What to Eat to Prevent or Improve Erectile Dysfunction

by Carmen Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D.N. Health Professional, Medical Reviewer

If you are living with or want to avoid erectile dysfunction (ED), you should know that what you eat can have a profound effect on your symptoms. In fact, a healthy diet can delay the onset or even prevent the development of ED. HealthCentral compiled a list of the top 10 changes you can make in your diet to reduce your risk of ED and its symptoms.

Man eating salad.

Eat more vegetables

Brightly colored vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes are rich in antioxidants that have numerous health benefits, including cancer prevention. Research has found that a diet rich in antioxidants also increases your body’s production of nitric oxide and prevents its breakdown. Nitric oxide is essential for erectile function — it helps to relax blood vessels and smooth muscle, allowing for increased blood flow to the penis.

Young couple eating watermelon on the beach.

Indulge in fruit

Fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes are excellent sources of antioxidants and can increase nitric oxide production, improving blood flow throughout the body. Researchers have discovered that watermelon, in particular, is high in the amino acid citrulline, which also relaxes and dilates blood vessels to improve blood flow.

Young man eating whole-grain peanut butter toast.

Go for whole grains

Researchers have found that men who consume a diet rich in whole grains and limited in refined carbohydrates have a lower prevalence of ED. Consumption of whole grains has been also been linked to a decreased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Look for 100 percent whole grain breads, cereals, and crackers. They are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that have been linked to heart health.

Man holding a bowl of almonds.

Snack on nuts

Researchers have concluded that a Mediterranean diet (which is rich in heart-healthy fats, including nuts) may be associated with an improvement in ED. One study that looked at pistachio nuts, in particular, found that men who consumed pistachios for three weeks showed a significant improvement in several parameters for ED, including improved erectile function.

Man holding a bowl of beans.

Load up on legumes

Legumes are another plant-based food that can increase your body’s nitric acid production, improving blood flow throughout the body. Common types of legumes include kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, soy beans, cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, navy beans, soy beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, and lentils. Bean dips such as hummus are an easy way to increase your intake of legumes.

Man eating fish dinner.

Eat more fish

The heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have numerous health benefits, including prevention of heart disease, stroke, and cognitive decline. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with an improvement in ED symptoms. Wild Alaskan salmon, herring, and mackerel are the best fish sources of omega-3s.

Man eating a chocolate bar.

Treat yourself to chocolate

Chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which are antioxidant compounds that increase blood flow and concentration of nitric oxide in the blood. Research has also shown that flavonoids can help to improve cardiovascular health. Dark chocolate is the best choice for a sweet treat, since milk chocolate contains higher amounts of sugar and fat.

Man eating vegan meal.

Limit sugar

A high sugar diet has been linked to numerous health problems, including cardiovascular disease, which can impair your body’s blood flow. Sugar is hidden in many packaged and processed foods and is often hard to identify. Common names for sugar added to foods include fructose, maltose, sucrose, lactose, and dextrose. Sugar is also found in ingredients such as cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, corn syrup solids, malt syrup, and honey.

Man eating a healthy breakfast of cereal, coffee, and an apple.

Cut out refined carbohydrates

Researchers have found that a diet limited in refined or “simple” carbohydrates is linked to a lower ED risk. Choose complex carbohydrates (like whole grain cereals) that are higher in fiber and protein over simple carbohydrates made from refined white flour (such as white bread, chips, crackers, and snack foods).

Man eating chicken.

Limit red and processed meats

A diet rich fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and fish but low in red and processed meats is associated with a lower risk of ED. Avoid consuming red meat (such as beef, lamb, and pork) and processed meats (like bacon, hot dogs, salami, sausage, and ham) to lower your risk.

Happy healthy couple making dinner.

The bottom line

Eating a healthy diet can reduce your risk of vascular problems caused by being overweight or having high blood sugar, cholesterol, or triglycerides. In addition to dietary changes, lifestyle modifications including regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure, limiting alcohol intake, and quitting smoking can dramatically lower your risk for ED.

Carmen Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.
Meet Our Writer
Carmen Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.

Carmen is a Registered Dietitian. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she has spent her career working at Johns Hopkins and is also an adjunct faculty instructor for Excelsior College. Carmen has over 20 years of experience in nutritional counseling, education, writing, and program management and is a certified specialist in adult weight management. She enjoys educating her students and clients about how nutrition affects the body and its role in overall health and wellness.