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9 Aphrodisiac Foods to Rev Up Your Libido

Put these ingredients on the menu to spice up your sex life


spinner image ginger pomegranate and dark chocolate three foods considered aphrodisiacs
Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Getty Images (6))

Have you ever been out to dinner, seen oysters on the menu and wondered, Is it really true that eating these will get me in the mood? Or maybe you’ve snacked on something spicy and felt a little hot and bothered? It may not just be in your head.

Some foods have long-standing histories of being able to rev up our sex drives.  

Stemming from the Greek name for the goddess of love, Aphrodite, an aphrodisiac is a food or substance that supposedly is able to increase sexual desire and improve performance in the bedroom.

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Do they work?

The jury is still out on if aphrodisiacs really get you in the mood. To date, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t deemed any foods to have aphrodisiac properties. But some researchers who study them point to evidence that certain foods do exhibit properties that may benefit one’s sex life.

“Aphrodisiacs are suggested to enhance sex drive and pleasure by increasing blood flow, lubrication, sensitivity, sex hormones and neurotransmitters involved in sex drive and function,” explains Jamie Mok, a registered dietitian nutritionist and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  

And while the idea of aphrodisiac foods has been around for centuries, and their properties might help improve your sex drive indirectly, Mok stresses that it’s important to remember no food directly “turns someone on.”

At the very least, enjoying some delicious oysters on the half shell may get you in the mood because you perceive them to be aphrodisiacs.  

The placebo effect works great when it comes to sexual medicine. In fact, it has a 50 percent success rate, says Waguih W. Ishak, M.D., vice chair of education and research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai.

Ready to give aphrodisiacs a whirl? Here are nine foods that might give your love life a boost in the bedroom.

spinner image opened ripe pomegranates
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Pomegranates for performance

This fun red fruit may help your performance. One study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research suggests that men who drank pomegranate juice versus a placebo reported improvements with erectile dysfunction. “Researchers hypothesize that the high concentration of antioxidants in foods like pomegranates can lower oxidative stress and increase blood vessel dilation and blood flow to genitals,” says Mok.

“Another small study by Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh found drinking pomegranate juice daily lowered cortisol levels, which can correspond with increased testosterone in both men and women,” adds Beth Czerwony, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute.  The study was published in Endocrine Today.

Pomegranate juice may also help to improve exercise endurance — “which means you could last longer in bed,” says Amy Reiley, author of several aphrodisiac cookbooks and founder of Eat Something Sexy.

spinner image stacked squares of dark chocolate
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Dark chocolate for feeling good

There may be something to gifting all that chocolate to our significant others on Valentine’s Day. It’s hard to want to hit the sheets if you’re feeling glum, and research has shown that chocolate can lift your spirits. “It’s just a lovely, sensual food that really truly does put you in a good mood because it’s just a little bit sweet. And it melts on your tongue,” says Reiley.

Chocolate also contains phenethylamine and tryptophan. “The former is a stimulant that is released in the brain when we fall in love, while the latter helps to produce serotonin, a brain chemical associated with elevated moods and sexual arousal,” says Czerwony. 

For a sensual dessert, Mok recommends whipping up this Chocolate Chia Pudding by Feel Good Foodie, which you can put together in just five minutes.  

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 

Instructions:

  1. Vigorously whisk the milk, chia seeds, cocoa powder, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a medium bowl or storage container, being careful to incorporate any cocoa powder sticking to the sides and bottom.
  2. Cover the chia pudding and refrigerate until thick and creamy, at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.
  3. Give it a good stir and divide into two servings. Enjoy with fresh coconut whipped cream and berries, if desired.
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Coffee to wake up your libido

Coffee lovers rejoice! Your beloved cup of Joe may be helping to get things going down below. Coffee has been linked to increased testosterone in men and reduced odds of prevalent erectile dysfunction, and may boost arousal in women with a reduced libido due to antidepressants. And coffee’s hefty dose of caffeine boosts heart rate and increases blood flow, says Czerwony.

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“Finish the evening with a simple espresso and a piece of chocolate or an affogato as your dessert,” says Reiley. That jolt of caffeine, she adds, may also boost your energy in the bedroom.  

spinner image a plate of oysters on ice with lemon
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Oysters to shore up your hormones

Ah, yes, the old aphrodisiac standby. “If any food is ever going to prove the FDA wrong, it could be the oyster,” says Reiley. This could be due to its high quantity of zinc, a mineral with antioxidant properties said to play an important role in fertility. “Zinc has been associated with improved sexual health in men due to its role in both sperm production and hormone metabolism,” explains Mok.

Results from a study published in the World Applied Sciences Journal indicate male mice given oyster extract had increased mounting behavior — a.k.a. sexual desire, per Mok — suggesting that oysters may have aphrodisiac properties. Another study, published in the Journal of Reproduction and Infertility, suggests zinc deficiency is associated with impaired sexual function in males, as it negatively affects testosterone levels and sperm production, she says. Oysters also contain magnesium, which research has linked to increased testosterone levels in men.

spinner image fresh sliced ginger and powdered ginger in a spoon
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Ginger for better circulation

This is an herb that Reiley loves to incorporate into her aphrodisiac recipes. “It’s an aid to circulation, it’s been used historically for male enhancement, and there have been studies that [show] it might reduce blood pressure and therefore potentially aid in sexual function,” she says.

A 2023 study published in the Journal of Sex Research that looked at the effect of people being turned off by sexual fluids found that consuming ginger helped increase arousal in both men and women. Other research published in the journal Sexologies, found that women who took ginger four times a day had higher scores on the female sexual function index.

Try this Breakfast in Bed Triple Gingerbread recipe by chef Sondra Bernstein from Reiley’s Fork Me, Spoon Me: The Sensual Cookbook, which she recommends as a great way to start the day off on a sexy note.

Breakfast in Bed Triple Gingerbread

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons crystallized ginger, minced
  • ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature, 1 stick
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated
  • ½ cup buttermilk

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour an 8½-by-4½-inch loaf pan. Mix the first four ingredients in a medium bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of crystallized ginger.
  3. Beat the butter and both sugars in a large bowl until the mixture becomes light and frothy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in fresh ginger.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and egg mixture, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
  5. Transfer batter to the waiting pan. Sprinkle remaining 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger over batter.
  6. Bake until a toothpick, gently inserted into the cake’s warm center, comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
  7. Turn out onto a rack and cool completely. Serve slices with vanilla yogurt and a bowl of strawberries. 

Watermelon, ‘Nature’s Viagra’

“Watermelon contains powerful antioxidants like lycopene, and several phytochemicals including phenols and flavonoids, which could be responsible for its therapeutic role in reproductive health,” says Mok.

One recent study from the journal JBRA Assisted Reproduction found that the antioxidant properties of watermelon may improve sperm quality, male sexual dysfunction and testicle function.

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This summer fruit is also rich in L-citrulline, an amino acid that converts to L-arginine in the body. “L-arginine helps produce nitric oxide, a molecule that relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow, potentially enhancing arousal,” Mok adds. For these reasons, watermelon, says Reiley, has been sometimes referred to as “nature’s Viagra.” In addition to being delicious, it’s also been linked to aiding in weight management, warding off cardiovascular disease and may even be effective at treating ulcers. 

spinner image black truffle mushrooms
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Truffles add a sexy scent

These aromatic mushrooms are not just delicacies that make their way onto the menu at fine dining establishments. Truffles have also been culturally touted for their aphrodisiac properties.

“The scent of a truffle replicates fairly closely a male pheromone,” Reiley explains, adding that the aroma has the potential to turn females on. And that goes beyond the human species: In researching the topic, she found that traditionally female pigs were sent to sniff out truffles as they were attracted to them and “turned on” by the smell.

Truffles are harder to find in stores — and can rack up a pretty price tag due to their scarcity — but if you can find them, Reiley says, they taste great shaved over scrambled eggs or as the perfect topping to a pasta dish.

Truffle oil, she says, may not have the same effect but is certainly worth a try. And if you want to spring for the truffle-infused special on your next date at a fancy restaurant, it may just have some surprising benefits.

spinner image a bowl of pistachios
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Pistachios to get your blood flowing

Nuts are excellent sources of healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all of which can contribute to your bodily systems functioning at their prime. And pistachios provide a good amount of L-arginine, potentially contributing to improved blood flow, says Mok.

One small study put 17 male participants with erectile dysfunction on a diet with 100 grams of pistachio nuts for three weeks and demonstrated improvements in International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) scores, penile color Doppler ultrasound (PCDU) parameters and serum lipid levels (LDL, HDL), Mok adds.

“Researchers suggest that these results are partly due to pistachios’ potential cholesterol-lowering and vasodilation effects, thereby improving blood flow throughout the body, including erectile function,” she explains.

spinner image chile peppers and red pepper flakes
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Chile peppers for a red-hot night

Though often thought of as aphrodisiacs, chile peppers lack scientific data linking them to increased sex drive. But Reiley says there are some anecdotal effects behind their kick.

Hot peppers contain a compound known as capsaicin, which creates a heat sensation in the body.  

“If you want to add them to spice up your date-night dinner, they raise body temperature, which is thought to make you feel a little more ready to tear off your clothing,” says Reiley. “They also make your tongue tingle, so they start making you think about kissing someone.

“They can even bring a flush to your cheeks, which some psychologists suggest may make the person across the table who’s attracted to you think of a sexual flush.” And then there is the extra confidence and bragging rights that come with downing a few, jokes Reiley. “You get this sort of endorphin rush, this kind of ‘I can conquer the world’ feeling.”

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