You already know that chocolate has a reputation as a potent aphrodisiac, thanks in part to its high caffeine and antioxidant content and melt-in-your-mouth texture. No wonder chocolate in all forms is tempting you in store windows and on your social feed right now, as Valentine’s Day is about to arrive.
But chocolate isn’t the only food that can prime you physically or mentally for a bedroom session. Plenty of others can also put you in a let’s-get-it-on kind of mindset, research suggests. Some amp your libido and energy, others give you a mood boost, and some simply have a silky, sensual deliciousness that makes you feel relaxed and indulgent. If you’re hoping for some sexytime this Valentine’s Day, put these six expert-recommended aphrodisiacs on your menu.
Ancient Greeks considered olive oil to be a cure for impotence, and they’re clearly onto something. Rich in monosaturated fats, this oil can help increase blood flow, says nutritionist Julie Upton, RD. Better blood flow means more energy and circulation, which can make you feel more aroused.
Maca is a South American plant cultivated in the Andes for thousands of years. Newly trendy as a powder you can add to soups, acai bowls, and smoothies, a preliminary study suggests that it can pump libido—perhaps because it’s such a nutritional superstar, loaded with energy- and libido-boosting amino acids, zinc, and iron.
Oysters have long been considered an aphrodisiac, but they’re not the only seafood that can ignite desire. Upton says that scallops, mussels, and clams all contain two specific amino acids that increase sex hormone production in men and women. There’s one catch though: These bivalves “must be eaten raw to score the nutritional benefits,” notes Upton. Good thing oysters and scallops can be consumed uncooked, she says.
A candle-lit steak dinner may sound super romantic, but plant-based protein is actually the best for your sexual health. The top choices? “Choose nuts,” suggests Upton, who adds that the monosaturated fat in tree nuts such as almonds makes them excellent for heart health—as well as the health of your private parts, since they help improve blood flow down below, she says. Consume almonds as a snack, blend them into smoothies, or add them to your main course as a topping or crunchy crust.
Chefs add hot peppers to spice up a dish—and they can spice you up as well. Red chile peppers fire up nerve endings, make you sweat, and give you an adrenaline-boosting energy surge you can put to good use in the bedroom. Like all spices, they also have anti-inflammatory properties and make you feel more healthy overall, says Upton.
Soy-based foods like tofu are high in protein, providing a steady energy surge to power sexual stamina. Soy products are also low in saturated fat and can increase blood flow and potentially boost arousal. And though it’s controversial, some studies have suggested that the natural estrogen in soy-based foods, phytoestrogens, can supplement your own natural estrogen, possibly affecting arousal.
Just as important as what you eat, however, is who you’re enjoying your food with and the atmosphere you’re dining in. Those environmental factors can make it so a food that doesn’t have any known aphrodisiac powers still leaves you feeling sexy. “The good news is your brain is the largest sex organ,” says Donnica Moore, MD, a gynecologist and host of the podcast In the Ladies Room With Dr. Donnica. “If a pleasant memory from your past involved a particular food, the next time you eat it you may associate it with sexual desire.”