If you want to put some sizzle back into your sex life, food can help you set the mood. There’s nothing better than a romantic, home-cooked dinner, featuring some R-rated foods to help turn up the heat. “There’s a growing body of evidence that some of the vitamins and components in foods can enhance sexual function and sexual experience,” says Dr. Jennifer R. Berman, the director of the Berman Women’s Wellness Center, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Here are some of the food ingredients (and my own favorite recipes) that have been major players in aphrodisiac history and lore, and also have modern-day science to back up their claims.
The Aztecs referred to avocados as, ahem, testicles, because of their physical shape. But the scientific reason why avocados make sense as an aphrodisiac is that they are rich in unsaturated fats and low in saturated fat, making them good for your heart and your arteries. Anything that keeps the heart beating strong helps keep blood flowing to all the right places; in fact, men with underlying heart disease are twice as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED).
Topping my list of feisty foods, almonds have long been purported to increase passion, act as a sexual stimulant, and aid with fertility. Like asparagus (another one of my favorite sexy foods), almonds are nutrient-dense and rich in several trace minerals that are important for sexual health and reproduction, such as zinc, selenium, and vitamin E. “Zinc helps enhance libido and sexual desire,” says Dr. Berman. “We don’t really understand the mechanisms behind it, but we know it works.”
The color red is known to help stoke the fire: A 2008 study found that men find women sexier if they’re wearing red, as opposed to cool colors such as blue or green. Strawberries are also an excellent source of folic acid, a B vitamin that helps ward off birth defects in women and, according to a University of California, Berkley study, may be tied to high sperm counts in men. Try making dark-chocolate-dipped strawberries. And while we’re on the subject, there’s a reason we give chocolate on Valentine’s Day: It’s full of libido-boosting methylxanthines.
Despite their slippery and slimy texture, oysters may be the most well-known aphrodisiac. They’re also one of the best sources of libido-boosting zinc. But other types of seafood can also act as aphrodisiacs. Oily fish—like wild salmon and herring—contain omega-3s, which are essential for a healthy heart.
Arugula has been heralded as an arousal aid since the first century. Today, research reveals that the trace minerals and antioxidants packed into dark, leafy greens are essential for our sexual health because they help block absorption of some of the environmental contaminants thought to negatively impact our libido.
These funny-shaped fruits have a long history of being a fertility booster, and they make an excellent aphrodisiac because they are packed with both soluble and insoluble fiber, which is important for heart health. Plus, high-fiber foods help fill you up, not out, so it’s easier to achieve that sexy bottom line—or belly.
Any member of this tropical fruit family is super-rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and folic acid—all of which are essential for men’s reproductive health. Enjoy a romantic salad that incorporates citrus, like pink grapefruit or mandarin oranges, or use a dressing made with lemon and lime.