For centuries, men and women alike have used food to help increase feelings of desire, to improve their performance in bed and to increase satisfaction. But do certain foods really help? Science and research has had a difficult time coming up with a clear answer to this question. Because sexual desire has more to do with the brain than with the sexual organs themselves, it is hard to separate whether a food really makes your desire increase or if the suggestion of sex from the food makes you think about sex - and therefore increase your desire.
Some foods, which are considered phallic, such as carrots, bananas, hotdogs and popsicles, can make you immediately think about certain body parts. The foods themselves may have nothing to do with your sudden increase in sexual desire; instead it is your thoughts that create the desire.
Other foods are said to increase circulation, which helps improve sexual performance or increase arousal. Hot chili peppers, pomegranates, red wine, watermelon and foods containing the amino acid arginine are all said to increase blood flow and circulation. But these foods may not have an immediate impact, it may be more that a proper diet keeps you healthy, keeps your blood flowing and improves your feelings of overall well-being. It could be better health that is increasing your sexual desire.
Because testosterone is so important to a man’s sexual desire, foods which have been linked to increasing testosterone have also been touted as being aphrodisiacs. Oysters, asparagus, avocados and pine nuts are a few foods that have been used for centuries to increase a man’s sexual libido.
For women, the hormone estrogen, sometimes called the "feel-good" hormone, helps in keeping the vagina lubricated and is important to having a healthy sex life. Asparagus, avocados, soy products and papaya are some of the foods that are touted as helping to increase a woman’s sexual drive.
Other foods increase serotonin in your brain, making you feel happier and therefore more in the mood for love, such as chocolate or ginseng.
Sex is personal. What turns us on - or turns us off - isn’t necessarily the same as our friends or even our lover. There may be certain foods that are linked to sex in your mind, for example, if you experienced a romantic and sexy evening after eating a fabulous shrimp dinner, you may forever associate shrimp with romance and sex. For another person, who got food poisoning from a poorly cooked shrimp dinner and instead of having a romantic evening ended up in bed, sick, will avoid the food - possibly forever linking it with feeling ill. How you view foods and which foods you connect with sex, depends as much, if not more, on your past experiences and your thoughts, than on the actual power of the food.
Certainly a healthy diet is good for a healthy sex life. Eat right and take care of your body. As you do, experiment with different foods, have fun, create connections and build your own aphrodisiacs.
"The Aphrodisiac: Foods and Libido," 2009, March 3, G. Frank Lawlis, Ph.D., Psychology Today
"The Science of Aphrodisiacs," 2008, Aug 19, Matthew Shulman, U.S. News and World Report
"The Science of Aphrodisiacs," Date Unknown, Molly Edmonds, Discovery Health
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.