Sex drive foods, you say? A myth, you say? Not so fast. These 34-plus edibles are not only good for you, they’ll rev up your libido and boost blood flow to the genitals, taking sex from ordinary to extraordinary… Just in time for Valentine’s Day. Wink.
Sex drive foods: spinach and other green veg
Spinach is a potent source of magnesium, which helps dilate blood vessels, according to Japanese researchers. Better blood flow to the genitals creates greater arousal for men and women. Spinach and other green veg, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, Swiss chard and bok choy, are also good sources of our favourite sex nutrient — folate. Extra insurance for good reproductive health, folate may lower blood levels of homocysteine (high levels are a risk factor for peripheral arterial disease).
The antioxidant catechin found in tea promotes blood flow all over the body for sex power and brainpower; it enhances memory, mood and focus. One particularly potent catechin, a compound called ECGC prevalent in green tea, is thought to increase fat burn. Drink freshly brewed green or black tea every day — hot or iced.
Peaches and other fruits
One study shows that vitamin C may increase libido in women. Another finds that people who eat foods high in vitamin C report better moods and have more sex. It also helps boost blood flow, meaning that both sexes can get friskier, faster. Note: men who consume at least 200mg of vitamin C a day improve their sperm counts and motility, according to research at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Grapefruit contains 120 percent of the recommended daily allowance of 90mg of vitamin C for men. Other excellent sources are kiwi, mango, oranges, spanspek, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, leafy greens and ascorbic acid supplements. And… watermelons. They’re filled with high concentrations of lycopene, beta carotene, and, the big one, citrulline, which is particularly exciting for its ability to relax blood vessels, the same basic effect that Viagra has.
Their nutrients, including folate, iron, phosphorus and selenium, are heart healthy and also known to maintain the health of epithelial tissues, which line the vagina and uterus in women. Eggs are rich in vitamins B6 and B5, which help balance hormone levels and ease stress, and are important for a healthy libido.
Red wine and meat
Italian researchers found that women who drink red wine in moderation enjoy higher levels of sexual interest and respond with more lubrication than women who don’t drink or drink less. The researchers believe that the antioxidants and alcohol in the wine may trigger the production of nitric oxide in the blood, which helps artery walls to relax, increasing blood flow to the genitals. Just limit yourself to a glass or two. More alcohol than that can put a damper on sexual performance.
Worth noting: even teetotallers can benefit from the red grape. Dark grape juice contains antioxidant polyphenols that protect the cardiovascular system and help keep skin flexible and elastic.
That brings us to the meat of this entry. Red meat. Lean cuts are great sources of zinc, a mineral that curbs production of a hormone called prolactin, which, at high levels, can cause sexual dysfunction, according to Berman.
Seeds and nuts
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, walnuts and other nuts all contain the necessary monounsaturated fats with which your body creates cholesterol — and your sex hormones need that cholesterol to work properly.
That’s something the ancient Romans didn’t know when they tossed walnuts at newlyweds for good breeding luck. Long linked to fertility — the shell, of course, resembles a man’s cojones; the inside meat is vulva-like in form — nuts make a perfectly sexy snack. Packed with muscle-building protein and filling fibre, they are a heart-healthy, albeit kilojoule-dense, treat.
How do you eat more protein without going overboard on eggs and meat? Beans. Many studies show that bean eaters are leaner and healthier than people who don’t eat beans. According to one study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, people who eat three quarters of a cup of beans or legumes a day have lower blood pressure and smaller waists than people who get their protein from meat. Beans are also full of cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre. A quarter cup of red kidney beans delivers three grams of fibre, plus more than 6 000 disease-fighting antioxidants.
If, as doctors like to say, what’s good for your heart is good for your love life, oily cold-water fish, like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, should figure heavily into your weekly meal rotation. The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA found in fish help to raise dopamine levels in the brain that trigger arousal, according to sexologist Dr Yvonne Fulbright. Fish contains the amino acid L-arginine, which stimulates the release of growth hormones and is converted into nitric oxide in the body. It’s worth repeating: nitric oxide is critical for erections and it can help women’s sexual function as well by causing blood vessels to open wider for improved blood flow.
Oats and other whole grains
Eating oats is one of the few natural ways to boost testosterone in the bloodstream. The male hormone plays a significant role in sex drive and orgasm strength in both men and women. Oats (as well as seeds, ginseng, nuts, dairy and green vegetables) contain L-arginine, the amino acid that enhances the effect nitric oxide has on reducing blood-vessel stiffness. Like Viagra, it helps relax muscles around blood vessels in the penis. When they dilate, blood flow increases so a man can maintain an erection. Studies show that L-arginine also improves blood flow to the clitoris and tissue surrounding the vulva.
Oysters and other shellfish
In addition to their reputation as the ultimate aphrodisiac (thanks to their resemblance to female genitalia), raw oysters actually do have a connection to sexual function. Oysters hold more zinc than most other foods and it is believed that this mineral may enhance libido by helping with testosterone production — higher levels of the hormone are linked to an increase in desire. Zinc is also crucial to healthy sperm production and blood circulation. While Casanova reportedly ate 50 raw oysters a day, about six will provide double the recommended daily allowance of 15mg of zinc. Other good sources of zinc are shrimp, red meat, pumpkin seeds, poultry and pork, eggs and dairy products.
Devouring something gooey and decadent is incredibly sensual. Dark chocolate, in particular, contains a compound called phenylethylamine that releases the same endorphins triggered by sex and increases the feelings of attraction between two people, according to research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. In fact, brain scans in a British study showed that eating chocolate causes a more intense and longer brain buzz than kissing does.
Chocolate does also appear to boost heart health. Scientists at the Harvard University School of Public Health examined 136 studies on cocoa and found heart-health benefits from increased blood flow, less platelet stickiness and reduced bad cholesterol. What’s the “healthiest” chocolate? The disease-fighting flavonols that make dark chocolate good for the body also cause the bitterness. To balance flavour and health benefits, try dark chocolate with 70 percent cacao, recommends Dr Jeffrey Blumberg, who directs the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University in the US. A five-centimetre square chunk, at about 400kJ, will deliver a healthy treat without messing with your weight-management efforts.
Strawberries and other berries
Red is sexy. But strawberries are sex drive foods for another reason besides their sensual colour: they are high in the B vitamin, folate, which helps prevent birth defects, and vitamin C, a potential libido booster. Blueberries (and blackberries) are just as sexy. Ideal for a great morning-after breakfast in bed, so you have energy for round two, both berries contain compounds that are thought to relax blood vessels and improve circulation for a natural Viagra-like effect.
The ancient Aztecs called them testicles. Hanging in pairs from trees, the fruit is so suggestive that Catholic priests in Spain once forbade parishioners from eating them. But beyond their shape, avocados have a strong connection to the testes, the production centre of sperm, due to their high folate content. Men planning to have children should consider loading up on avocado (as well as leafy greens) because folate may protect sperm from mutations. A study at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in a 2008 issue of the journal Human Reproduction analysed the sperm of 89 men for chromosome abnormalities and then compared the results to a food frequency questionnaire the men completed. The researchers found that men with the highest folate intake had the lowest frequency of sperm with extra chromosomes compared with men who had lower consumption.
This phallic vegetable has been associated with sex since the first hunter-gatherer spotted shoots popping out of the forest floor and cried, “Hey, you know what those remind me of?” The springtime shoots are loaded with B vitamins that increase levels of histamine, a neurotransmitter that facilitates orgasm. Green asparagus spears are rich in rutin, a potent scavenger of free radicals. The crowns also have high levels of the chemical protodioscin which may improve sexual function. “Protodioscin has been shown to boost arousal and even help combat erectile dysfunction in some men,” says Dr Lynn Edlen-Nezin, co-author of Great Food, Great Sex.
If you suffer from a bit of sexual anxiety, eat a banana before you hook up. Bananas deliver the feel-good neurochemical serotonin into the blood stream, which elevates mood and calms the nervous system. “Bananas contain potassium, a mineral that increases muscle strength, an element crucial to orgasm,” says Lou Paget, author of The Great Lover Playbook.
Fortified breakfast cereals and breads contain niacin, a vitamin that’s essential for the secretion of histamine, a chemical our bodies need in order to trigger explosive sneezes — and orgasms. They are high in thiamin and riboflavin too, vitamins that help you use energy efficiently and that are important for proper nerve function, which translates into more stimulation and pleasure during sex.
Every stalk of this Bloody Mary swizzle stick is packed with androstenone and androstenol, two pheromones that can help men attract women. “When you chew a stalk of celery, you release androstenone and androstenol odour molecules into your mouth. They then travel up the back of your throat to your nose,” says Dr Alan Hirsch, author of Scentsational Sex: The Secret to Using Aroma for Arousal. “Once there, the pheromones boost your arousal, turning you on and causing your body to send off scents and signals that make you more desirable to women.”
One of the first body parts the opposite sex looks at when scoping out a potential date: the teeth. Keep them bright and healthy by eating cheese. Cheese is a good source of calcium, to keep your teeth strong, plus it can lower the levels of bacteria in your mouth and keep teeth clean and cavity-free. The American Dental Association recommends eating at least two servings of block cheese every week to maintain tooth health.
Smokin’ sex drive foods! Chillies contain the chemical capsaicin, which triggers the release of endorphins. It also stimulates nerve endings, increasing metabolism, raising your heart rate, causing flushed cheeks, sweating and other physical effects that mimic arousal.
While coffee’s association with sex drive foods is tenuous, caffeine has been shown to have health benefits. After a sip of a caffeinated beverage, the brain releases dopamine, a neurochemical that stimulates areas of the brain responsible for alertness, problem solving and pleasure. A cup before a workout has been shown to help athletes exercise longer and harder. And although researchers don’t know exactly why, they speculate that the large amounts of antioxidants in coffee and other compounds in caffeine may be responsible for improved insulin resistance and reduced diabetes risk.
Considering their resemblance to female genitalia (when sliced in half), it’s no surprise figs are historically lauded as sex drive foods. The ancient Greeks are said to have celebrated the arrival of the fig crop with wild sex rituals and the great seductress Cleopatra loved to eat them from the fingers of buff young male attendants. Nutritionally, figs make sense as a sex snack. Like blueberries, they contain more soluble and insoluble fibre than most fruit and vegetables and they are rich in many nutrients important to good sexual health, including potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, calcium and antioxidants. High in simple sugars, a quarter-cup serving will boost your serotonin levels and provide a quick energy lift.
Sprinkle flaxseeds on your cereal, yoghurt or ice cream for a shot of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are the major building blocks of all sex hormones. One tablespoon of the nutty-tasting seeds helps increase testosterone, the chemical with the most direct libido-boosting effect, according to sexuality researcher Dr Helen Fisher. Another good plant-based source of these essential fatty acids is walnuts.
Garlic may be the last thing you want on your breath when you’re ready to have sex. But it may be something you want to get more of on other occasions due to its high concentration of the compound allicin. Numerous small clinical studies suggest that regular garlic consumption may reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of certain cancers and work against peripheral artery disease, improving blood flow particularly to the lower extremities.
Honey’s B vitamins aid the production of testosterone and its boron content helps the body use oestrogen, which is a key factor in proper blood flow and arousal. In the kitchen, drizzle it on your oats. In the bedroom, drizzle it on any warm, lickable surface.
Fat-free milk and probiotic yoghurt
The calcium in milk is essential for bone building. The vitamin D in fortified milk helps calcium keep your muscles, heart and nervous system humming. Studies show that calcium also influences fat metabolism. Yoghurt is another great source of calcium. But when choosing your yoghurt, reach for the probiotic kind. Hint: the label will read “live and active cultures.” This yoghurt contains beneficial organisms that work with the bacteria in your gut to boost your immune system. What’s more, yoghurt is one of the few foods with conjugated linoleic acid, a special type of fat that some studies show can reduce body fat.
There are a lot of reasons to eat and drink more of this fruit. When scientists at the University of California studied the pomegranate, they found that it is rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that allow blood to flow through your veins — a key component of good sex. And Israeli researchers discovered that men who drank 60ml of pomegranate juice a day for a year lowered their systolic blood pressure by 21 percent and dramatically improved blood flow to their hearts.
Your skin is your largest sex organ. Keep it soft, supple and wrinkle-free by limiting exposure to the sun, one of the primary reasons men and women age prematurely. In addition to applying sunscreen, ingest some SPF by eating sweet potatoes. European researchers found that pigments from beta-carotene-rich foods — like sweet potatoes and carrots — can build up in your skin, helping to prevent damage from ultraviolet rays.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
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