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Published On: Thu, Dec 15th, 2011


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Are you looking to spice up your sex life? The recipe for better sex is so easy to make and the ingredients happen to be found in your local grocery store or farmer’s market. 

You see, the foods we consume play a large role in sexual performance. What happens after eating a large, rich, fatty meal, like a steak and mashed potatoes? You feel full, sluggish, and very tired – not exactly what’s going to put you in the mood, nor do much good for your overall health. Changing what you eat will improve all aspects of your sexual health, as well as improve other health conditions, which also happen to affect your sexual performance.


Sexual dysfunction is defined as a problem that occurs during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents either or both partners from experiencing pleasure and satisfaction. Approximately 43% of women (mostly menopausal and post-menopausal) and 31% of men report some degree of sexual difficulty which can stem from something physical and/or psychological.

Physical causes of sexual dysfunction include physical or medical conditions that affect sexual performance. Diabetes, heart and blood vessel disease, neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances, kidney disease, liver failure, obesity, alcoholism, and drug addiction are examples of such physical conditions. In addition, many prescription medications, such as antidepressants, can also affect sexual function.

A few physical and medical conditions warrant some additional explanation as to why they affect performance. First, most menopausal and post-menopausal women suffer from vaginal dryness (due to low/no estrogen) which can lead to painful intercourse. Increasing soy food in the diet helps with this as soy acts as a lubricating agent because it binds with estrogen receptors. Soy intake is also correlated with reduced hot flashes. Traditional Japanese societies, whose diets are rich in soy foods (tofu, soy beans), don’t even have a word for “hot flash” as this menopausal symptom seems not to exist.

Another physical condition which hampers sexual performance is heart and blood vessel disease. Arousal is linked to the circulatory system and blood vessel health; any vessel stiffness or narrowing, which affects blood flow to the genitalia, will make it difficult to achieve and sustain such a sensation. Diets high in saturated and trans fat will clog the arteries and decrease blood flow to sexual organs. Good fats, like avocado, olive oil, walnuts, almonds, and salmon are important for the production of sex hormones. So too is spicy, warming food, like chili peppers, ginger, and curry, which increase circulation and stimulate nerve endings. And foods rich in L-arginine are said to decrease blood vessel stiffness (could it be nature’s Viagra?).

Obesity is another physical condition that has a negative impact on sexual function.  Being overweight or obese decreases testosterone production in men, contributing to erectile dysfunction. Losing weight, preferably through a healthy, plant-based diet and regular exercise, increases testosterone and improves sexual function.

Sexual performance can also be affected by different psychological conditions. Stress (work, home, money), depression, guilt, marital relationships, parent-child issues, and past sexual trauma can all impact one’s sex life. It’s so hard to “get in the mood” when your thoughts are wrapped around paying the bills, meeting work deadlines, and the fight you had with your spouse this morning. The solution to most of the psychological barriers to good sex is to do the very deed you’re not in the mood to do and get that dopamine rush that would make you feel so much better.


For thousands of years, people have turned to aphrodisiacs – foods, herbs, scents, beverages – that reportedly increase libido, desire, and sexual power. Named for Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, aphrodisiacs are rooted in many cultures, even though there is no scientific proof that these foods work.

Aphrodisiac foods are often chosen for their shape or resemblance to sexual organs. The oyster is popular for its representation of the female genitals while foods such as bananas, asparagus, and chili peppers reflect the male counterpart. 

There are five categories in which aphrodisiac foods are placed:

  • Foods that get you HOT– foods that increase body temperature and metabolism, such as chili peppers and curry, stimulate nerve endings and increase circulation which can increase libido.
  • Appearance of sexual organ – chili peppers, oysters, carrots are thought to be a turn-on because of their phallic nature.
  • Reproduction hypothesis – reproductive organs (animal genitalia) and eggs (fish roe, bird eggs) are thought to increase desire and potency.
  • Exotic = Erotic – exotic and rare foods are thought to increase excitement.
  • Stimulate the senses, stimulate desire – foods that stimulate touch, taste, smell, and sight are said to increase arousal and desire.


The real recipe for better sex is eating clean, real, whole foods and a mostly plant-based diet. This style of eating will provide you with plenty of energy and help you with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and improve your circulatory health. Healthy blood vessels and heart, and balanced sex hormones will make for improved libido and endurance between the sheets. The following foods will help you achieve your goals for better overall and sexual health.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Foods rich in omega-3s decrease inflammation, are anti-aging, improve heart and brain health, and improve mood. Find it in wild Alaskan salmon, wild Pacific halibut, black cod/sablefish, ground flax seed, chia seed, walnuts, tofu, and hemp seed.

Zinc: This mineral enhances libido by increasing testosterone and sperm production and improving circulation. Oysters, shrimp, beef, pumpkin seeds, eggs, poultry, pork, dairy, tempeh, adzuki beans, chick peas, pinenuts.

Spinach: Rich in magnesium which can dilate blood vessels, improving blood flow to genitals.

Chili peppers:  The spicy chili peppers, like jalapeno, Serrano, and habanero contain capsaicin, which releases endorphins and increases pleasure. They also stimulate the nervous system, which accentuates the effect of sexual arousal, and increase metabolism.

Fruits and vegetables: All fruits and vegetables can help to decrease cholesterol and LDL, improving blood flow to sexual organs. They also help with weight loss and normalizing sex hormones.

Whole grains: Studies show that diets that replace whole grains for refined, processed grains help with weight loss and sustain energy level, improving sexual endurance. Quinoa, amaranth, brown rice, black rice, oats.

Ginger: This root is a stimulant for the circulatory system, improving blood flow to the genitals.

Honey: Honey is a good source of boron, which helps the body utilize estrogen. It also increases energy level because of the sugar, and is incredibly sensual to look at and touch.

Soy: Rich in phyto-estrogens, soy helps with lubrication and decreases hot flashes. Soy beans, tofu, tempeh, miso, soy milk.

Chocolate: When you think of Valentine’s Day, chocolate is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Chocolate is sensual – the smell, taste, and texture. Who doesn’t love a good dark chocolate truffle or chocolate-dipped strawberries? Chocolate is rich in phenylethylamine, which increases dopamine release in the brain, producing feelings of euphoria and happiness. Just make sure to enjoy in small amounts (approximately 1 oz.) so it doesn’t impact your weight, and stick to dark chocolate for the most antioxidants.

Alcohol: Too much alcohol can put a damper on sexual function and performance. But a small amount of alcohol can decrease inhibitions and increase arousal and adventure. Wine and champagne are associated with romance and may set the stage for a sexy evening.

L-arginine: This amino acid is used to make nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes blood vessels.  Oats, granola, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, dark green leafy vegetables, dairy, root vegetables, garlic, ginseng, soy beans, chick peas, and seeds.



Yogurt parfait: nonfat plain Greek yogurt mixed with ground cinnamon, vanilla extract, and orange zest, layered with fresh or frozen organic berries, slivered almonds and ground flax seed

Green tea and water


Stir fry of tofu, mushrooms, baby bok choy, carrots, snow peas, water chestnuts, and garlic, served over brown rice

Iced Green tea


Broiled wild Alaskan salmon, sautéed spinach and garlic, baked sweet potato

Glass of wine


Sliced organic Fuji apple and almond butter

Edamame (soy beans)

Whole grain pita with hummus

Cucumber, jicama, and carrots with guacamole



Erin Macdonald, R.D.  

 Is a Registered Dietitian and Total Health and Fitness Expert/Coach in Southern California.  

Erin is also the President and Co-founder of URockGirl!, (www.urockgirl.com), a website for woman providing information and products to nourish the mind, body, and spirit.  She specializes in Weight Management, Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition, helping people reduce the risk of conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.




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