In terms of sex, what sets us apart from early humans is rooted in our reproductive system. Over centuries we’ve evolved with bigger brains influencing us to use sex for pleasure instead of just for survival. (1). We’re wired to pass on our genes in order to escape extinction, but we’re also equipped with the ability to think beyond that. Having a libido is an indicator of a healthy human being, but as both men (4) and women (3) age, we’ll find our sex hormones on a decline.
Sex hormones help regulate your libido. For females, the two major sex hormones are estrogen and progesterone; for males, the major sex hormone is testosterone. When these hormones are flowing through your body at imbalanced levels, they not only affect your libido, they also put you at higher risk for developing coronary artery disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and bone fracture (2).
Did you know sex hormones are also responsible for regulating your immune system the most? (5). Your immune system is designed to be one of your first lines of defense against disease, and with today’s lifestyles we unnecessarily take shots at our own defense. Think—making a habit out of anything that gives you stress (6), inhaling all those processed foods you impulse-buy, not getting enough sleep (7), refusing to exercise, etc.
While your libido may thrive during your 20s and 30s with these poor lifestyle habits, the glitz and glam won’t last forever. Think—obesity, high blood pressure, depression, work-life imbalance, diabetes, etc. These perpetrators attack your immune system and consequently, diminish your sex drive. There’s no shortage of options when it comes to turning to the medical field for ways to raise your libido, but before modern medicine took up your shelves, Mother Nature had gifted us with quite a few edible aphrodisiacs:
This dreamy-eyed summer fruit has the power to relax your blood vessels and increase your blood flow, two extremely important factors in boosting your arousal. Watermelon contains an amino acid called citrulline. Citrulline gets converted into another amino acid called arginine which can raise testosterone levels (8), as well as dilate your blood vessels to benefit your heart and circulatory system.
Watermelon rinds have a higher concentration of citrulline than the flesh, so try including the rind the next time you use your juicer if you’re looking to get the citrulline boost (9). Watermelon is also packed with vitamin B6. Your body puts B6 to work producing feel-good neurotransmitters, or brain communication chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin.
There’s nothing like going in for a kiss and getting a mouthful of garlic breath (kidding!). Garlic is a natural blood thinner and possesses high levels of allicin, a chemical compound known to improve blood flow directly to your sexual organs. To maximize these benefits, make sure to chop or crush the garlic into pieces and let it sit around for a while so it has time to release its enzymes (10).
This deliciously fatty fruit got its name from the Aztec word “ahuácatl” which translates to “testicle” (11). Avocados contain vitamin B6, also known to boost progesterone levels and regulate estrogen metabolism in women. Monounsaturated fats found in avocados are known to naturally increase testosterone levels in men.
Another testosterone booster in the green testicle-like mix is vitamin E, which is additionally believed to enhance blood circulation and improve sperm quality and motility (12). Additionally, avocados are packed with potassium and folic acid which enhance energy and stamina.
(Related: How To Have Amazing Sex)
Get some meat on your plate to get a surge in your carnitine, arginine, and zinc intake. Zinc regulates estrogen, helps increase progesterone, and raises testosterone. Zinc is also a crucial player regulating dopamine, one of your neurological messengers for sexual desire.
Carnitine and arginine are important amino acids that get your blood flowing, boost your sexual responses, and have effectively treated erectile dysfunction (13). However, be aware of your meat sources, as other components could outweigh these benefits (14) . Moderation is also key.
If buying your love is as simple as a chocolate bar purchase, you are not alone. Buried beneath the wrapper is a chemical love trigger known as phenylethylamine or “PEA”—PEA is a psycho-stimulant that has the ability to imitate the feeling of falling in love or sensations of euphoria. PEA is the key to releasing norepinephrine and dopamine, chemicals that are imperative to pleasure and excitement (15).
Methylxanthines found in chocolate increase your body’s sensitivity to help get your buttons pushed; arginine is present in chocolate as well. Eat with caution, however; not all chocolate is created equal. The more processed the chocolate (i.e. through alkalizing, fermenting, roasting, and other means), the more of the good stuff will have evaporated. Cocoa and dark chocolate are the best in terms of minimal processing.
Throughout history, figs have been known as sex symbols. Not in your typical Madonna-type fashion, but they did make celebrity appearances in Greek and Roman mythology (usually associated with the satyr Priapus, who symbolized sexual desire).
Voted favorite fruit by Cleopatra, figs are high in magnesium, a key ingredient in estrogen and androgen (testosterone is a type of androgen) production, as well as dopamine production. Figs are high in tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, and aids increased pheromone secretion; pheromones are basically your blood, sweat, and tears (bodily fluids, etc.) that trigger sexual attraction.
Have you been thinking about adding another member to the family? To strengthen fertility levels, get some figs in your diet. They have high folic acid content, which can help prevent birth defects during early stages of pregnancy (16).
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” the old saying by Hippocrates goes. As it turns out, the ancient Greek physician also prescribed honey to increase sexual vigor. Honey contains boron, a mineral that helps increase testosterone levels in men and facilitates estrogen use in women.
You can also find high vitamin B6 content in honey. It’s not only good for your libido-related neurotransmitters and hormones, it can also help prevent a miscarriage (17). Try drizzling some of this sticky, sweet sensation onto your figs, or even better, your partner.