are earning their place on this list after all. But like any other nutrient, consistent intake over the long-term is what benefits your health. One night indulging at an oyster bar isn’t enough to boost your libido right away.
Healthy blood flow is necessary for sexual arousal, so make sure your diet includes heart-healthy nitrates from leafy greens such as kale or bok choy, or root vegetables like beets. Nitrates found naturally in these greens are broken down into nitric oxide in your gut, which helps your blood vessels relax and open. Be careful when it comes to artificially-added nitrates found in cured meat such as ham and bacon. That kind of nitrate is broken down into nitrite, which does the opposite of healthy nitric oxide!
There are over a dozen amino acids that have overall health benefits like energy regulation, healthy collagen, and hormone production. A diet low in amino acids will take its toll on all those areas, which in turn will affect your sexual health. Thankfully, amino acids are plentiful in many different types of food. Maca and quinoa are two examples of high amino acid content, but they are also found in beans, soy, and lean meat.
A regular diet including these nutrients will support your sexual health, but it’s really more of a side effect from a healthy heart and balanced hormone production. So, no matter if your goal is sexual health, or lowering cholesterol, or protecting you skin, the foods mentioned here will support all those things.
Have you tried any fare that is a so-called aphrodisiac food and did it put you ‘in the mood?’ Tell us in the comments!
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