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Aphrodisiacs: the essential food guide

02 February 2004 ( 09 February 2018 )

Can camembert really drive your lover wild? Find out with our guide to foods that get you in the mood.

Chocolate truffles
Some foods are suggestive simply because of their luxurious, indulgent nature, like creamy, warm chocolate.

Getting in the mood is effortlessly easy for some lucky couples. But for others, a gentle nudge may be needed to get them canoodling. Romantic music, a change of scene or a saucy film may all help.

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Another centuries-old way of boosting the libido is to eat special food to put you in the mood. The right tastes and aromas seem to send mind and body into sensory overload and let the carnal instincts flourish.

Aphrodisiacs - the name derives from the Greek goddess of sexual love, Aphrodite - have a venerable tradition. Many ancient civilisations attributed aphrodisiac properties to certain foods. These foods achieved mythical status, even though they varied enormously from one culture to another.

For instance, the Chinese believed that warm snake's blood - the more venomous the snake the better - gives men prolonged sexual stamina. (Snake is still served in the majority of restaurants in China today.)

The Aztecs, rather more practically, believed that the avocado is endowed with magical powers of arousal. And the Romans put their faith in garlic as the quickest way to pep up virility and increase fertility.

But is there any scientific evidence that certain foods make us feel sexier?

And if so, how exactly do they work their seductive effect upon us? And which foods are most likely to turn you and your partner on?

Top tips to boost your libido

Sensuous foods

In scientific studies, all the foods we traditionally associate with sexual enjoyment - the likes of oysters, chocolate and caviar - have been shown to be mere placebos. In 1989, the US Food and Drug Administration went so far as to declare that so-called 'aphrodisiac foods' have no effect on sex drive whatsoever.

But the fact that such foods have no proven physiological effect on the libido is by no means the end of the matter. Sex takes place in the mind and the imagination as much as in the body, and here is where the magic can really work.

Many foods, it seems, turn us on simply because we believe they will, because of their suggestive aroma, and/or because eating them in luxurious or sensual surroundings can prove highly seductive.

'Foods that put you in the mood do so for very simple reasons,' says Emily Dubberley, online editor of The Lover's Guide. 'The foods themselves are sexually suggestive. Oysters, for instance, turn men on because of their similarity in shape, taste and odour to the vagina. And bananas are a very phallic fruit that can turn women on by just looking at them.'

Other foods are suggestive simply because of their luxurious, indulgent nature. Think creamy, warm chocolate or melting vanilla ice cream dripping slowly from a spoon. 'Honey has long been linked with fertility and increased libido, as well as being a very sweet, almost hedonistic taste,' says Dubberley. 'In fact, the word "honeymoon" comes from the ancient practice of guests giving honey to newlyweds before their wedding night to pep up their antics.'

6 romantic breakfast ideas

Aromatic foods for lovers

There are a whole host of other foods that can help to turn us on because of their aromatic associations with sex and the male and female bodies, according to aromatherapist Chrissie Wildwood, author of The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy and Sensual Aromatherapy: Essential Oil for Lovers. Foods like parsley, cooked chestnuts, truffles and nuts are redolent of the musky aroma of males, she says, while Champagne, camembert, olives and fresh figs give off a fragrance that is stimulating to both sexes.

How spices boost your libido

With their naturally warm, stimulating effect, pungent, aromatic spices are also held to work wonders for your libido. Spicy foods can therefore be great aphrodisiacs, especially those that contain high levels of black pepper, cumin, chilli, cardamon, ginger, turmeric, coriander, and fenugreek.

'A Japanese meal can be a great way of combining these aphrodisiac foods,' says Emily Dubberley. 'A light meal of shellfish, seasoned with ginger, pepper, garlic, horseradish and other spices is the perfect way to put your body on sexual stand-by!'

10 healthy reasons to eat more spices

Foods lovers should avoid

Another way to eat to get in the mood is to eat to avoid falling asleep! 'An enjoyable meal arouses our senses of smell, taste, sight, and touch, and can be the ideal starter for romance- or it can send you to sleep,' warns Catherine Collins, Chief Dietitian at St George's Hospital, London.

'A traditional high-fat meal, with rich dessert to follow and plenty of alcohol, is a great sedative. Research has also shown that men's testosterone levels plummet within four hours of a high-fat meal, so to fire that romance keep it light and avoid the fries!'

Five ways to sustain your lovemaking

  • Boost your energy by topping up your iron levels with a dish containing a lean piece of red meat. Eating plenty of iron-rich food helps prevent iron-deficiency anaemia, a major cause of tiredness in older women. Non-meat eaters can opt either for fish, especially mackerel and sardines, or for fortified breakfast cereals to supply their iron needs.
  • Dubbed 'nourishment for the gods' by the Aztecs, chocolate increases levels of serotonin, a good-mood chemical, in the brain. This helps to keep you feeling generally happy, optimistic and hopefully frisky.
  • Protect your arteries, and keep your cardiovascular system performing at its peak, by eating oily fish, which contains important omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Eat slow-release carbohydrates - such as bananas, oats and nuts - to make sure that you keep your energy levels up.
  • Lower your inhibitions and get your circulation pumping with a glass or two of Champagne with your special meal.

Foods to get you in the mood...



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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.