We all know that oysters have long been associated with being the ‘food of love’, but is it just oysters that supposedly have this love-inducing power or can other food have the same effect on us too?
This article is aimed at exploring the topic of natural aphrodisiacs, AKA food aphrodisiacs - what they are and how they work, as well as identifying some of those romantic foods.
How do aphrodisiac foods work?
Aphrodisiacs are named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and are said to increase libido, potency, and sexual pleasure.
They go back a long way, as far back as the 17th century when they were associated with reproduction and fertility and given to married couples as more of a medical substance.1
When it comes to food aphrodisiacs, it’s important to note that they don’t have the same effect on everybody.
Generally speaking, one type of food may work for one person, but then it may make little or no difference to somebody else.
It’s also possible for aphrodisiac food to work differently for men and women too.
For example, men may find that proteins and fats give them more of a love boost and make them more alert, while women may find that carbohydrates really help them relax and feel ‘more in the mood.’2
Aphrodisiac food has also been proven to be particularly effective for people with circulation problems.
Studies have found certain food works in a similar way to Viagra, by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow to the genitals.
It’s an amino acid called L-arginine, which is turned into nitric oxide within the body, that can increase blood flow (you’ll find it food, such as pumpkins and beef).
Foods that contain higher amounts of Omega 3, such as salmon and avocado, also reportedly have the same effect.
Meanwhile, quercetin, a pigment that belongs to a group of plant compounds called flavonoids, can potentially improve blood flow too. You can find it in apples, berries, grapes, red wine, garlic and dark chocolate.3
12 of the best food aphrodisiacs
Read on to find out about 12 of the best food aphrodisiacs...
This happens to feature in a lot of the aphrodisiac food-themed articles that are out there.
In terms of why, 1.5 to 3.5g of maca a day for two to 12 weeks is said to potentially help boost libido.
Interestingly, maca, which is a sweet root vegetable, is known as The Peruvian Viagra in South America, where it’s commonly used to help boost fertility.4
The roots are believed to hold most of the power – they’re packed full of magnesium and fibre, which can have a positive impact on improving stamina and general wellbeing.5
(For more on maca read, ‘How maca could balance your hormones.’)
Yes, that’s right – chillies are said to help boost things in the bedroom for some people.
In fact, it’s even possible for people to experience a ‘chilli high’ created by the rush of endorphins that the capsaicin that’s found in chillies releases once consumed.
Certain studies have found that eating hot chillies can literally spice things up by releasing endorphins, speeding up your metabolism and getting your heart rate going.6
It’s a bit of tongue-twister, but ginkgo biloba gets its name from the Ginkgo Biloba tree, which is one of the oldest species of tree and is the primary source of this herbal supplement.
It’s long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to aid sexual function and is said to have aphrodisiac qualities due to the fact it helps relax blood vessels and increase blood flow.7
Chocolate doesn’t just taste delicious and can give us a bit of a buzz if we happen to receive it as a gift from a loved one, it actually contains feel-good compounds.
They include theobromine, which is a caffeine stimulant, and works in a similar way to caffeine, plus has mood-boosting qualities to boot.
You’ll also find that alongside theobromine, chocolate also contains phenethylamine, which can also get our endorphins going and give us a dopamine rush.8
Well we started off by mentioning them, so we couldn’t possibly leave them off the list, could we?
Some say oysters aphrodisiac abilities are a bit of an old wives’ tale, while others swear by them.
We guess it’s all down to what we mentioned above, different aphrodisiac food can work for some people and not necessarily for others.
One of the reasons why oysters have been hailed as being a love food is because they contain lots of zinc. And zinc has been linked to boosting fertility and sperm production, particularly in men.
On top of that, they contain essential amino acids that encourage overall sexual function.9
Gingko biloba isn’t the only herb that’s used in Chinese medicine that has aphrodisiac qualities.
Lots of studies have been carried out on red ginseng’s aphrodisiac effect, with some concluding that it’s more effective than a placebo at improving erectile function.
Meanwhile, another study found that it can potentially improve sexual arousal among menopausal women.
In most of the studies, participants took between 1.3 and 3g of red ginseng a day for four to 12 weeks.10
While most of us may associate slices of watermelon to cool us down while on holiday or just generally quench our thirst and help us stay hydrated, this fruit happens to have a bit of a rep for being a food aphrodisiac.
You see, as well as their high water content, watermelons are a rich source of citrulline, which is a non-essential amino acid that’s capable of relaxing and dilating our blood vessels and increasing blood flow and sexual arousal, similar to the way Viagra and other drugs to treat erectile dysfunction work.
But here’s the thing, most of the citrulline can be found in the rind, not in the juicy fleshy part that we all tend to eat (just thought we’d mention it in case you were planning on stocking up on watermelons!)11
Asparagus’ ability to turn the love dial up a notch isn’t a new phenomenon.
In fact, it was reportedly eaten three times a day by French grooms in the 19th century before their weddings to help get their sex drive going.
Why asparagus? Well, it happens to contain quite a few sexually-stimulating nutrients, such as Vitamin E, B and potassium.12
After the stalks of asparagus, avocados are another vibrant green food stuff that can reportedly help get us in the mood.
This is because they’re packed full of minerals and monounsaturated fats (good fats), as well as Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E.
And if you didn’t already know this, Vitamin E is often referred to as the ‘sex vitamin’ because it can help promote the production of sex hormones that enhance attraction, mood and desire.13
This concoction of goodness, as well as their Omega-3 fatty acid levels, are all said to be natural mood boosters, as well some of the main contributors for increased energy and a more switched on libido.14
You know how aphrodisiacs are named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love? Well, the story goes that the goddess happened to plant the first ever pomegranate tree.
Due to the masses of seeds inside the fruit and its blood red colour, pomegranates are often associated with female fertility.15
As for their aphrodisiac qualities, pomegranates are full of lots of antioxidants that reduce inflammation and plaque from building up in our arteries.
In turn, this can help more blood flow to all areas of the body, including the genitals.16
There can be something quite seductive about red wine, particularly the deep, rich red colour…
But it’s the resveratrol in red wine, a powerful antioxidant, that has the ability to reduce inflammation and get the blood flowing around the body.17
It works by reducing the stickiness of blood platelets, which helps keep blood vessels open and flexible and promotes improved blood supply to the brain and other organs.
It can also be found in red and purple grapes, blueberries, cranberries, mulberries, lingonberries, peanuts, and pistachios.18
Of all the nuts, why pistachios?
Good question…Well, they happen to have wide-ranging health benefits, which include reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
And they’re also said to help with erectile dysfunction too.
According to one particular study, the Pistachio Diet Improves Erectile Function Parameters, pistachios were found to be effective at helping improve blood cholesterol and stimulating blood flow.
Both of these benefits have been linked to potentially helping tackle erectile dysfunction issues.19
Did you realise the list of foods above had aphrodisiac powers? Do you think you’ll be giving any of them a whirl?
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 2 February 2022