A Kitchen to Bedroom Primer | Sexual Wellness Power Foods

Hardly a week goes by that new scientific research doesn’t confirm the sensual health benefits of certain foods.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that some of the vitamins and components in foods can enhance sexual function and sexual experience,” says Jennifer R. Berman, MD, director of the Berman Women’s Wellness Center in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The sexual health benefits key foods become repetitive. Our list focuses on foods that fine-tune the machinery of sex—reducing cholesterol buildup, enhancing blood flow to sex glands in both men and women, stimulating the release of feel-good brain endorphins, and promoting strong erections in men.

Eating a healthy diet is never exclusively good for your sex life and not your overall wellbeing. Libido and sexual desire are highly impacted by good health, including psychological stress and body image perception.

Diet, Body Image and Sexual Desire

A spring 2011 study of 4,000 Brits found that 29% of women cited feeling they looked fat as their reason for avoiding sex, with a further 23% blaming embarassment about their wobbly bits as the reason. The figures for male respondents were 8% and 11% respectively.

The biggest passion killer was tiredness, a reason cited by 72% of women, followed by 34% unattractive, 33% illness and 32% citing stress.

We know that these reasons for avoiding sex are often inter-related, with diet and lack of exercise being at the core of the problem.

In one of the most dramatic research studies on the intersection of sexual desire and diet, losing just 10% of your body weight can improve the quality of your sex life, explains Martin Binks, PhD, of the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center. “We find that among overweight women, they bring their negative self-talk and body image issues to the bedroom, and it negatively impacts their sexual well-being.”

Participants in Dr. Binks’ research at Duke University reported disproportionate increases in sexual desire, even when they remained obese but on a diet. The sense of personal accomplishment alone was enough to increase both sexual desire, sexual satisfaction and an overall positive sense of increased wellbeing.

Inspired and feeling good about themselves has a positive effect on sticking to diet goals. As always, the intersection of food, psychology and sexual pleasure is holistic — especially in women.

Bad News Food

Although some foods arouse, others can impair sexual function. There’s absolutely nothing about America’s fast food diet that encourages sexual pleasure or success in bed.

Fried fare and rich cream sauces can leave us feeling more sluggish than sexy. Make no mistake, excessive sugar, salt, saturated fat and highly processed foods are linked to frigidity, difficulty reaching orgasm and lack of interest in sex, says Discovery Health. 

Increasing numbers of medical experts believe that cutting back on these foods — the heart and soul of the American diet — will help revive and preserve sexual vitality and enhance overall well-being.

Little research has been done connecting sexual wellness with diet. For example, it’s only recently that doctors are clear that erectile dysfunction is an early warning system for cardiovascular problems a few years in the future. 

In Feb. 2010 researchers in Naples, Italy surveyed 555 men on self-reported adherence to a Mediterranean diet and instances of ED. The most sexually active men had high adherence to a Mediterranean diet and significantly lower incidence of ED, especially severe ED (16.5% vs 26.4%).

Anything that is bad for a man’s heart is also bad for his penis, says Andrew McCullough, MD, associate professor of clinical urology and director of the male sexual health program at New York University Langone Medical Center. via WebMD

“The link between the Mediterranean diet and improved sexual function has been scientifically established,” says Irwin Goldstein, MD, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego and a prominent authority on sexual dysfunction.

It’s also a good idea to limit consumption of alcohol and to skip tobacco altogether, although moderate drinking in women is proven to be a stress reliever, as a prelude to sex. These “pleasure drugs” can dampen sexual desire and in the case of tobacco, have long-term proven health effects on both the smoker and those in his/her environment. Sexually, cigarettes are a disaster on blood circulation critical to success in bed.

Sexual Wellness Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins including A, the B group, C and E are necessary for sexual functioning. Vitamin E, for instance, supplies the sex organs with sufficient oxygen. B vitamins, including niacin and B-5, can help men and women reach orgasm and improve sexual stamina. Selenium, manganese and of course, zinc, are also vital in regulating hormones and revving up sex drive.

Not all sexual health foods are created equal. We identify 14 key foods that every sexy man and woman eats regularly. Absent from the list is beef, which appears on many men’s lists of sexually healthy foods. 

Part 2: Super Sensual & Superyoung, Healthy Foods