The truth about libido-boosting foods

Find out if it’s true that what you eat can get you in the mood – or if it’s all a myth

We’ve all heard that oysters, champagne and chocolate are aphrodisiacs. But can these foods really affect your sexual desire? And if not, which ones should we be turning to?

Fact: oysters

Yes, it’s true – oysters really could increase libido. Firstly, they are rich in the mineral zinc,1 which is vital for the healthy functioning of the male reproductive system, and it’s also found in sperm.2,3

But oysters and other bivalve molluscs, like scallops and mussels, are also rich in rare amino acids – D-aspartic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartate – which are thought to increase the release of testosterone in men and progesterone in women, increasing sexual desire. The scientists suggest eating them raw for the most effect.4

Handpicked content: Why you should start taking zinc – today

Myth: chocolate

Sadly, research has failed to back up chocolate’s libido-lifting reputation. A study of 163 women published in 2006 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women who ate chocolate every day reported higher levels of desire. But the researchers also noted that these women were younger than the non-chocolate-eaters, and when the results were adjusted for the effects of age on sex drive, they found no difference between the two groups.5 However, another study, by researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada, reported that a nutrient in chocolate called phenethylamine can alter serotonin and endorphin levels in your brain.6 This boosts your mood – and, you never know, this may have a knock-on effect on your sex drive.7,8

Handpicked content: How healthy is your sex life?

Fact: red wine

Forget the bubbles. A study published in Nutrition Journal in 2012 found that red wine can increase the amount of sex hormone testosterone in men by blocking its excretion in urine.9 Another study found moderate intake of one or two glasses of red wine a day improved both desire and lubrication in women.10

Fact: saffron

Crocin, the active component this pricey spice, can increase sexual behaviour, according to a 2013 review of purported aphrodisiacs by New Delhi University in India. But more research is needed to understand how it works.11

Fact: maca

This is a root traditionally used in Peru to increase libido and fertility. In a study published in Andrologia in 2002, men aged between 21 and 56 years old were given either maca root or a placebo. After eight weeks of treatment, the researchers found that the men taking maca experienced increased sexual desire compared to the placebo group, although it’s not currently clear how this was happening.12

Handpicked content:  7 great ways to boost your fertility naturally

Your libido-boosting meal planner

Arranging a seductive night in but worried about low libido or lasting longer in bed? While the psychological boost of eating foods you enjoy is key, here are some ideas of ways to include the potential aphrodisiacs above…

Starter: A couple of raw oysters each, washed down with a glass of red wine.

Main: Paella, made with basmati rice and packed with shellfish including mussels, flavoured with saffron.

Dessert: Raw chocolate and maca mousse – blend an avocado, a ripe banana and a good splash of oat or almond milk (add enough for a smooth consistency) with 1tbsp raw cacao powder and 1 dessertspoon of powdered maca. Top with strawberries for extra flavour.

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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Sources
  1. . National Institutes of Health. Zinc. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
  2. . Zhao J, et al. Zinc levels in seminal plasma and their correlation with male infertility: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4773819/
  3. . The Telegraph. Raw oysters really are aphrodisiacs say scientists (and now is the time to eat them). Available from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1486054/Raw-oysters-really-are-aphrodisiacs-say-scientists-and-now-is-the-time-to-eat-them.html
  4. . As above
  5. . Salonia A, et al. Chocolate and women’s sexual health: An intriguing correlation. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16681473
  6. . ScienceDaily. Natural aphrodisiacs: ‘Spicing’ up your love life possible, finds study of ginseng and saffron. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110328092423.htm
  7. . Medical News Today. What is serotonin and what does it do? Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/kc/serotonin-facts-232248
  8. . The Independent. How to boost your sex drive. Available from: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/healthy-living/how-to-boost-your-sex-drive-780947.html
  9. . Jenkinson C, Petroczi A and Naughton DP. Red wine and component flavonoids inhibit UGT2B17 in vitro. Available from: https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-11-67
  10. . Mondaini N, et al. Regular moderate intake of red wine is linked to a better women's sexual health. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19627470
  11. . Kotta S, Ansari SH and Ali J. Exploring scientifically proven herbal aphrodisiacs. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3731873/
  12. . Gonzales GF, et al. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12472620
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