You’ve probably heard about aphrodisiacs like chocolate and strawberries to get you in the mood, but is there really a correlation between nutrition and sex and if so, what are the best foods for sex? While aphrodisiacs are controversial among experts (no, chocolate is not a magical food meant to make you orgasm), many healthy foods contain important nutrients that can affect hormones or increase blood flow to help increase pleasure in the bedroom (or the bathroom, back of your car, with your vibrator–no judgment!).
But just a reminder that libido is a vital sign—a low sex drive could be the body’s way of communicating that it needs something. Therefore, the question is not just how can we improve our sex drive, but why is our sex drive lacking in the first place? This list is not meant to replace talking to your doc about finding the root cause for a low libido.
Also, the most important thing you can do for your pleasure is to eat a healthy diet. Any whole foods like fruits and veggies can be good for the libido since a healthy libido is a sign of a healthy body. However, I asked doctors, nutritionists, and sex experts for specific foods that contain nutrients that are directly correlated to sexual pleasure. The foods they suggested are healthy, whole foods, so they can’t hurt to eat more of (in other words, whether or not they boost sex drive, they’re still good for you). Bottom line: talk to your doctor to improve low libido, eat a balanced and nutritious diet, and feel good about enjoying the 10 foods below, knowing they are expert-approved for spicing up your sex life.
1. Raw honey
If you’re deciding between sweeteners to add to your coffee, you might as well choose the one that can help increase libido. “Honey is packed full of natural goodness, including a mineral known as boron,” explained Reda Elmardi, a certified nutritionist, trainer, and editor at thegymgoat.com. “Boron has been found to help strengthen the bones, enhance muscle coordination, promote protein synthesis, and help increase the natural production of testosterone.” Even though we associate testosterone with men (especially bodybuilders), every gender has a combination of sex hormones, and testosterone directly correlates to sex drive. Raw honey (look for organic or manuka varieties) may help increase the natural production of the libido hormone.
Maca might not be found in every grocery store like honey, but it’s been used for thousands of years for energy, hormonal balance, and increasing sex drive. Maca is a vegetable that grows in the mountains of Peru and is technically a cruciferous vegetable, but it is most commonly found in the U.S. in the form of a powdered supplement. And according to some studies, there might be some scientific truth to the ancient use.
“A number of research [studies have] shown that supplementing with maca can increase sexual desire,” suggested Wendy Lord, a registered dietitian and consultant for Sensible Digs. While many studies about sex drive are performed on men (serious eye roll), a 2008 study showed maca decreased sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women. If you’re interested in trying for yourself, first talk to your doctor about whether or not it’s right for you, and do your research for trustworthy brands.
You probably already know berries are good for skin glow and contain fiber for a healthy gut, but some experts swear that they’re the secret to a better sex life. According to Dr. Markus Ploesser, an integrative psychiatrist and longevity expert, berries like strawberries and raspberries contain zinc, which is important for testosterone level regulation (that hormone associated with sex drive).
“Blueberries contain flavonoids like anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, which have been shown to improve sexual function,” Elmardi agreed. Elmardi cited a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that found that people who ate blueberry-rich diets had increased blood flow to the genitalia after only three weeks (and when there’s more blood flow, there’s more pleasure). So what does all of this mean? Berries are a healthy source of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber, so if you’re already a berry fan, keep on adding them to smoothies or eating them with yogurt, knowing you could also be getting sexual health benefits.
Forget thyme and cumin–you’re going to want to cook everything with saffron from now on. It is believed that the delicious spice originated and was first cultivated in Greece, but today the spice is primarily grown in Iran, Greece, Morocco, and India. But lucky for us (and our sex drives), you can find it in most grocery stores. “The chemicals found in saffron have been shown to improve erectile dysfunction in men and increase lubrication for women,” Lord explained. A 2012 study gave women with low sexual desire 30 mg of saffron daily over four weeks and found it reduced sex-related pain and increased sexual desire and lubrication, compared to a placebo. To try for yourself, add the tasty spice to salad dressings, grains, marinades, or roasted veggies.
The slurpy seafood is probably not the go-to food when you think of “sexy,” but oysters have long been known for their aphrodisiac effects. While experts are divided on whether or not there’s any truth to aphrodisiacs, there’s truth to the ones that contain specific nutrients known to improve sex drive. Luckily for shellfish lovers (I had to google if oysters counted as shellfish, TBH), the fancy delicacy does. According to Dr. Ploesser, oysters boost dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that increases libido. “Oysters are a clichéd aphrodisiac because they contain zinc, which is necessary for the production of prolactin in women,” agreed Candela Valle, the resident nutritionist for MYHIXEL.
Watermelon is probably your favorite fruit come summer (so refreshing!), but it has serious benefits year-round. Besides its high water content and nutrients that are beneficial for multiple functions of the body, watermelon is doing wonders for your sex life too. “Watermelon is one of the most effective foods that contain sexually enhanced amino acids (citrulline) that helps blood vessels to relax and improve sex drive,” explained Steve Theunissen, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer. Yes, watermelon is 92 percent water, but the remaining 8 percent is packed with nutrients that can improve sexual health and maintain overall health.
Fenugreek originated in India and Northern Africa and dates back to six thousand years ago. Both the seeds and green leaves have been used as a spice in food and herbal medicine to treat various ailments for centuries. Turns out, it’s been boosting sexual health for a long time too. “Fenugreek contains chemicals that have properties similar to estrogen and testosterone,” Lord explained. “Research that looked at the effectiveness of fenugreek for improved sexual desire showed that it is effective in this area for both men and women.” As for why the herb affects libido? One of the reasons is that it’s a good source of zinc, which is an important nutrient related to the health of the sexual organs.
8. Red wine
As if we needed another reason to pour ourselves a glass, red wine might be one of the few alcoholic beverages that’s beneficial for libido (and–this may or may not be surprising to you–it’s not the alcohol that can improve your sex life). “Red wine contains quercetin, which might account for the positive response in sex drive,” said Dr. Anderson, Ph.D., a sex and relationship therapist, citing a 2009 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine that showed one to two glasses of red wine a day increased sexual desire and lubrication in women. “Researchers noted that drinking more than two glasses of red wine daily or indulging in other types of alcoholic beverages did not produce the same results.” Sorry, spicy margaritas–you’re great for Taco Tuesdays, but not for our sex lives.
The key ingredient that makes pasta so delicious is another ingredient that is under-appreciated when it comes to building up sex drive. You might think garlic is a killer for your sex life (no one likes garlic breath…), but the nutrients it contains could be increasing your pleasure by lowering cortisol. Let an expert explain: “Garlic contains a compound known as allicin, which helps to naturally lower levels of a hormone known as cortisol,” Elmardi explained. “Cortisol suppresses the immune system and also suppresses the natural production of testosterone. As the allicin in garlic helps to naturally lower cortisol, this helps to keep your testosterone levels stable.” As long as garlic doesn’t upset your stomach, feel free to eat it as much as you want, as it’s loaded with nutrients that are good for many functions of the body. Maybe just pop a breath mint or two if you’re getting straight to testing out the results.
What can’t Instagram’s favorite fruit do!? Not only do avocados make a mean toast and a delicious pudding (a Kourtney Kardashian favorite, TYVM), but the beloved food is good for so many different functions of the body, including sex drive. “Avocados are high in vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant involved in widening blood vessels. As a result, you get a sufficient supply of blood to various parts of the body, including the genitals,” explained Barbara Santini, a psychologist and sex and relationship adviser. Bringing blood flow to the genitals means more of the good sensitivity that results in major pleasure. Try it as a spread on bread, cut up into salads, or made into guacamole.