Photographed by Ben Ritter
Sure, sharing the same hobbies and being compatible in the bedroom are all crucial characteristics of a healthy relationship, but food may play a bigger role than you realize. “What we eat and what the people we date eat, in many ways, determine the type of and quality of the relationships that we have,” says Keith Kantor, Ph.D., a nutritionist and author of What Matters: Leadership Values that Just Might Save America. Think about it: you do it three or more times a day. And most likely, one to two of those times are with your significant other. Plus, it could end up being one of the things you do together on a daily basis more than even sex, and it can alter how you feel at the moment and long after about how your body looks and feels, as well as impact your mood and energy level.
First, and the most obvious reason food could be a happy couple game-changer: If one person has any food-related intolerances such as gluten sensitivity or is diabetic, then that greatly alters what and where you can eat. But, simply having — or not for that matter — the same viewpoint on foods can lead to as much stress as, say, what to or not to spend money on. “If one person out of the two are very focused on their health and eating well and the other person is not, it can put a strain on the relationship,” says Kantor. “If one person likes to stuff themselves and then relax, but the other prefers having small, healthy meals several times a day and are full of energy while the other is lethargic, it’s obviously going to cause friction,” says Kantor.
Also, the other issue — besides simply being in sync with food choices — is that what you eat drastically affects your mood, including sex hormones, says Kantor. For men, eating a diet with a lot of tofu, edamame, soybeans, flax seeds as well barley, oats, rye, or prunes, can lower testosterone. On the flip side, natural meats, yogurt, milk, beans, cheese, mackerel, salmon, olive oil, avocado, and raw pecans, have been shown to help increase testosterone. Women, Kantor says, should avoid foods that are dense in sugar including soda, cookies, cake, and triple carbs like pasta and fries, as well as those super-high in fat (bacon, butter, and gravy) — all of which can have a negative impact on progesterone, which then leads to estrogen dominance and possibly a lower sex drive. Female sex boosters included lean beef, poultry, eggs, walnuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, bananas, tomatoes and avocados, he says.
And what both of you need to add in? The secret to all healthy relationships: Compromise. “Working around food issues with your partner and expanding each other’s horizons is the way to go,” he says. “Don’t let it be a conflict — instead let it be something you can do together like other aspects of your relationship. Be cognizant of each other’s likes and dislikes.”