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Valentine’s Day: What’s on your aphrodisiac menu for February 14?

When did Valentine’s Day become all about food?  Isn’t it a celebration of love? Well…not really! The origin of Valentine’s day is attributed to an early Christian martyr named Valentine, who, after Emperor Claudius II had banned marriages, was executed for performing the ceremonies in secret.

But, we enjoy Valentine’s Day, February 14 as a day where couples can pause to celebrate their enjoyment of each other, and when we also get to celebrate our love of good food.

Today’s column will showcase foods that may enhance your libido…men and women both.

[Disclaimer: the sources cited are not solely scientific, and some provide general information and entertainment.)

GourmetSleuth.com reports , … in ancient times a distinction was made between a substance that increased fertility versus one that simply increased sex drive.  One of the key issues in early times was nutrition. Food was not so readily available as it is today. Undernourishment creates a loss of libido as well as reduces fertility rates.   Substances that “by nature” represent “seed or semen” such as bulbs, eggs, snails were considered inherently to have sexual powers. Other types of foods were considered stimulating by their physical resemblance to genitalia.

Consuming “love” foods regularly won’t necessarily turn you into a Casanova or Mata Hari, but as usual, behind every myth lies at least some science.  Feeling great from eating well is likely to lead to spectacular things in the bedroom!

Tomatoes

The French have dubbed tomatoes pommes d’amour: apples of love.  Italians call them pomi d’oro: golden apples. If you consider a healthy heart an aphrodisiac, tomatoes will truly turn you on. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidant vitamins A and C, and are potently rich in lycopene, especially important in male prostate health.  Tomato’s lycopene is enhanced when served cooked, as in a vegetable stew or silky marinara sauce. Make sure to include raw garlic in the sauce, and the health benefits are enhanced even more.

Garlic

The ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese and just about every culture includes garlic an indispensable part of their cuisines. The active ingredient, allicin, is a powerful antioxidant used traditionally for protection against bacterial and viral infections. Garlic increases blood flow, in all the right areas. The Greeks and Egyptians considered garlic an aphrodisiac, but Tibetan monks were prohibited from entering monasteries after consuming it, because of garlic’s reputation for ‘inflaming the passions.’ Garlic’s sulfur compounds can make breath quite unromantic, but it’s less noticeable when partners share the cuisine.

Chili Peppers

Legend is that spicy foods bring heat to the bedroom, and chilies are considered aphrodisiac because they increase body heat and heart rate.  Chilies contain capsaicin, helpful for lowering high blood pressure.  They’re potent sources of vitamins A and C, and bioflavonoids, all important for healthy cell growth and to help lower inflammation. Keep it spicy…chilies help protect your heart.

Basil

The Romans used basil, a fragrant member of the mint family, to symbolize love. The Greeks used it to ease nervous tension and cure headaches (no doubt important before making love). Today’s Italians still consider basil a token of love. Combine basil leaves, pine nuts, (see below) and olive oil, and you have lovely pesto, delicious on pasta, pizza or heart-healthy fish.

Pine Nuts

Also known as piñon nuts or pignoli, they’re the edible seeds of the cones of different varieties of pine trees and are popular ingredients in cuisines of many cultures, notably Mediterranean and Asian.  Pine nuts are rich in protein and are linked to satiety. In ancient times pine nuts were prescribed to increase male fertility. While there is no scientific evidence that pine nuts increase libido for men and women, they are a good source of zinc, and, like oysters, are thought to support male sexual potency. But, what’s good for one is great for the other.

Oysters

Ancient Romans and Greeks prized oysters as an aphrodisiac, possibly because of their high zinc content, related to the production of testosterone for men. Oysters are good source of protein and are very low in fat.  They’re a good source of calcium, vitamin B12, iron, and copper. Read more about the interesting research on oysters here.

Maca

Nicknamed ‘Peruvian Viagra’, maca is a sweet root vegetable (from the radish family) that grows high in the Andes.  Long thought to have aphrodisiac qualities, including enhanced stamina and heightened desire, these effects are not yet scientifically proven, but maca’s nutrition is the real deal. Maca is rich in B vitamins, C, and E, plus calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids.  Like all supplements, don’t overdo. More is not necessarily better.

Chocolate

What says ‘Valentine’s Day’ better than rich, dark chocolate? The New York Times reports, … the Aztecs may have been the first on record to draw a link between the cocoa bean and sexual desire: the emperor Montezuma was said to consume the bean in copious amounts to fuel his romantic trysts.  Chocolate (especially dark chocolate) contains flavonoids and other chemicals that help keep the heart healthy, and a healthy heart means long-lasting love. Chocolate contains tryptophan, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal, and phenylethylamine, a stimulant related to amphetamine — a ‘love chemical’ that’s released when people fall in love. It also contains theobromine, a vasodilator (similar to caffeine.) You could say that there is a correlation between satisfying sex and enjoyment of chocolate.

Wine

A customary accompaniment to a romantic dinner, but be mindful that more is not better. For many, a glass of wine enhances the experience, but too much has the opposite effect. Wine aids digestion, can stimulate the appetite, and contains antioxidants like resveratrol (found in grape skins) and proanthocyanidins.  However, you’d have to drink several bottles daily to consume enough of these micronutrients to call wine “heart-healthy.” Populations who drink moderately, with friends, and with meals (1 5-oz glass for women, 1-2 glasses for men, with 1-2 days alcohol-free each week) are shown to have a lower risk for death from heart disease compared to non-drinkers or beer and spirit drinkers.  A little dark chocolate and red wine for dessert…now, there’s a natural affinity.

Other aphrodisiac foods (some really do resemble sex organs) include figs, asparagus, eggplant, almonds, avocado, pomegranate, and honey.  What do they all have in common? They are natural, unadulterated, and heart-healthy.  LOVE fresh foods, and they’ll love you back.

Finally, for both men and women, the number one cause of sexual dysfunction is type 2 diabetes (read my previous column about impotency here).  Stay healthy and vital while indulging in wholesome foods, and set the scene for sexual enjoyment with your favorite partner.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Feel free to share your favorite celebratory foods and recipes in the comments section below.

Sources:

Authority Nutrition. Red Wine: Good or Bad? https://authoritynutrition.com/red-wine-good-or-bad/

CuencaHighLife.com. The Elephant in the Room – Impotence. https://www.cuencahighlife.com/elephant-bedroom-impotence/

Garlic Central. Garlic as an aphrodisiac. http://www.garlic-central.com/aphrodisiac.html

Gourmet Sleuth. Aphrodisiac Foods & Recipes. http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/articles/detail/aphrodisiac-foods

NPR: You Say Tomato, I Say ‘Love Apple’. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106932330

Psychology Today. Is Maca an Aphrodisiac? https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/201104/is-maca-aphrodisiac

The Independent. Aphrodisiacs: 10 best foods to get you in the mood. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/aphrodisiacs-10-best-foods-to-get-you-in-the-mood-10043642.html

The Telegraph: Raw oysters really are aphrodisiacs say scientists (and now is the time to eat them). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1486054/Raw-oysters-really-are-aphrodisiacs-say-scientists-and-now-is-the-time-to-eat-them.html

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About the Author

Susan Burke March

Susan Burke March, a Cuenca expat, is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Certified Diabetes Educator who specializes in smart solutions for weight loss and diabetes-related weight management. She is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally — a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters and make healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual over the long term. Contact her at SusantheDietitian@gmail.com