Need a little jump-start in the bedroom? You might look no further than your refrigerator. For centuries, people seeking ways to boost their sex drive have turned to food as one way to do it. Although research has shown that no “magic dietary bullets” exist, you can choose foods to help boost your energy, and along with it, your libido.
The search for aphrodisiacs, or foods and substances with powers to increase sexual desire, is probably as old as human history. The ancient Romans looked to such foods as hippo snouts and hyena eyeballs, while traditional Chinese medicine turned to rhino horns. The Aztecs called the avocado tree the “testicle tree,” partly because of its alleged aphrodisiac properties. Even today, people in South Korea eat such delicacies as the slime eel, which is said to boost sexual power.
Although it’s not unusual for people to not “be in the mood” on occasion, loss of libido occurs when you’re not interested in sexual activity over a longer period of time. Physical signs can include vaginal dryness, weakened erections, decreased genital sensation, difficulty achieving orgasm, genital pain with or without sexual contact or a total lack of sexual interest.
Low sex drive is called hypoactive sexual desire, or HSD, and is actually fairly common, especially among women. According to Gerald Weeks, director of the Department of Marriage and Family therapy at the University of Las Vegas in Nevada, about 25 percent of all Americans, by one estimate, or a third of women and a fifth of men, suffer from HSD.
A healthy diet that includes libido-increasing foods can also help you lose weight. Obesity is a known risk factor for erectile dysfunction and low testosterone, says Dr. Ridwan Shabsigh, director of the New York Center for Human Sexuality and associate professor of urology at Columbia University's medical school. Slimming down can also make you feel more attractive, which can have a powerful effect on libido.
You may not think of fat as a treatment for a low sex drive, but Beverly Whipple, professor emeritus at Rutgers University, points out you need fat to produce hormones. Olive oil, salmon and nuts are good sources of healthy, or monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, types of fat. However, Dr. John Mulhall, director of the Sexual Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital, adds that too much of the harmful saturated fat, found in animal products, can damage your sex drive by clogging arteries and preventing proper blood flow to your genital region. Dr. Frank Lawlis writes in his book “Brain Power Cookbook,” that soy is another food to add to your diet. It binds estrogen receptors, helping to keep the vaginal area lubricated, and is beneficial to the prostate, a crucial male sex organ. Other foods Lawlis recommends are pine nuts and oysters, high in zinc; papaya, which acts like the female hormone estrogen; and foods high in the amino acid arginine, which boosts circulation to the genital area, such as granola, oatmeal, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, dairy, green vegetables, root vegetables, garlic, ginseng, soybeans, chickpeas and seeds.
A severe and prolonged decrease in sexual desire may have a deeper physical cause, requiring stronger treatment than foods can provide. Other conditions include anemia; a disorder of the pituitary gland called hyperprolactinaemia or other hormone abnormalities; diabetes; and drug interactions Psychological issues can also be at work, such as stress, anxiety disorders and depression.