And we’re not just talking about men. Food has a real impact on our feelings in both genders—so much so that picking the wrong foods can mean the difference between walking down the aisle or sobbing to a sad Taylor Swift song.
Before you panic and trash half of your pantry, we have good news: How food affects your love life isn't a mystery! You can help move your relationship along by hacking into the love-boosting properties of your favorite foods. Here's what you need to do:
Combine the Rights Foods to Amp Up Love Hormones
Oysters have a reputation for being an aphrodisiac that’s much more than myth. These happy hour half-shells are chock full of zinc, a vital nutrient shown to help boost testosterone, the most important hormones that affect sex drive, in both men and women. Pumpkin seeds, spinach, cashews and chocolate are all exceptional T-boosters, too. Omega-3 and omega-6 also help amp up your libido by increasing your hormone receptor's ability to equalize adrenal levels. But to make it a memory your paramour won’t soon forget, you’ll also want to make sure they leave feeling good — and there’s a food for that. Some foods, like bananas, strawberries and red meat, naturally boost dopamine levels in the brain thanks to an amino acid called tyrosine. Make sure they make the plate at your next dinner date.
Eat This! Tip
Plan your next date-night meal using as many of these love- and sex-boosting foods as you can. For example, a meal made of salmon (full of omega-3s) and spinach (zinc) topped off with chocolate-covered bananas for dessert (tyrosine and zinc) to create the optimal environment for love in your brain and body—and your date's, too.
Keep 'Hanger' at Bay
You might think skipping meals is the way to get the slim look you long for, but hanger doesn’t look good on anyone. And the last thing you want to do is lash out at a date over drinks. One reason this hunger-induced rage happens is because your blood sugar drops off when you’ve gone too long without eating, says Josh Davis, Ph.D., neuroresearcher, food expert and author of Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done. Eating for balanced blood sugar levels will help you maintain a good mood and stable energy levels and make it easier to concentrate on the important task at hand: the object of your affection.
Eat This! Tip
Keeping your blood sugar on an even keel isn’t as difficult as it sounds. "Stabilize blood sugar by having [good] fats in your meals—healthy oils or avocados, for example—eat small meals more frequently rather than large ones with many hours in between and avoid high-glycemic carbohydrates, like pastas, breads, cakes and candies," advises Davis.
Spike Meals With Spices to Get Juices Flowing
Spice things up in the kitchen to turn up the heat in the bedroom. There's a reason your face gets flushed when you eat foods laced with spices like cayenne pepper, saffron, ginger, or nutmeg. Those spices are shown to stimulate blood flow, allowing more blood to rush to intimate areas when the night gets steamy. And it’s worth getting to know the maca root—a plant native to South America and a member of the mustard family— which is believed to help boost sexual function. It's even called "nature's Viagra," though its effects have yet to be proven through scientific research. Though its flavor leaves something to be desired, adding it to green smoothies helps make it more palatable.
Eat This! Tip
Mix a few spices in with your nutrient-infused meals and you'll boost the love-enhancing effects of your meal. Use cayenne pepper as part of a rub on meats like chicken and beef, or go international with some saffron-spiced paella.
Use Cooking as Foreplay
You don’t have to choose certain foods to hack your way to a healthy relationship. The simple act of preparing food together is enough to build a better bond. Working together to tackle a recipes forces serious teamwork and planning—all important factors in a successful (and loving) relationship, says relationship expert Dana Michel.
Eat This! Tip
"It doesn't matter if you’re foodies or not," says Michel, "Experiment with different spices and cuisines from around the world. The process of joint discovery creates a fun shared experience and a lasting memory, which is an aphrodisiac in itself.”
PLUS, here are some of the best foods at the supermarket that will benefit your penis. Consider this your get-hard, stay-hard shopping list!
Besides providing nearly 7 percent of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin D, pork loin is a great source of muscle-building lean protein. Plus, it can add some pizazz to a chicken- and beef-filled weekly dinner lineup. Never prepared the meat before? Our Pork Loin and Potatoes recipe is delicious, healthy and super-simple to make.
If you’re an avid Eat This, Not That! reader, you likely know we’re big fans of whole eggs. The yolk may add some extra calories and fat to your plate, but it also contains a host of fat-blasting and health-boosting nutrients—including vitamin D. In fact, a three-egg omelet serves up 20 percent of the daily D requirement. We suggest adding some veggies to the mix for an added boost of flavor and nutrients.
And speaking of breakfast foods, be sure to check out these 50 Best Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss—Ranked!
If you don’t usually connect Greek yogurt with erections, that’s understandable (and probably sane). Just know that one container can provide 20% of your daily value of B12, a nutrient that’s been linked to healthy erections. And some brands, like Dannon Light & Fit Greek Vanilla Yogurt (one of our 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss is fortified with vitamin D, too, making it a double win! Yogurt is also a good source of potassium, which keeps your heart healthy and aids circulation—two essential factors in getting hard.
According to legend, Casanova—the Tinder master of his time—regularly ate a breakfast of 50 oysters. Turns out he could’ve doubled as a nutritionist if he’d been able to get out of the sack. In addition to being high in B12, oysters contain more zinc than any other food source (almost five times your daily DV). This nutrient is essential for testosterone production, and when your T levels drop, so does your business. Like other bivalves, oysters are high in D-aspartic acid, an amino acid that has been shown to temporarily boost low testosterone levels and improve sperm quality in infertile men. On a purely aesthetic level, zinc also helps the body synthesize protein into muscles, which will pump you up in more ways than one.
Fortified Cow’s Milk
Although cow’s milk isn’t naturally rich in vitamin D, in America it’s commonly fortified with the nutrient. To best absorb the D—and the full alphabet of nutrients listed on the carton—opt for 1 percent over skim. It’s well worth the calories, because vitamins A, D, E, and K need fat to be absorbed. One cup provides more than 19 percent of the day’s recommended D intake.
Eat This! Tip
Don’t love the taste of milk? Throw some of the stuff into a smoothie. We’ve got a ton of delicious smoothie recipes you’re sure to love!
Chanterelle and Shiitake Mushrooms
A cup of mushrooms provides up to 19 percent of the day’s D requirement, making them the best source of vitamin D in the produce aisle. They’re an excellent addition to omelets, stir-fries, salads and tacos. Check out our Soft Veggie Chicken Tacos recipe to see how we use the vegetable in the Tex-Mex inspired dish. It only takes 15 minutes to whip up! And to look better naked, check out these 30 Foods That Melt Love Handles.
Wild Salmon and Mackerel
Just one three-ounce serving of these health-promoting fish provides nearly all of the daily recommended vitamin D intake. Salmon is also a primo source of vitamin B12 and iron, which increases blood flow to the penis, strengthening erections.
To look—and feel—even better between the sheets, check out these 25 Weight Loss Tips From The World's Fittest Men!
Watermelon is one of the richest natural sources of L-citrulline, an amino acid that can help make your erection harder. Once it’s in the body, it converts to L-arginine, stimulating the production of nitric oxide, which increases blood flow to the penis, strengthening erections.
Grass Fed Beef
In addition to being leaner and lower in calories than conventional cuts, grass-fed beef offers a host of benefits, from muscle-building to fat-burning to heart protection. You can add assistance in the bedroom to its list of good qualities; it’s a good pick for getting your B12 if you’re not into seafood. So eat up — it may be just what you need to get up, and stay up.