By Mark Roman Mens Health
Since the dawn of time, guys have been hunting for a natural aphrodisiac that, when ingested, would transform them into sexual dynamos. Most of what they've tried has been harmless, but unpalatable, to say the least. In China, you might be prescribed a meal of sea slugs, whose reputation for imparting potency comes from their tendency to swell when touched.
In other cultures, a man might have eaten a beheaded male partridge, lunched on hippopotamus snout or dipped a phallic object in oil, pepper and nettle seed and inserted it where you would least like to -- all to enhance sexual prowess.
Now, don't knock these options. Sex psychologists tell us that any food -- no matter how outlandish or to which orifice it's applied -- can have a placebo effect. It can boost your drive if you believe it will. But try this strategy (it's easier on your taste buds): Develop a palate for vitamins, minerals and herbs that grease your sexual machinery.
The Ultimate Sex Mineral
Sure, other vitamins and minerals help. But zinc does the heavy lifting. It's linked to your fertility, potency, sex drive and long-term sexual health. The mineral is critical to sperm production, and low zinc stores have been blamed for decreases in semen volume and testosterone levels, explains Sara Brewer, M.D., author of Better Sex. "Each ejaculation can expend up to 5 milligrams of zinc, or one-third of your daily allowance," Dr. Brewer says. Luckily, zinc is easy to come by. Four ounces of lean beef provide half the daily requirement, and a single oyster gives you the whole shebang. Turkey, cereals and beans are other good sources.
The Celery Seduction
Forget about all those pheromone sprays that are supposed to attract women. Researchers looking for a real turn-on tonic have focused on the potent male hormone androsterone, which is also found in celery. They believe androsterone is released through perspiration after eating. Your partner may not actually smell it on you, but because androsterone is thought to attract females, don't be surprised if she snuggles up real close. Even if you don't get lucky, keep in mind that you're eating a low-calorie, fiber-rich food that helps clean your teeth and freshen your breath. Not a bad deal either way.
Foods that Feed Your Prostate
An ailing prostate can reduce your ability to have erections, putting a severe damper on your sex life. Prostatitis, a deep, sometimes painful and debilitating inflammation of the gland, can be eased by foods such as nuts, seeds and whole grains -- especially rye products. They contain plant hormones, oils and other agents that decrease swelling, congestion and inflammation of the prostate, says Dr. Brewer.
Pumpkin seeds in particular contain oils that ease the discomfort and pelvic pressure associated with enlargement of the prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia- BPH), she adds. A diet with an oriental bent can help, too. Dr. Brewer says that soy products, rice and Chinese cabbage can reduce the effect of dihydrotestosterone, a testosterone by-product that has been linked to bph.
A Jolt from Java
Your morning cup of coffee might be doing more than perking you up. It might be turning you on. Men and women who have at least one cup of joe a day are nearly twice as likely to describe themselves as sexually active, according to one study. And guys who indulge report fewer problems with erections. Jeanne Shaw, Ph.D., an Atlanta-based certified sex therapist and clinical psychologist, chalks up coffee's erotic potential to the java jolt. "If you feel sluggish and the caffeine wakes you, then you're going to say, `Oh, I'm horny,' instead of roll over and go to sleep," she explains. Coffee in bed in the mornings is the idea, but practice moderation (with the coffee, that is). Once you move beyond one or two cups a day, caffeine can leave you agitated and edgy.
A Shot of Serotonin
If you're short on desire and have paltry ejaculations and a piddling sperm count, low serotonin levels may be the problem. Your brain produces this essential sex chemical when you eat carbohydrates combined with foods containing the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in a variety of meat and dairy products.
Stress depletes your serotonin supply, and that may be why tryptophan, a sleep inducer, is part of the equation. When you eat tryptophan and carbohydrates together, you calm down long enough for your body to replenish the serotonin and boost your desire. Try 31/2 ounces of fish, poultry or lean beef with bread or pasta.
An Exotic Alternative
Ginkgo biloba doesn't roll easily off the tongue. But researchers have been talking up the herb's ability to increase blood flow and produce better erections. In a recent German study, 20 men with severe impotence took an 80 milligram capsule three times a day for nine months. Every participant reported spontaneous erections and marked increase in hardness. Hard Germans aside, ginkgo's punch hasn't been proven yet in the U.S. And, as Varro Tyler, Ph.D., professor emeritus at Purdue University, says, "If your erection problems aren't from impaired blood flow but rather nerve damage or other problems, then ginkgo won't help." Check with your doctor before taking ginkgo biloba.
The Calcium Climax
Without calcium, there won't be any fireworks. "Your muscles -- and that includes the ones that control your orgasm -- need calcium to spasm and contract," says Dr. Brewer. Dairy products, fish-especially canned sardines-bread and green vegetables are all high in calcium.
The Passion Fruits
In case you're the only guy who hasn't heard, vitamin E keeps testosterone from breaking down, thus pushing your libido into high gear. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are all good sources. So are supplements. But don't take more than 100 IU a day, since large doses have been known to raise blood pressure.
Oats that Help You Sow
Cholesterol-lowering foods, such as dried beans, oatmeal, oat bran and any fruit with a peel, only improve your hydraulics. Cholesterol can clog your arteries, after all, including the ones that allow your penis to stand tall. So it's smart to avoid cholesterol-raisers, such as fried foods, butter and red meat, says Harin Padma-Nathan, M.D., of the Male Clinic in Santa Monica and the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.
"When you become aroused, your penis takes in about 10 times more blood than usual," Dr. Padma-Nathan explains. "When arteries in your penis become clogged, they can't expand to hold blood. It's difficult to achieve a good erection." The easiest way to keep cholesterol intake in check? Limit fat to 30 percent of calories or less.
Would You Like to See a Menu?
Like a fine-tuned athlete or the Rolling Stones, you need to eat right if you want to perform. (In the case of the Stones, you also need frequent naps. But we digress.) Here's a daily diet packed with foods that'll help keep the crisp in your cucumber.
coffee, black (caffeine boost)
orange juice, 6 ounces (vitamin C)
whole-grain toast, two slices (calcium, thiamin)
cereal with 1/2 cup milk (zinc, calcium)
lean hot roast beef sandwich (zinc, calcium, thiamin)
milk, 1 cup (calcium)
baked potato (vitamin C)
chicken breast (niacin)
rice, 1 cup (to protect your prostate)
low-fat yogurt, 1 cup (calcium)
pistachio nuts, 1/2 cup (thiamin)
celery sticks (androsterone)
Total calories: 2,200; protein: 152 g (27 percent of calories); carbohydrate: 246 g (44 percent of calories); fat: 74 g (30 percent of calories); fiber: 25 g; cholesterol: 282 mg; sodium: 1,589 mg