London - Foods to get you in the mood have long been on the menu for lovers, but is there really any link between what you eat and how things progress in the bedroom? Rachel Reilly asks the experts if an aphrodisiac will ensure a romantic Valentine’s Day.
“In ancient Arabia there was a recipe that the sultan used to ensure he could please his harem of wives,” explains herbalist Phillip Weeks. “It was a mixture of strong black coffee, cardamom, raw honey and saffron.”
Coffee has long been known to increase alertness, but it only works as a potent stimulant if you don’t drink it regularly. Cardamom extract has been shown to boost circulation and raw honey contains many nutrients including boron which may balance hormones.
“Saffron is rich in phytonutrients and research has shown that men suffering with erectile dysfunction benefited,” adds Weeks.
FRUITS OF THE SEA
Casanova was said to breakfast on 50 oysters, which contain high levels of libido-boosting zinc.
“Zinc is important in maintaining hormonal balance and adequate intake has been associated with a healthy sex drive, particularly in men,” says nutritional therapist Dr Elisabeth Philipps.
A 2005 Italian study also found that uncooked shellfish contained high levels of the amino acids D Aspartic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartate which increase testosterone production in males and progestone in females. Increased levels are associated with a high sex drive.
A SPRINKLE OF CHILLI
Adding a bit of spice to your meal really will leave you hot under the collar because of the active compound capsaicin. “It improves blood circulation, heightens nerve endings, increases heart rate and body temperature which mimics the sensations we experience before and during intercourse,” explains Dr Philipps.
“Avocados are rich in folic acid, which has been shown to boost circulation and promote heart health,” says Dr Philipps. “They are also very rich in good fats which help keep hormones in balance.”
The fruit is also rich in Vitamin E, an antioxidant linked to enhanced sexual pleasure in women and longer-lasting erections in men.
This substance is crucial for the production of nitrous oxide, which stimulates blood flow to intimate areas. You can find the chemical in nuts such as walnuts and peanuts, seaweed, turkey and chicken, but you can also get it as a supplement.
“It is a natural form of Viagra, but the quantity each man needs varies dramatically,” explains Weeks. “Most men start with 1,000mg and it takes about four hours to metabolise. Research has shown it can increase the length of an orgasm.”
If you suffer with a heart condition, speak to a doctor before trying this supplement.
BOX OF CHOCOLATES
“Chocolate is a sensual food – it is sweet and smooth so automatically evokes feelings of comfort,” says Dr Philipps. “It also contains phenylethylamine, which triggers the release of dopamine which can make you feel euphoric and very awake.” The high sugar content is a great energy boost if you’re planning a very physical evening.
Damiana is a herb thought to have boosted sexual desire since Aztec times. “I often prescribe this herb to patients who want to boost their libido,” says Weeks. “It contains caffeine-like substances and essential oils that help balance hormones, boost circulation to the genitals and increase body temperature.” Weeks suggests drinking several cups of tea throughout the day.
HAVE A BANANA
Bananas have long been regarded as an aphrodisiac and there is science behind their reputation. “They are rich in potassium and B vitamins, both important for maintaining a healthy sex drive,” says Dr Philipps. “Potassium maintains healthy muscle function and blood flow and the B vitamins help maintain hormone levels for a healthy libido.” There is also evidence that the enzyme bromelain found in bananas and pineapples helps boost libido. - Mail On Sunday