The foods that boost - and zap - libido

Alexandra Thompson
·5-min read
passionate couple is having sex on bed
Eating the right foods could improve your sex life. (Getty Images)

Couples are often prepared to go to fairly extreme lengths to keep things interesting in the bedroom.

Many may not realise small dietary tweaks can make a big difference to your libido.

Read more: How a woman can enjoy sex whatever her age

Infamous lothario Casanova is said to have eaten 50 oysters for breakfast, with many hailing the opulent seafood the ultimate aphrodisiac.

While alcohol may help you lose your inhibitions, a line in Macbeth warns it “provokes the desire, but takes away the performance”.

Foods that boost libido

Oysters

Casanova may have got it right.

Shellfish is thought to be associated with libido as a result of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, rising from the sea.

Aphrodisiac even comes from the name “Aphrodite”.

Oysters are rich in zinc, which plays a role in the production of testosterone and sperm.

“One of the richest sources of zinc is oysters, which have been seen as an aphrodisiac food for centuries and are often associated with romantic suppers between couples – actually an occasion that psychologically can help pave the way for a night of passion,” Rob Hobson, registered nutritionist and head of nutrition at Healthspan, told Yahoo UK.

“Oysters certainly are not everyone’s cup of tea and not a food you find in your local supermarket, but fear not as it’s the zinc that counts when it comes to libido.

“Whilst they may not seem as sexy, other great sources of zinc include lobster, red meat, nuts, seeds and lentils.”

Open Oysters
Oysters are often considered the ultimate aphrodisiac. (Getty Images)

Avocado

The Aztecs reportedly considered avocados a turn on due to how they hang suggestively in pairs from trees.

“When you think of avocados, you may just think of them smashed on toast, but there’s certainly one possible nutrition benefit that links to their proposed libido-boosting properties,” Rosie Long, registered associate nutritionist, told Yahoo UK.

“Avocados contain vitamin B6, which helps regulate the activity of our hormones.

“Plus, they provide potassium, a nutrient that’s vital for maintaining normal blood pressure.

“That’s great news when things get steamy under the covers.”

Bananas are similarly high in vitamin B6 and potassium.

Fruit

A 2016 study by the University of Anglia found men who ate more foods rich in antioxidants called flavonoids were less likely to develop erectile dysfunction.

When specifically looking at fruit, a “major source”, the scientists discovered a “higher intake” reduced a man’s risk by 14%.

Read more: Up to half of young women feel guilty, embarrassed or stressed over their sex life

“Foods rich in flavonoids include berries, citrus fruits, grapes and apples,” said Hobson.

Other sources include cocoa powder, tea, red peppers, kale and broccoli.

Ginseng

The popular herbal remedy is frequently used to combat low libido in Chinese medicine, with research increasingly supporting its prescription.

A 2008 study by the Korea Food Research Institute in South Korea found “suggestive evidence for the effectiveness of red ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction”.

The scientists added, however, the quality of the papers they analysed were “too low to draw definitive conclusions”.

A later study by Chonnam National University in South Korea found red ginseng improved “sexual arousal in menopausal women”.

Tea powder with ginseng root
Ginseng is often prescribed to treat low libido in Chinese medicine. (Getty Images)

Chocolate

The Aztecs are said to have considered chocolate a powerful aphrodisiac, however, data supporting its libido-boosting properties is limited.

Nevertheless, enjoying a square or two may help you get in the mood.

“Chocolate contains a chemical called threobromine, which is thought to trigger the release of ‘feel good’ endorphins in the same way that making love does,” registered dietitian Juliette Kellow told Yahoo UK.

“Plus, it contains phenylethylamine, known as the ‘love drug’ because levels tend to be higher when we’re in love.”

Good news for chocaholics, but enjoy in moderation.

Almonds

The ancient Romans believed almonds were a symbol of fertility.

In the 14th century, Italians began giving five sugar-coated almonds as wedding favours, each symbolising a quality of a happy marriage: health, wealth, happiness, fertility and longevity.

Read more: More than half of Britons 'have never been tested for an STI'

“Almonds are packed with zinc, which is important for our fertility,” said Kellow.

“Plus they provide folate, vitamin E and healthy fats.”

In 2018, Spanish scientists found men who ate 60g of mixed nuts a day for 14 weeks saw improvements to their sperm count, mobility and “vitality”.

Foods that zap libido

Alcohol

Shakespeare may have got it right when he wrote Macbeth.

“Whilst a couple of drinks may lower inhibitions and make you feel more confident the effects are not always positive when it comes to sex,” said Hobson.

“Drinking alcohol increases levels of testosterone in women ,which plays a role in sexual desire, but too much may have a negative effect psychologically, and worsen your ‘genital response’ and physical arousal.

“In men, too much booze is well known to cause ‘brewer’s droop’.

“Alcohol decreases blood flow to the penis, suppresses the central nervous system and increases a hormone called angiotensin, which all contribute to erectile dysfunction.

“As a side note, too much booze can also lead to riskier sexual behaviour, which may be detrimental to your health in many ways.”

Kellow even said alcohol can be your “worst enemy when it comes to sex”.

“Drinking one too many on date night may just send you to sleep early, while regularly drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over a longer period can significantly reduce your sex drive,” she said.

Man pouring wine into wineglass, male hand holding bottle of red expensive alchoholic beverage, closeup photo
Alcohol may loosen your inhibitions, but it could also take away your performance between the sheets. (Getty Images)

Salt

Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which eventually damages vessels, causing them to thicken.

“The effect of this is restricted blood flow to the penis, which in turn may lead to erectile dysfunction in men,” said Hobson.

Processed fatty foods

We all know overindulging in junk food will cause us to pile on the pounds.

Being overweight is linked to type 2 diabetes, a leading cause of erectile dysfunction.

“Eating an unhealthy diet can have an impact on your health in more ways than you may think,” said Long.

“In fact, a diet high in unhealthy saturated fats has been linked to an interference in reproductive health and sperm quality.

“Eating too much saturated fat also increases the risk of developing heart disease, which in turn can impact libido.”