Can food really boost your libido? The skeptic in me says it can't be true, but the romantic part of me hopes that it is (especially this year when Valentine's Day follows a week of stress and long days at work).
For centuries, people all over the world have been claiming that oysters, chocolate, chile peppers and more so-called aphrodisiacs-including asparagus, bananas, strawberries and you-fill-in-the-blank-stoke sex drive. With my romantic dinner plans on the line, I eagerly read the facts and fiction Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D., found when he looked into whether certain foods really can get you in the mood.
Before you stock up on "aphrodisiacs" for your Valentine's dinner, check out the facts:
• Sparking libido with food is more fable than fact, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which reviewed the science on the subject. So why, then, do some people report heightened arousal after eating "aphrodisiacs"? Experts tell us it's all in the mind-and in the heart, literally. What's in your mind matters more than what's in your stomach, says June Meyer, M.A., L.P.C., a psychotherapist in Stamford, Connecticut. So if you think a particular food works for you-
just go for it!
• What's more, research shows that sexual dysfunction is sometimes a result of vascular disease. Solution? Eat a heart-healthy diet to help keep blood vessels healthy, says Melissa Ohlson, M.S., R.D., of The Cleveland Clinic Preventive Cardiology Nutrition Program. And since blood vessels nourish sex organs, substituting unsaturated fats for saturated ones, getting plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich grains and laying off salt may pay off in unexpectedly delightful places.
Bottom line: While there's no proof that certain foods directly enhance libido, eating a well-balanced diet improves cardiovascular health, which in turn improves total body and sexual health. And if eating dark chocolate or oysters sets the mood, go right ahead. Just balance your calories with ample physical activity-in the bedroom and elsewhere.
By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as an associate editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.
Related Links from EatingWell:
Get food news, healthy recipes, health tips and more at EatingWell.com.
- Find recipes for your favorite comfort foods in EatingWell's new book, Comfort Foods Made Healthy.
- Sign up for EatingWell's free weekly newsletters and get healthy recipes, diet tips and nutrition news delivered right to your inbox.
- Get a free trial issue when you subscribe to EatingWell Magazine.