Food and sex are intimately entwined, and nothing exemplifies this better than the multiple foods historically reputed to be aphrodisiacs.
An aphrodisiac is defined as a food that stimulates sexual desire. They can be as exotic as an ancient herbal tonic or as mundane as onions.
Historically, there are some foods that have been widely known as aphrodisiacs like chocolates and strawberries, but there are many more unusual foods that are regarded in the same category too.
While there isn't strong scientific evidence to prove they increase your libido, here's a list of some lesser-known aphrodisiacs.
The Common Yet Exotic Aphrodisiacs
Chocolate is one of the best-known and most beloved aphrodisiacs. It contains over 400 different chemicals, including caffeine and phenylethylamine (PEA), a brain chemical believed to arouse the same feelings experienced when in love.
This reason apparently led to its ban from some monasteries a few centuries ago.
A ripe strawberry is another perfect love food. This delicious fruit is also an excellent source of vitamin B, which has been linked to high sperm counts in men. Wild strawberries eaten with white port wine have the reputation of being a very powerful aphrodisiac.
A romantic combination: Try dipping strawberries in a mixture of melted chocolate and sour cream, or brown sugar and whipped cream, to enjoy a delicious treat loaded with libido-boosting compounds.
Some Lesser-Known Aphrodisiacs
Apples: An apple a day not only keeps the doctor away, but it could also improve your love life.
Apples, along with berries, cherries, onions, and dark-coloured grapes, are rich in quercetin, which boosts circulation and improves endurance. So, bite into one at every opportunity.
Savoring Tip: Try sliced apples and cheese - a European favorite.
Spinach: Remember Popeye and his obsession with spinach? Well, spinach is high in arginine.
When this amino acid hits your system, it converts to nitric oxide, which helps initiate and maintain erections. It is also loaded with another essential vitamin for sexual health, vitamin E.
Savoring Tip: Make a cold spinach salad by blanching spinach in hot water. Squeeze it dry, then make a dressing with white wine vinegar, olive oil, and a pinch of mustard. Add sliced cucumber, carrot, and orange or kiwi slices. Season with salt and pepper, and finally, add sliced kiwi. Chill and enjoy.
Watermelon: This is possibly the least expected food to hit this list, but many swear by it. The nutrient citrulline found in this fruit converts into L-arginine in the body and has a Viagra-like effect.
It boosts nitric oxide, which increases blood flow to the penis, thus strengthening erections.
Celery: For a long time, people believed that celery's aphrodisiac properties were a myth.
But research tells us that it contains androsterone, a hormone naturally produced in males that stimulates sexual arousal in females.
Savoring Tip: Cut watermelon into festive shapes and top with cottage cheese. Alternatively, make a super summer salad with watermelon balls, chopped celery, and top it with whipped heavy cream.
Banana: The enzyme bromelain in bananas increases sex drive and reverses impotence in men (also found in pineapple).
Plus, the fruit is rich in potassium and B vitamins, which are essential for sex hormone production and enhancing male libido.
Savoring Tip: Take a banana and make a slit in the skin to open it up. Drizzle in a mixture of 1 teaspoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon honey, and ¼ teaspoon black salt. Eat straight off the peel.
Need a cooling snack? Try this: Peel a banana and dip it in yogurt. Roll in crushed cereal and freeze. Then bite in!
Carrots: Associated with stimulation since ancient times, carrots have been used by early Middle Eastern royalty to aid seduction.
High in vitamin E and beta-carotene, they provide enough justification for a piece of carrot cake.
Savoring Tip: Make spiced carrot sticks by soaking carrot sticks in hot water spiced with cayenne, coriander seeds, and salt. Allow to cool, drain, and eat.
And More From Your Kitchen...
Honey: Ever wonder about the term ‘Honeymoon’? It is derived from the ancient custom that for the first lunar month after marriage, a newly married couple would drink mead (honey wine).
That’s because honey does more than just sweeten your tea. The B vitamins in it promote the production of both estrogen and testosterone, both major keys for optimum sexual health.
Basil: This flavourful herb is used in Voodoo love ceremonies in Haiti.
Thyme: Nerve tonic with aphrodisiac effects. Do not hesitate to drink a few cups of infused thyme each day: it is, moreover, a powerful cleanser for the body.
Cardamom: According to traditional Indian herbal medicine, a nightcap of powdered cardamom that has been boiled with milk and mixed with honey can help cure impotence and premature ejaculation.
Long Pepper (Pippali): Valued for its medicinal applications, long pepper is the most extensively used plant in Ayurveda even today and is highly valued for its aphrodisiac properties.
Savoring Tip: Just whip up dishes or pickles with these herbs and spices.
(Kavita Devgan is a nutritionist, weight management consultant, and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of The Don't Diet Plan: A no-nonsense guide to weight loss, Fix it with Food, Ultimate Grandmother Hacks, and The Immunity Diet and 500 Recipes: Simple Tricks for Stress Free Cooking.)