Of all the holidays we celebrate with food, Valentine’s Day is definitely the most romantic. Many foods are touted as natural aphrodisiacs, or foods that increase pleasure or sexual performance or generally put you “in the mood.” But did you know there are studies that prove these foods may actually improve blood flow and heart rate and increase libido?
The word aphrodisiac comes from the name of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love, pleasure, and procreation. The ancient Greeks left these foods at her altar, in hopes of improving their sex life and ability to have children. Now, aphrodisiac foods are mostly seen as a fun way to get into the mood – and with date nights looking a little different this year, there are several you can try at home.
Foods That Boost Your Libido
1. Dark Chocolate
Historically, chocolate is the most popular food gift for Valentine’s Day. It contains phenylethylamine, a stimulant that promotes a general sense of well-being. Combine this with the stimulating effects of caffeine, and dark chocolate should be a go-to option to sweeten the mood.
As another classic, oysters are often the first food pictured when people think of aphrodisiacs. The idea that oysters are romantic comes from the Casanova myth – it was said the infamous womanizer claimed to eat 50 oysters each morning to boost his libido. Interestingly, the zinc found in this shellfish increases sperm count, while its amino acids increase testosterone production.
Honey is a symbol of fertility and procreation in some religions, like paganism. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates would prescribe honey to boost libido. Now, honey has been shown to help regulate hormone levels and increase blood flow. The nitric oxide and boron in honey help dilate blood vessels, which allows for optimal blood flow.
Fenugreek seeds are often used in South Asian dishes, but they’re also popular in Ayurvedic medicine, where they are most commonly used as an anti-inflammatory and libido booster. Fenugreek’s alleged ability to improve libido in men comes from the compound saponin, which stimulates the production of testosterone.
Free radical–fighting antioxidants in pomegranate juice prevent oxidative stress to tissues in your body. But did you know the ancient Greeks also saw it as a love potion? Drinking pomegranate juice daily has been shown to lower cortisol levels. These correspond with increased levels of testosterone and can lead to a heightening of sexual desire in both men and women.
6. Chili Peppers
While it’s not advisable to eat whole chili peppers, including them in your Valentine’s Day meal will spice things up (literally!). Capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their spice, stimulates the nerve endings in your tongue, releasing adrenaline. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and releases endorphins, which improve your mood.
Figs are a bit of a romantic paradox. Their numerous seeds represent fertility, while their leaves are associated with modesty. Figs are high in several amino acids, including leucine, lysine, valine, and arginine, which boost sexual stamina, increase libido, and act as an overall sexual stimulant.
Pretty and pretty pricey, saffron comes from the crimson strands of the Crocus sativus flower native to Southwest Asia. It’s often used in risottos and paella, and adventurous chefs have used it in everything from teas to tiramisu. Saffron is also used to reduce stress and as an alternative to antidepressants. Some studies show saffron can increase sex drive in individuals suffering from lowered libido due to antidepressants.
9. Maca Root
Maca root has recently risen in popularity, and for good reason. Research shows it’s very nutritious, with just one ounce of maca root powder containing a good amount of fiber, vitamin C, copper, and iron, all of which are important to general well-being. Maca root has also been said to increase libido in both men and women and increase sperm count and quality.
Watermelon – specifically the watermelon rind – is chock-full of the amino acid citrulline, which relaxes and dilates blood vessels, not unlike a particularly famous erectile dysfunction medication.
Sweet, red, and heart-shaped, strawberries are another Valentine’s Day classic. Covered in chocolate or arranged with other fruits, strawberries contain phytochemicals, like anthocyanins, flavanones, and flavones, that reduce joint inflammation, leaving you more flexible.
Doing Date Night at Home
While date nights may look a little different this year, there’s no reason you can’t celebrate Saint Valentine in the comfort of your own home. Check out these recipes using some of the aphrodisiacs explored above.
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad:
- 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 citrus fruit, peeled and sliced
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped almonds
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/4 cup pomegranate
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
- Combine all dressing ingredients in glass jar. Tightly seal and shake for 30 to 60 seconds, until well emulsified. Adjust seasoning if needed.
- Combine kale and lemon juice in large mixing bowl. Massage until tender, about 2–3 minutes.
- Add remaining salad ingredients to massaged kale. Drizzle with dressing and toss gently. Serve immediately.
- 2/3 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 24 small or medium oysters
- To prepare sauce: Combine vinegar, shallot, and pepper in glass or stainless steel bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
- Rinse and shuck oysters, leaving each oyster in its bottom shell. Discard any oysters that are open, don’t close when tapped, or have a strong smell of sulfur.
- Place oysters on bed of crushed ice, rock salt, or crumpled tin foil to keep level. Drizzle with 1/4 teaspoon of mignonette sauce per oyster and serve immediately.
For the tuna marinade:
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (or low sodium soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- Juice from 1/2 lime
- Dash garlic powder
- 1/4–1/2 pound sushi-grade, wild-caught tuna, cut into bite-size pieces
Additional ingredients and toppings:
- Carrots, cut into thin strips
- Cucumber, cut into thin strips
- Bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- Avocado, cut into small pieces
- Brown rice
- Green onion, cut into small pieces
- Spicy mayo (2 tablespoons mayo + 2 teaspoons sriracha)
- Sesame seeds
- Nori, cut into strips
- Whisk together all marinade ingredients except tuna in medium-size bowl. Add tuna and gently stir to dress tuna. Store in fridge for 30–60 minutes.
- Add veggies and rice to bowl with marinated tuna.
- Top with green onion, spicy mayo, sesame seeds, and nori.
- 3 cups almond flour
- 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup cacao powder
- 1/3 cup egg whites
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 packets Stevia
- Sea salt to taste
- 1/2–1 cup almond milk
- 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In large bowl, combine all ingredients, except almond milk and chocolate chips.
- Slowly add almond milk until mixture becomes smooth while maintaining thick consistency overall.
- Once combined, stir in chocolate chips.
- Place mixture in greased pan. Bake for about 20 minutes.
- Cool, cut into squares, and enjoy!
The Bottom Line
Aside from their ability to make you feel great, these aphrodisiac foods are also great for your overall health (yes, even chocolate!). Feeding your body good things has a major ripple effect on your whole health, not just your physical health. IIN’s Health Coach Training Program explores all aspects of wellness, including physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health. Interested in learning more? Check out our Curriculum Guide to learn more about becoming a Health Coach.