Have you ever been in a car where the driver keeps hitting the brakes? It can be sheer torture, right? That’s what these foods are to your sex drive, which is typically fueled by testosterone. We often think of it as a hormone that men have zipping through their bodies. Estrogen, on the other hand, we mainly consider to be a female hormone.
The truth is that both testosterone and estrogen play vitally important roles in the bodies of both sexes and—unless we have a good ratio of one to the other—all sorts of things can get wonky. Men can grow breasts; women can sprout excessive facial hair. But in both cases, an imbalance of testosterone and estrogen can increase or decrease libido—and a surprising amount of research has gone into figuring out which foods can increase or decrease our T and E levels.
Below are some of the food items could futz with that delicate balance or be a contributing factor to a sputtering sex drive. After you’ve checked out the sneaky saboteurs below, find out how to make a comeback by munching on these 20 Foods Guaranteed to Turn You On.
Processing removes most of the nutrients in whole foods, including ones that are important to your desire for hanky panky. For example: When whole wheat is processed into white flour, it loses about three-quarters of its zinc, a mineral essential to men’s sexuality and reproduction. Eating refined grains can lead to insulin resistance, the last stop before diabetes. Diabetes can in turn can accelerate narrowing of the arteries, increasing your risks of heart disease and ED. In case you need even more reason to steer clear of certain foods, check out the 150 Worst Packaged Foods in America!
Drinking soda on the reg is a terrible idea and, for a slew of other reasons we touch upon on this website, that goes for diet soda too. Artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, directly affect your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a vital hormone in fostering a sense of well-being or happiness. Low serotonin, say researchers, is associated with lower libido in both men and women. Can’t imagine giving up your favorite diet soda? At least find out where it falls on our list of The Top 38 Diet Sodas—Ranked!
Dinner and a movie can be a precursor to sex, but if you like to pair your movies with microwaved popcorn, your main feature could be a flop. See, chemicals like perfluorooctanoic acid found in the bag’s lining can kill your sex drive—and, over the long term, even cause prostate problems.
Cannabis is already legal in several states and could soon be legal from coast to coast. Many people like to add the drug to food, particularly baked goods. Whether you smoke it or eat it, studies show that in addition to fueling long stories with no ending, marijuana decreases testosterone levels for up to 24 hours.
According to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, the average person is exposed to 10 to 13 different pesticides every day. Nine of the 10 most commonly used pesticides are “endocrine disruptors,” meaning they play with our male/female hormones. One of the most estrogenic is 4-hexyl resorcinol, which is applied to shrimp to prevent them from discoloration. Other seafood with high pesticide loads: tilapia, eel, and farmed salmon. While these are the kinds of foods you should buy organic no matter what, there are also some low-budget ones to take note of in these 17 Cheap Organic Foods You Must Buy.
A glass of wine or a cocktail can get you in the mood, but drink much more than that regularly, and your libido will pay the price. Alcohol is a depressant that can play havoc with a man’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection and dampen libido for both sexes. Slow down when it comes to drinking and you may find that you rediscover your sexual sparkle. To help do this, nutritionist Dana James suggests drinking a 2-to-1 ratio of water to alcoholic beverages. And lay-off the whiskey—it’s the opposite of the Foods That Make You Taste Good.
But Especially Beer
What’s more manly than pounding a couple of frosty brewskis? Actually, quite a lot, once you consider that beer could be to blame for a lack of pep between the sheets. While all alcohol affects the liver’s ability to get rid of excess estrogen, phytoestrogens — plant-derived estrogens that monkey with the fertility of the mammals that consume them — are present in the hops used to make beer. What’s more, severe drinking can cause liver damage, and because the liver is largely responsible for metabolizing hormones, a less-than-efficient one can convert androgens into estrogens, resulting in a diminished sex drive. See what else is on the list of 25 Things You’re Doing to Slow Your Metabolism.
If date night regularly includes sushi, order your appetizer wisely! Another name for edamame is soybeans. And, well, 91 percent of soybeans are genetically engineered in the US, according to The Center for Food Safety. High levels of soy in a woman’s body can decrease sex hormones and disrupt her ovarian function, said a study in the Journal of Nutrition. And just a half serving of soy per day was enough to slash sperm count by 40 percent in healthy males, the Harvard School of Public Health found!
Much of the cheese that Americans consume is derived from cow’s milk is loaded with synthetic hormones. These could potentially mess with your body’s natural production of hormones, including estrogen and testosterone, thereby screwing with your sex drive.
This stuff is everywhere, so don’t think that you’re safe just because you don’t spoon it into your coffee. The sweet stuff increases levels of the hormone insulin, which can cause you to store belly fat, lose muscle mass and causing your testosterone levels to drop. In men, belly fat raises estrogen levels, which can result in low libido and erectile dysfunction; one study found that glucose (sugar) significantly reduced total and free testosterone levels. Making an effort to get rid of the sugar you consume—knowingly or otherwise—could be just what the love doctor ordered.
Could Spaghetti-O’s could be getting in the way of your O!?! Maybe! Canned soups and meals are notoriously high in dietary sodium (a can of Spaghetti-O’s has 1780 mg—-as much as 10 bags of Doritos!), which can lead to elevated blood pressure and diminished blood flow to certain parts of the body, including the genitals. Reverse the damage with a sexy serving of dark chocolate. Non-alkalized cocoa is rich in flavanols—-sexy compounds that promote the production of nitric oxide in the body, causing blood vessels to open wider. Mee-ow!
The main compound in licorice — glycyrrhizic acid, which gives licorice root its distinctive flavor — can suppress testosterone production. In one study, seven healthy male subjects were given 7 grams of licorice each day via commercially available candy tablets (containing 0.5 grams of glycyrrhizic acid). Four days into the study, the subjects’ total testosterone levels had decreased by 35 percent.
Unlike the plastic wrap you use on your leftovers, the stuff that wraps meat and cheese in the supermarket is usually made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which leaches into fatty foods and causes hormonal shifts. Instead, buy your meat right from the butcher, and have it wrapped in brown paper. While we have your attention, find out what’s on the list of 40 Habits That Make You Sick and Fat!
Fresh breath is sexy, and mint is the fresh maker. (There are also some great health benefits, too!) But the menthol in mint lowers technically lowers testosterone. The result? Your pleasure and fun are emphatically not doubled.
So here’s a crazy story: To control a 31-year old women’s hirsutism by driving down her high T-levels, researchers told her to eat 30 grams of flaxseeds each day for four months. Her total testosterone dropped by 70 percent, and free-testosterone went down by 89 percent. The moral of the story? If you’re a woman with an amount of facial hair you find excessive, try flax seeds. If you’re experiencing low libido, find your omega-3s from other sources until things start looking up.
Conventionally grown produce with edible skins, particularly berries, have among the highest levels of estrogen-mimicking pesticides. Other culprits: peaches, apples, cherries and kale. When choosing produce, look for organic whenever you’re buying food with edible skins.
The water isn’t the culprit here; it’s the plastic bottle. Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, is a chemical component found in most plastic food containers and cans and is associated with negative impacts on fertility in both men and women. A Slovenian study in the journal Fertility & Sterility found a statistically significant association between urinary BPA concentration in men and lower total sperm count, concentration and vitality. Women with the highest BPA levels in the body produced 27 percent less viable eggs when tested during a study out of Harvard School of Public Health.
Poor quality meat could lead to a low wattage sex drive, say experts. That’s because most deli meat, hot dogs, and hamburgers contain added hormones, preservatives, and antibiotics that can bring about cause a hormonal imbalance in your body. Choose leaner and un-processed cuts like chicken or turkey to keep your sex drive revved.
Soy is a plant that contains phytoestrogens. They mimic the same female hormone produced by women to cause the development of secondary sex characteristics. Eating too many of these phytoestrogens could disrupt hormone balance in both men and women, depressing libido across the board. High levels of soy are found in soy milk, edamame, tofu snacks and most vegetarian meat alternatives. Vegetarian? Find out the 30 Best Sources of Vegetarian Protein.
According to a study conducted at Oregon State University, strong, heavily scented or spiced foods have the potential to change they way your vagina smells and tastes. These foods and drinks include coffee, onions, garlic and strong spices. Researchers at OSU point out that eliminating these foods and eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables might yield a milder scent and engender more mouth to south resuscitation.
Beets are delicious, nutritious, and just about the sweetest vegetable there is. Like many other root vegetables, they contain compounds to support healthy estrogen levels in your body. That’s great when your testosterone levels aren’t depleted, but if you have an existing hormonal imbalance, you could be exacerbating things by eating too many.
If your arteries are gummed up, blood flow to your sexual organs will be less than optimal…and that’s a very bad thing for sexual function across the board. Trans fats are well known for their ability to clog arteries, and that’s why many restaurants and food brands are eager to get them out of their products. Not only can they contribute to an early death they can contribute to a lack of “little death,” the charming French term for an orgasm.
There’s plenty of evidence to show that drinking coffee is the great way for men to fluff up their erections and even put a little pizazz in your sex game. If you’re someone who gets jittery or anxious from coffee, it may have the exact opposite effect. That’s because increased anxiety can often lower your sex drive. It’s a frequent complaint of people with a sensitivity to caffeine. Intrigued? Find out more about What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Coffee.
While there is no evidence to suggest that these kinds of vegetables rob eaters of their desire to have sex, they may dull the sex drive of their partners. Why? Well, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts impact secretions including semen, sweat, urine, and breath…leading to unpleasant scents and tastes. Cruciferous veggies also increase the pungency of your flatulence, thanks to the raffinose and sulfate. Raffinose is a sugar found in cruciferous veggies that go undigested until it reaches the large intestine, where it’s then fermented by gas-producing bacteria.
You know how eating asparagus can make your pee smell, uh, funny? And you know how our pee parts and our fun parts can serve double duty? I think you know where I’m going with this. Like other cruciferous veggies, healthy, flavorful asparagus can taste a lot worse coming out than it went in. That could lead to partners being less than psyched to get up in your business. ICYMI: We’ve got a great list of 25 Foods That Make You Taste Good!
Another controversial entry on this list is chocolate, which is also on our list of 50 Best Foods for Your Penis. Dark chocolate is thought of as an aphrodisiac because it stimulates feelings of euphoria and love, but some chocolate also been shown to suppress testosterone levels.
Okay, this isn’t technically a food—but it’s still something you consume, so it’s on the list. Antidepressants and other medications like Adderall and birth control (hello, irony) can interrupt how your body produces and manages hormones like serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine, which all influence your sex drive. Talk to your doctor if you think your pills might be lowering your libido.