Aphrodisiac Foods That Could Put You In The Mood

Aphrodisiacs have been used for thousands of years. To this day, people all over the world swear by them. Named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sexual love and beauty, an aphrodisiac is any food, drink, or drug believed to increase sexual desire and performance. They've taken many forms around the planet and throughout history — some of them less than appetizing. From stinky durian fruit in Southeast Asia to a cheese riddled with maggots in Sardinia to ground rhino horn in Africa, people will try a lot of things in the hopes of better sex. While the arousing powers of most aphrodisiacs have been largely exaggerated, modern science is discovering that some of them really may work. Yes, good sex start may really just start the kitchen.

Based on the results of a 2017 survey, many Americans could use a boost in the bedroom. The survey found that 34 percent of participants were unsatisfied with their sex lives and one in six reported that their current partner rarely or never satisfied them sexually. Women were more than twice as likely as men to characterize their sex life as "boring." If you're looking to spice things up, consider these aphrodisiac foods. They might just put you in the mood.

Asparagus

It may make your pee smell funny, but asparagus might also be the perfect vegetable to get you in the mood. Yes, these green spears are full of libido-boosting nutrients. Asparagus is a rich source of folate and vitamin B6, which can increase arousal and improve orgasms. Asparagus also contains vitamin E, which is necessary for production of sex hormones in both men and women.

A study published in 2017 in the journal Human Reproduction found that "a higher ratio of folate to homocysteine at ovulation was associated with a 10% decreased risk of anovulation [failure to ovulate during a menstrual cycle]." As explained by MedlinePlus, homocysteine is an amino acid that is converted by folic acid and other B vitamins to more useful substances.

In addition to the asparagus you get at the grocery store, a plant in the same family known as shatawar (Asparagus racemosus) may also have aphrodisiac properties. According to a 2018 paper, this plant, which is native to India, is used in Ayurvedic medicine to "prevent ageing, increase longevity, impart immunity, improve mental function, vigor and add vitality to the body." When shatawar was given to rats in high doses, it had a significant impact on mating frequency and performance.

Chocolate

Is there any food more closely associated with romance than chocolate? After all, it wouldn't be Valentine's Day without the sweet stuff. Chocolate has a history that stretches back more than 3,000 years. The indigenous peoples of modern-day Mexico considered chocolate stimulating and intoxicating, and one Spanish conquistador linked its consumption to sexual activity. Imported to Europe, chocolate was considered an exotic delicacy and a potent medicine. In the 1600s, for instance, Colmenero de Ledesma noted that chocolate encouraged love-making, led to conception, and facilitated childbirth.

Unfortunately, the scientific consensus is that chocolate's aphrodisiac qualities appear to be mostly hype. A 2008 paper, however, noted that "chocolate has been reported to release phenylethylamine and serotonin into the human system, producing some aphrodisiac and mood-lifting effects."

Additionally, a 2006 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine attempted to find a link between chocolate and women's levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH helps control the menstrual cycle and other hormones, such as estrogen, that are important for sexual desire. While the researchers noted that "it is alluring to hypothesize that chocolate can have either a psychological or a biological positive impact on women's sexuality," they found that, once age was taken into account, chocolate did not effect FSH levels.

Strawberries

With their heart shape and bright red color, it's no wonder that strawberries have been associated with love throughout history. On the ancient world the strawberry was a symbol of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, according to the University of Illinois. There's also a legend that if you split a double strawberry in half and share it with someone else, the two of you will fall in love.

The aphrodisiac qualities of strawberries may be more than just tall tales, though. According to Penn Medicine, "strawberries are high in vitamin C, a vitamin that might boost libido." Just one cup of the fruit provides 89 mg of vitamin C, a whopping 99 percent of the recommended daily value.

According to the health system, "For men, strawberries might also be beneficial if you are hoping to conceive — they have folic acid, which the body uses to create sperm cells." Vitamin C may protect against prostate cancer, providing an additional indirect benefit for men. Additionally, a study published in Biological Psychiatry, researchers gave participants either high-dose ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or a placebo for 14 days and found that individuals who received the ascorbic acid reported increased frequency of sexual intercourse compared to those given the placebo.

Chili peppers

Spicing things up in the kitchen may be the first step in spicing things up in the bedroom. Capsaicin, the compound in chili peppers that gives them their heat, triggers the release of endorphins and dopamine, which combine to give people a feeling of euphoria. Capsaicin also triggers a number of physical signs often associated with sexual arousal, including a flushed appearance, rapid heart rate, and sweating.

But chili peppers may be a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to their effects on sex, according to one study cited by Roman. In the study, researchers found that male rats given capsaicin had a shorter refractory period — that is, they were ready for round two (or three or four) sooner. But the rats also experienced orgasm sooner. It's unclear, however, if capsaicin would have the same effects on human males. The study's authors noted that chili peppers were considered an aphrodisiac in traditional Mexican medicine, where it is often combined with chocolate, another supposed aphrodisiac.

Honey

Like many other well-known aphrodisiacs, there's a lot of history and symbolism surrounding honey as a love potion. According to PBS, this sticky substance is a symbol of procreation and fertility in some cultures. In ancient times, "newly married couples drank mead, a fermented beverage made with honey, until the first moon of their new union." This is likely where the word "honeymoon" comes from. The Greek physician Hippocrates even recommended honey to increase sexual vigor.

Interestingly, there's some solid science behind honey's aphrodisiac status. It contains boron, which helps regulate hormone levels, and nitric oxide, which is released in the bloodstream during sexual arousal. A 2015 review published in Integrative Medicine noted that boron improves estrogen and testosterone levels in women and increases testosterone levels while lowering estrogen levels in men.

While we often think of testosterone as the male sex hormone, it's important for women too. As the study's lead author Susan Davis explained in an interview with Reuters, "Testosterone acts directly in the brain and influences sexual functioning at a central level (sexual desire, fantasy, thoughts, etc.) and it also increases blood flow to the genitalia so women are more likely to feel sensation of arousal and orgasm."

Avocados

According to the USDA's Economic Research Service, Americans' love of avocados has been on the rise for several decades, and in 2018 average per-capita consumption had risen to eight pounds per person per year. In addition to livening up burritos and toast, all those avocados may be taking things up a notch in the bedroom. That's because avocados are packed with nutrients that can improve energy levels and overall physical and mental wellbeing. These include heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, mood-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, and numerous minerals. Although these may not have a huge direct effect "down there," they all contribute to feeling happy and healthy, which are prerequisites for good sex.

The avocado has a long history as an aphrodisiac. PBS noted, "When Montezuma shared avocados with Cortez and his fellow conquistadors, the Aztecs explained that their name, ahucatl (also meaning testicle), came not only from their physical appearance, but also from their ability to incite sexual passion." In fact, the Aztecs believed that avocados were so potent that virgin women were forbidden from leaving the house during harvest time. When avocados came to Europe, their reputation as an aphrodisiac continued. French king Louis XIV, for instance, used avocados to reinvigorate his aging libido.

Watermelon

If you want to make your summer picnics a little steamier, you may want to pack some watermelon. In addition to its sensual red color, watermelon is full of the amino acid citrulline. In an interview with HuffPost, Dana Hoppe, an obstetrician-gynecologist, explained that citrulline is a vasodilator, enlarging and relaxing blood vessels, much the same as erectile dysfunction treatments. "All that citrulline results in increased blood flow, blood vessel relaxation and sexual arousal," she noted.

One study published in the Chiang Mai University Journal of Natural Sciences in 2014 reviewed the effects of watermelon flesh extract on the sexual behavior of male rats. The researchers found that the extract caused male rats to mount females more often, thrust more frequently, and last longer before ejaculating. The study's authors believe these results could have significant implications for sexual performance in humans.

There's only one catch: A lot of watermelon's citrulline content is actually in its rind, which most people don't eat. So if you're hoping to increase your bedroom mojo, you may want to skip the fresh fruit and buy a jar of pickled watermelon rinds.

Olive oil

If you struggle with erectile dysfunction (ED), you're not alone. Between 5 to 15 percent of men have complete ED, while the incidence of mild-to-moderate ED tends to correspond to age (for example, 50 percent of men at age 50), according to the University of Wisconsin. Many men turn to Viagra or similar drugs to improve their sexual functioning, but research suggests that olive oil may be just as effective.

HuffPost reported on a Greek study of nearly 700 men which found that individuals who replaced butter with olive oil while following the Mediterranean diet saw significant improvements in their sex lives. This makes sense considering olive oil helps keep blood vessels dilated and free of arterial plaques. This improves blood flow, which is critical for maintaining an erection. Olive oil also raises testosterone levels.

In a 2013 study published in Natural Products Communications, researchers evaluated the effects of olive oil and argan oil on the testosterone and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels of Moroccan men. (Although luteinizing hormone is often thought of as a female sex hormone, it also plays an important role in male sexual health.) The study found that after three weeks, olive oil had increased testosterone by about 17 percent and LH by nearly 43 percent.

Bananas

It's not just the banana's suggestive shape that makes them an aphrodisiac; bananas contain a number of nutrients. The fruit's high levels of potassium and B vitamins can give your sexual stamina a boost by increasing energy, but it's their bromelain content that really gives bananas their sex appeal. Bromelain triggers the production of testosterone. That's important because both men and women need adequate levels of testosterone.

Low testosterone can have many negative sexual effects, including decreased sex drive, inability to achieve or maintain an erection, and reductions in testicle size and volume of semen. It can also cause mood swings and hot flashes, which won't exactly put you in the mood.

According to Healthline, bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme. Also known as peptidases, proteases or proteinases, this class of enzymes helps break down dietary protein into amino acids the body can use. They also play an important role in cell division, blood clotting, and immune function. Our pancreas produces three types of proteolytic enzymes, but we can also benefit from consuming the proteolytic enzymes in plants. In addition to bananas, bromelain is also found in pineapple and kiwi.

Oysters

Depending on how you feel about seafood, you may or may not find oysters sexy. But there's a lot of science to back up this shellfish as an aphrodisiac. For starters, oysters are very high in zinc. According to Healthline, six medium oysters contain 32 mg — a staggering 291 percent of the recommended daily value. Roman noted that zinc is important for sexual maturation and the development of viable sperm. But, if you can't stomach oysters or are allergic to shellfish, other good sources of zinc include meat, hemp seeds, cashews, and cheese — although none of these contain as much zinc as oysters.

Raw oysters also contain D-aspartic acid and N-methyl D-aspartic acid, two amino acids that may help increase levels of sex hormones. In a 2017 meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Reproductive Medicine, researchers reviewed 23 animal studies and four human studies to see if there was a link between consuming D-aspartic acid and testosterone levels. The paper's authors found that male animals' testosterone levels were indeed positively affected by D-aspartic acid. Nevertheless, the results in humans were inconsistent.

Nuts

Although they aren't as exotic and decadent as some other noted aphrodisiacs, nuts may still have a lot to offer when it comes to improving sexual health. According to Healthline, nuts are rich in arginine, an amino acid that assists with the production of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, improving blood flow. This can have a number of benefits, including better exercise performance and brain function, lower blood pressure, and better sex.

A paper published in the International Journal of Impotence Research noted that vesicles in the penis' cavernosal tissue release elevated levels of nitric oxide during arousal, which leads to, and helps maintain, an erection. Nitric oxide is also important for the ladies. In a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers noted that nitric oxide played a major role in "increased clitoral and vaginal blood flow during sexual arousal." Estrogen appears to help regulate nitric oxide release in women. The study's authors noted that female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD), which affects 25-70 percent of women, may be related to poor regulation of nitric oxide.

Black licorice

Not everyone loves black licorice's distinctive taste, but for those who do, they may see some benefits in the bedroom. In a 2017 paper published in the journal Translational Andrology and Urology, researchers reviewed a number of Asian herbal remedies for erectile dysfunction. Among them were licorice root. The authors noted, "Because it contains magnesium, silicon, and thiamine, the body welcomes this herb for overall health on a cellular level. Its effect on hormonal levels has been applauded by many."

For women in particular, licorice may imitate the effects of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones govern female reproduction and contribute to sexual arousal. Licorice's hormone-like effects may also reduce PMS symptoms, which could go a long way to putting you in the mood in the days leading up to your period.

However, it's important not to overindulge on black licorice. According to the Food and Drug Administration, black licorice contains glycyrrhizin, a compound that, if consumed in excess, can cause dangerously low drops in potassium levels. This can lead to an irregular heartbeat and other heart issues. In fact, in 2019, a man died after eating one to two bags of black licorice every day for three weeks.

Ginseng

You may already take ginseng when you have a cold, but this herb may help if your sex life is also under the weather. A paper published in the journal Fitoterapia noted that ginseng is considered an aphrodisiac and an adaptogen (a substance believed to help the body cope with stress). The authors explained that it elevates levels of corticosteroids in the body and enhances sexual performance.

According to Medical News Today, there are several types of ginseng, with red ginseng being the oldest. Red ginseng also happened to be particularly helpful for men. A 2008 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology evaluated red ginseng's effectiveness as a treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED). The researchers compared data from seven randomized clinical trials and found that the herb did, in fact, have a significant effect on both vasculogenic ED (caused by blood flow issues) and psychogenic ED (caused by psychological issues). It's unclear exactly how red ginseng assists with ED, Medical News Today explained. It does not appear to raise testosterone levels, but it may increase nitric oxide concentration, improving blood flow to the penis.

Maca

Maca, sometimes referred to as Peruvian ginseng, is a cruciferous vegetable native to the Andes Mountains of South America. The root can be bought as a loose powder, capsules, or a liquid extract. It has a nutty and earthy taste. Although research on maca is limited, some findings suggest that the plant may have aphrodisiac qualities.

One meta-analysis published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2010 examined four previously published randomized clinical trials. One found that maca had a "significant positive effect" on sexual dysfunction in otherwise healthy menopausal women. Another concluded that maca increased sexual desire in healthy adult men. A third noted that maca appeared helpful for those with erectile dysfunction. A fourth study, however, found that maca did not improve the sexual health of cyclists.

A 2016 meta-analysis published in the journal Maturitas examined five studies and noted that all five found a positive link between maca and sperm quality and/or quantity in healthy and infertile men. As with the 2010 meta-analysis, however, the available studies were small, so additional research is needed.