Food has long been used to help people get in the mood. The Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian sex guide, encourages people to down foods such as licorice, honey, and long peppers as a way to “increase sexual vigour.” For a more modern list, we spoke to Nicole Jardim, a certified women’s health coach who specializes in hormonal health. Read on for six sexy foods that she (and emerging research) say could have aphrodisiac powers.
Well, they’re certainly phallic — but bananas also contain an enzyme called bromelain that’s believed to help increase libido and combat impotence, says Jardim. Plus, bananas contain B vitamins, which have been shown to improve mood and may also increase sexual desire. And, of course, bananas offer potassium, a mineral that’s critical for the production of hormones. What does that have to do with wanting to get busy? Everything, says Jardim. “Any hormonal imbalance, particularly low estrogen and low testosterone, can decrease our desire for sex significantly. So, making sure your hormones are functioning optimally is really crucial to having a healthy sex drive.”
No list of sexy foods would be complete without chocolate. It contains the powerful chemical phenylethylamine, otherwise known as the “love drug.” Phenylethylamine both releases and enhances the action of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls our pleasure and reward centers. “It’s our brain’s happy chemical,” says Jardim, and it’s one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy sex drive. So, now you have a scientifically-proven excuse to indulge. The higher the cocoa content, the better — look for chocolate with 60% cocoa or more.
Another visually suggestive food, avocados actually get their name from the Aztec word Āhuacatl, which means “testicle tree.” But, Jardim notes, they also resemble a womb (the pit would be the baby in this metaphor). Like bananas, avocados contain B vitamins and potassium. They’re also excellent sources of fiber, which is necessary for our bodies to maintain the correct levels of estrogen. And, their vitamin E — otherwise known as tocopherol, a word that’s derived from Greek and literally means “to bear offspring” — is crucial for healthy reproductive function and hormone balance.
Oysters might be the most notorious libido-boosting food. After all, “they bear a vague resemblance to the female anatomy, and you have to suck on them,” says Jardim. They’re a rich source of zinc, a mineral that has been shown to modulate testosterone levels, which is good for both men and women, says Jardim. Maintaining healthy testosterone levels has been linked to a better sex drive — for anyone dealing with low libido, Jardim recommends hitting the oyster bar once or twice a week.
This pricey spice (a little goes a long way, fortunately) adds a deep yellow color to food — and it may help lower the stress hormone cortisol while raising estrogen, says Jardim. Researchers at UC Santa Barbara found that a boost in estrogen can make you feel frisky.
Perhaps the most potent food on this list, Maca powder comes from a root native to South America. Its been used for centuries as an aphrodisiac, energy booster, and fertility enhancer. It’s so effective, it’s known as “nature’s Viagra,” and according to Jardim, it’s beneficial for all kinds of hormonal changes, from PMS to menopause. “It’s really high in minerals and essential fatty acids, so it’s a great hormone-building food,” she says. But, before you run to your nearest Whole Foods and start downing the stuff by the fistful, Jardim cautions against taking too much. The right amount can do wonders, but overdoing it can affect your thyroid and cause other hormonal issues, so she recommends not going higher than 2,000 mg per day, which is about half a teaspoon. Any more than that should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor.