They say that sex sells, and ain't that the truth? Yet so many people shy away from discussing it in public.
And seeking help when there's trouble in the bedroom? Yeah right. Like any other aspect of health, we're quick to look for cure-alls.
The idea of aphrodisiacs is nothing new. Throughout history, foods resembling certain parts have been eaten as remedies for sexual issues. For example, mandrake root – which is forked like a woman's legs – has been used as an aphrodisiac and to help with female infertility.
A food item's rarity or status as a delicacy is another known factor. Believe it or not, potatoes were once known as an aphrodisiac in Europe. This can probably be traced back to its rarity when it was first introduced from the Americas.
Of course, we can't talk about aphrodisiacs without mentioning Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and sexuality. According to myth, she loved sparrows. This led to a trend of early Europeans eating sparrows, including their brains. You can't make this stuff up!
These days, we theorize that aphrodisiac foods have certain nutrients that put you in the mood, give you better orgasms, and so on. But is there any truth to this?
Yes and no. If you're deficient in key nutrients, your sex life will probably suffer. For example, zinc is needed to make testosterone, which in turn is essential for sexual function. Oysters, supposedly an aphrodisiac, is an excellent source of zinc. Of course, it's easier and a heck of a lot cheaper to get zinc from lean beef, poultry, eggs, and nuts.
If you tend to not get enough potassium (like from strawberries), your blood pressure may be too high. The problem is, seeing a food listed on a top 10 list makes us want to go and buy out the supermarket. Strawberries and other fruits are great for getting potassium, but going overboard means you're getting more vitamin C and fiber than you might be used to. Translation: diarrhea. Last time I checked? Not so sexy.
So what can actually improve your sex life? Maintaining a proper weight, eating a heart-healthy diet, and managing your blood sugar. I know you're shocked (not). Seriously though, good blood flow is the key to a good sex life. I won't elaborate, but think about it.
So – eat plenty of fruits and vegetables for your blood pressure. Replace some of the butter, cheese, and bacon with unsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado, and nuts to manage your cholesterol.
Chocolate? Sure, why not. A glass of wine? You can even have two if it helps to loosen you up, just don't overdo it. Even Shakespeare warned us of this, writing that alcohol "provokes the desire but takes away the performance" in Macbeth.
If certain foods are special to you and help set the scene, I'm all for it, but don't expect magical results. Also – and this is very important - sexual dysfunction really needs to get checked out. It could indicate serious underlying health issues like heart disease, diabetes, low testosterone, and so on.
Valentine's Day is a long way off, but there's no time like the present to start eating more of the foods that can truly improve your health – and ultimately, your love life. Vice versa, sex has an important role in overall wellness, so don't be afraid to talk about it. And more importantly, to take care of all aspects of your wellbeing.
Today's post was written by Leia Kedem. Leia Kedem, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator covering Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion Counties. She appears weekly on WCIA-3/WCIX-49 and is a biweekly contributor to the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette. She also maintains Facebook and Twitter accounts where she regularly posts health tips and answers nutrition questions for free.