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Grading Nature's Aphrodisiacs

Which sexy food gets Pepper's only A+?

Grading Aphrodisiacs

Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

Foods spiced with chili peppers can turn up the heat for some couples.

We humans share some basic drives with other mammals: We need to sleep, we need to procreate, and we need to eat. These behaviors can be done at a minimal level or they can be done luxuriously—and with maximum pleasure. Let's discuss the latter. Why shouldn't sex be as glorious as possible? And if we can have wonderful foods that accelerate our sexual pulse, what's not to love about that?

See also: 5 myths about sex after 50.

Lest you think this enthusiasm over edibles with aphrodisiac effects is only the obsessional thinking of a modern-day sex expert, I'll refer you to ancient writings, such as the Japanese Pillow Books, the Kama Sutra, and lesser-known pamphlets by people who spent a lot of time thinking about how to combine food and drink together to optimize sexual pleasure. Some of the specific suggestions have been pure fantasy, others have a little bit of truth to them, and many will work — if you believe they will. For instance, thousands of hapless rhinoceroses have been killed because of an ancient Asian myth about the medicinal impact of ground-up rhino horn on men's sexual potency. Is there any science to this assertion? Absolutely not. Does that matter to the guy who thinks it helped him? Again, no.

So what foods are supposed to help our sometimes flagging sexual powers, and what is the real scoop on their efficacy?

The Condiment Group

Of the many spices that are supposed to help arouse men and women, I'd say the most likely is the chile family. Certainly it gets blood rushing, and a little sweat is kind of a turn-on for some people. Chile earns a B+

The other contestant in this class is ginger, which wakes up a person's mouth. It is a known blood thinner that helps flow get to the parts of the body that need it the most for sexual arousal. It's right up there with chiles. Ginger gets a B+

We need to include honey in this list. Honey's properties vary depending on the local pollen, but it is sensual on the tongue. It was used in ancient Egypt as an aphrodisiac. In medieval times (and today), honey was a prime ingredient in mead, a fermented drink that was often part of marriage ceremonies. Honey is sensual and sticky, and eating it on just about anything is kind of sexy. It is also a quickly usable form of sugar, so it ought to give a rush of energy. Honey deserves an A

Coffee gets a high mark — at least the caffeine keeps you awake long enough for sex. Also, "having a coffee" has become a first-date tradition, so the smell might be just enough to feel a whiff of romance. On the other hand, it produces coffee breath. Coffee gets a B–

Next: Pepper's favorite sexy foods. »

Classic Foods

Figs are a lush, sensual fruit and are very sexy to eat. They are part of a food group with resemblances to sexual organs. Once there was a school of thought that anything that looked like the human genitals was designed to help those organs thrive. Cue the oysters.

Oysters notoriously have the same reputation as figs, but they have the additional property of containing zinc, which has scientific evidence for promoting testosterone increases. (Sadly, you would have to eat so many oysters to get the appreciable zinc increase that you would probably not be able to move, much less feel erotic tension.) Still, these slippery mollusks have a long history of promoting passion and potency, and if you like the silky feeling of an oyster sliding down your throat  —this is your best bet in the aphrodisiac field. Oysters get an A if you like the sensation and a D if it makes you gag.

My Two Favorites

Entire books have celebrated the sensual properties of chocolate. Authors point to the increase of brain activity from caffeine, an increase of serotonin (lowers anxiety), and some added blood flow (always helpful). There is the sensual taste of chocolate, and again, the associations with lovers, Valentine's Day, and sumptuous desserts. But to get all these benefits from the phenylethylamine in the chocolate, you would have to cook up a vat of it. And then who will want you? So chocolate gets an A-.

What is my favorite? The simple-but-elegant, subtle-but-effective, glass of good champagne. (The French know what they are doing.) One glass increases desire without decreasing ability. The bubbles get you aroused faster than anything else on this list. Unless you have a drinking problem or if your health prohibits you from consuming alcohol, I advise never to have a refrigerator without a bottle of champagne. You can thank me later. Champagne gets my only A+

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