Eating for love

Foods to feed your love life

Has your sex drive lost its wheels?

We're all familiar with likely causes — stress, relationship problems, having kids, aging, past abuse, money worries, medications, body-image fears and many others.

Sex-performance medications are a fix for many people, but they're expensive and, hey, they're not natural.

There may be another way to bring back the magic. It's eating well, especially foods that support sexual function, says Dr. Robin Miller of Medford.

"If you ask the Food and Drug Administration, there are no aphrodisiacs," says Miller, of Triune Integrative Medicine. "But, why would we turn to the government for help with our love lives? Look at our ancestors. They didn't need randomized controlled trials to tell them what turned them on. They found what worked and used it. They also knew that what one thinks MIGHT be a turn-on probably would do just that."

Here's a survey of foods that many nutritionists credit with properties to enhance sexual function.

Almonds: Best raw or slivered in salads and pastas. Most nuts contain essential fatty acids, key to male hormone production and performance.

Anise seed or fennel: The ancient Greeks and Romans considered this to be a powerful aphrodisiac. To enjoy, suck on this licorice-tasting food, which contains plant estrogens and boosts libido.

Arugula: A yummy, adventurous green, great in salad and pastas.

Avocado: This lovely, mouth-caressing food has high levels of folic acid, a protein metabolizer, so it gives you more energy. It contains vitamin B6, which is good for male hormone production, and its potassium content is said to help female thyroid.

Banana: Its overly obvious shape attracted ancient peoples to the belief in its aphrodisiac qualities, says Miller, but it is the nutrients, such as potassium and B vitamins, that help increase production of sex hormones. It has an enzyme, bromelain, that counters male impotence and increases energy.

Celery: This is one of those you've-got-to-be-kidding aphrodisiacs, but it's considered a "fantastic source food for sexual stimulation," according to the website www.askmen.com. It has androsterone, an odorless hormone released through male perspiration which, according to the website, "turns women on."

Chocolate: This and wine have to be the most famous "foreplay foods" ever, and they are rarely missing from the early dating period. Chocolate is "definitely an aphrodisiac; just ask any woman," notes Miller, in her blog. It has chemicals that improve neurotransmitter performance, she says. It also has theobromine, an alkaloid similar to caffeine, and phenylthylamine, which mimics the physiological state we call "being in love."

Eggs: It's an age-old libido food because the egg suggests fertility, but modern science shows eggs are high in vitamins B5 and B6, good for hormone balance and countering stress, two things needed for healthy sex. This includes fish eggs, such as caviar (good with Champagne).

Figs: The fig is high in amino acids that increase libido and stamina. Note: We're talking fresh figs, not the hard, dry ones. "Folklore has it that a man eating a fig in front of his significant other," says Miller, "is a huge turn-on."

Garlic: So it's not necessarily sweet and pleasant. And it makes your breath intense. Who cares, as long as you're both eating it. Garlic contains allicin, which increases blood flow to sex organs and elevates the libido.

Liver: OK, it's gross to most, definitely an acquired taste, but it's good for cell nutrients and immunity and is known to give the libido a good kick in the pants.

Oysters: An age-old classic for intimate love, oysters earn their reputation by being high in zinc, which ramps up sperm and testosterone production. They're high in protein and deliver dopamine, known for increased libido. "The Romans described women gone wild after eating oysters and drinking wine," notes Miller.

Wine: The quintessential fruit and lubricant of love. Why? It's a mystery. They don't call beer the drink of love! Only wine, which has earned its reputation as the queen of aphrodisiacs a billion times over, in myth, song and the lives and loves of people living and dead. Wine, according to www.nutritiondata.com, has zero fat, cholesterol, sodium, fiber, vitamin A and calories from fat. So, what's in it that makes us so amorous? Must be love itself.

Many of these food suggest themselves together as a meal, such as an arugula-based salad with avocados, celery and almond slivers. Serve wine with the meal and follow with chocolate-fudge ice cream with fresh figs or banana on top, then off to bed — and not because you're tired!


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