If you like having sex, then chances are you’ve heard of aphrodisiac foods before.
If you haven’t, they’re foods that supposedly increase your sexual desire after eating them. So if you have a hot date, you guys should eat some aphrodisiacs and you’ll instantly become super horny — or ~something~ like that. Lots of people swear by them, but do they really work that way?
The short answer is nope. “If there was a food that in and of itself could totally ramp up your libido, then it would be the most popular food on earth,” Dr. Alyssa Dweck, gynecologist and author of The Complete A to Z for Your V, tells BuzzFeed Health.
So maybe there isn’t a super-popular sex food out there that automatically makes you horny, but that doesn’t mean these so-called aphrodisiacs won’t influence your sex drive — it’s just more of a long-term endeavor. For more input, BuzzFeed Health spoke to Dweck, as well as Dr. Harry Fisch, urologist and author of The New Naked, and sex therapist Dr. Madeleine Castellanos, author of Wanting to Want. Here’s how they broke it down.
1. Some aphrodisiac foods trick the brain…
The brain is your biggest sexual organ, Dweck says, so if you’re eating something that you think is an aphrodisiac, chances are you’re going to believe it — and your body might respond to that, almost like a placebo effect. This can work in a few ways.
2. Either by imitating the sensations you might feel during sex…
Like oysters, for example. “They’re slippery, they’ve got this weird texture, you’ve got to figure out how to put them in your mouth, so there’s a whole texture issue that people will relate to kissing or oral sex,” says Castellanos. Oysters, as well as clams and mussels, provoke a sensual feeling that can remind some people of sex, she says, and that’s sometimes all they need to get ~in the mood~.
Other foods that can trigger these thoughts and feelings, Dweck says, are bananas, figs, papayas, and other foods that have sexually suggestive appearances.
3. Or reminding you of romance, love, and sex.
Dark chocolate is a great example here, Dweck says, noting that many people associate it with romance. Dark chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, a substance that might raise serotonin levels and promote well-being, Dweck says — but don’t overdo it, because it’s still sugar.
That said, any food can be an aphrodisiac if you personally associate it with sex or romance. In other words, if something worked for you in the past — whether it was dessert with whipped cream or chocolate syrup or even dinner at a specific tapas restaurant — then use it again.
“If there’s something that triggers a sexual memory, then that’s a brilliant way of considering that an aphrodisiac,” says Fisch.
4. Some aphrodisiacs are really just foods you should be eating every day anyway…
You’ve probably heard of lots of foods that are supposedly aphrodisiacs — pomegranates, avocado, and salmon, for example. Maybe you even heard watermelon, cherries, figs, bananas, and nuts were great, and they are. But all of these are really just part of a nutritionally balanced diet, which is necessary not just for overall health, but for sexual health too, says Fisch.
Specifically, all these foods contain antioxidants or other nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acid, L-arginine, and B vitamins, which can help to improve blood flow throughout the body (among other things), Fisch says. “Those substances are very healing for your arteries, and in that sense they give better erectile functioning and better arousal for women,” Castellanos says, noting that this translates into mental arousal too.
“If your body is responding the way you think it should, then it’s easier for you to go down the path of psychological arousal, and vice versa. If your body is not responding, it’ll bring you into that whole negative mindset,” which might kill your libido for the time being, she says.
5. But sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.
Coffee and alcohol are two of these. While a cup of coffee may sound like a good idea to keep you up and going, too much can put you in a state of anxiety that makes it hard to get aroused, Castellanos says. On top of that, Dweck adds that it’s also a diuretic, and “that can be sort of a buzzkill” when you have to stop in the middle of everything just to use the bathroom, she says.
Likewise, a tiny bit of alcohol may lower inhibitions and put you in the mood, but ultimately it’s a depressant, so having too much could put you to sleep or make an erection next to impossible, Fisch says.
6. Ginseng might be safe, but stay away from the supplements.
While ginseng might enhance sexual performance, it’s only safe in its natural state, Fisch says.
And stay away from those drugstore or gas station “sexual enhancement” supplements, he says. They could even be laced with Viagra-like drugs, which should really be taken under a doctor’s supervision.
7. And finally, what’s best for your sex drive will probably include more than just what you’re eating.
Sure, your sex hormones — testosterone and estrogen — are involved, but there are sooo many other factors that affect your desire to have sex. That might include your stress levels and self-esteem, how you feel about the relationship, and even the quality of sleep you’re getting, all three doctors say. So you shouldn’t rely entirely on what you eat to have the sexual desire you want; there are probably other things going on in your life to consider.
“People like to put all this faith in something they can buy and pop into their mouth,” Castellanos says, “but that’s not what really does it.”
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