What foods can boost my sex drive?

Eva B. Cwynar, MD
Internal Medicine
A beautifully woven theme running through the Kama Sutra is the sensual power of food and drink to enhance receptivity, forge intimacy, and heighten romance. Follow the wisdom of the Kama Sutra and share cinnamon-spiced foods such as butternut squash soup, cinnamon glazed carrots, apple pie, and cinnamon cookies. Enjoy licorice candies and flavor your drinking water with cucumber slices.

More contemporary aphrodisiacs for consumption include mineral water flavored with pomegranate juice, champagne, organic red wine, and energizing fruits such as goji berries, raspberries, and crisp Asian pears. Dark chocolate, when enjoyed in moderation, confers health-enhancing benefits that make it a particularly enjoyable libido lifter.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, small daily doses of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate consumed over a two-week period improved blood vessels' ability to expand, thus promoting greater blood flow throughout the brain and body and forging a healthier heart.
Rose Reisman
Nutrition & Dietetics
A healthy sex life can add years to one’s life, build a strong immune system and even lower prostate cancer risk. Too good to be true? Well, there’s no harm in trying! A big, fancy dinner, a bottle of wine and fine chocolates may sound romantic and just the perfect meal but you’ll be lucky if you don’t fall asleep on the drive home!

You need to look for those foods that increase blood circulation that will give you energy.

Aphrodisiacs have shown to be ineffective since they were based more on folklore rather than scientific evidence. Here are some foods that are not only healthy for you but have shown to improve your libido:
  • Figs are loaded with magnesium, a mineral your body needs to produce sex hormones.
  • A compound in dark chocolate releases endorphins brought on by sex.
  • Hot chili peppers contain capsaicin that gives peppers their heat and may increase your libido.
  • Oysters contain zinc which helps in testosterone production the hormone that increases sexual desire in both men and women.
  • Asparagus contains folate, a nutrient that can deter erectile dysfunction.
  • Eggs have an amino acid that can reduce erectile dysfunction.
  • Soy-based foods bind estrogen receptors which combat menopause symptoms as well as being beneficial to the prostate.
  • Obesity is also a risk factor for erectile dysfunction and low testosterone
  • Foods that are good for your heart are also good for your sex drive. Excess saturated fat clogs your arteries and over time may prevent blood circulation to the genital area. Too little fat will lessen the production of sex hormones. Good fats include fatty fish, nuts and olive oil.
In summary, a healthy diet seems to be the magic bullet for good health and the bonus of a better sex life!
There are a few key food nutrients that are clearly linked to sexual performance. First are foods that promote the production of a chemical in the body called nitric oxide. This is actually a gas that is released in minute amounts in the tissues of the penis, clitoris, and labia during sexual arousal. Nitric oxide is what opens up blood vessels, allowing for the swelling and increased sensitivity that comes with sexual excitement.

Nitric oxide is made from an amino acid called arginine, which is found in particular abundance in the following foods:
  • Beans
  • Walnuts
  • Cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna
  • Soy products
  • Oats
  • Almonds
Another class of nutrients important for sexual health are the bioflavonoids. These are plant compounds that work like antioxidants, scavenging by-products of the body's metabolism or harmful molecules resulting from exposure to environmental pollutants like smog, cigarette smoke, or pesticides. Fruit and vegetables are the main sources of bioflavonoids. The list below shows the types of bioflavonoids and some of the best food sources for each:
  • Anthocyanidins: berries, cherries, grapes, fruit skins, and true fruit juices
  • Catechins: true teas (not herbal teas)
  • Flavanones: citrus fruits
  • Flavones: whole grains, celery, parsley, and herbs
  • Flavonols: grapefruit, oranges, apple skins, berries, onions, endive, radishes, tomatoes, leeks, broccoli, and red wine
Bethany Deschamps
Nutrition & Dietetics
Libido, or sex drive, varies with each person and is supported by the production of testosterone, both in males and females. Libido tends to naturally decrease with age. Lifestyle and diet play a role in how active a person’s libido is. Unhealthy lifestyle habits and foods consumed decrease testosterone production, depressing libido, whereas healthy habits and foods can increase testosterone production, improving libido.

Being overweight or obese, high amounts of stress, not getting enough sleep, taking anti-depressants, and for those with diabetes, having uncontrolled blood glucose levels all decrease testosterone production and negatively affect libido. Consuming large amounts of unhealthy items like high saturated fat foods, caffeine, and alcohol can decrease testosterone production.

Consuming foods high in Zinc and B Vitamins, and, in general, foods found in the Mediterranean Diet can aid in the production of testosterone. Below is my "better health and better sex" list of great foods:
  • Salmon (wild not farmed), and mackerel -- high in Omega-3 EPA/DHA, B vitamins, B5, B6 and B12
  • Avocados -- high in vitamin B6 and potassium
  • Bananas -- high in potassium and B vitamins, especially riboflavin
  • Almonds, pine nuts and other nuts -- high in zinc and essential fatty acids
  • Oysters -- high in zinc
  • Asparagus -- contain B vitamins
  • Eggs -- good source of B vitamins
  • Brown rice, cheese, turkey -- all great sources of zinc
Almonds, granola, oatmeal, peanuts, pine nuts, cashews, walnuts, soybeans—these are high in L-arginine which studies show improve blood flow and sexual function in men (but remember that women have an erectile response as well).

Eating the foods above and exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep (7-9 hours) each night, managing stress levels, and being at a healthy body weight all help support testosterone production and a healthy libido. So if just being healthy wasn't a strong enough motivator to eat right and exercise, maybe sex is!
Alexandra Jamieson
Nutrition & Dietetics
There are many natural, plant-based foods that are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda to boost libido. Try including more of these foods throughout your day and enjoy the benefits of a healthy sex life!

Folic Acid: Microalgae, sprouts, leafy greens, whole grains, nutritional yeast flakes, dates, beans and legumes, mushrooms, oranges, beets, fenugreek and root vegetables.

Zinc: Sea vegetables, whole grains, legumes and beans, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, soybeans, and unrefined sea salt.
Magnesium: Kelp and other sea vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and leafy greens.

Improved Blood Circulation: bay leaf, beets, buckwheat, cabbage, caraway, cherry, chili pepper, chives, cinnamon, eggplant, essential fatty acids (try hemp seeds, walnuts, and ground flax seeds), fava beans, ginger, horseradish, kelp, lavender, lentils, mint, green leafy vegetables, onion, papaya, peaches, pepper, pine nuts, rosemary, scallion, winter squash, and turmeric.

There are also foods that can dampen your sex drive. It’s interesting to note that the popular erectile dysfunction prescription Viagra, (also known as Sildenafil) is a vasodilator. This drug dilates blood vessel, which allows more blood to flow to the penis, allowing for better erections. The foods listed above as improving blood circulation are also vasodilators.

A diet that is too high sugar and fat can lead to blocked artery walls, and that can keep blood from flowing to your genitals. Many holistic healthcare providers believe that the Standard American Diet is contributing to the higher numbers of men who need vasodilators to achieve an erection. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The path to greater sexual satisfaction could begin with what you eat, resulting in the right balance of hormones and conditions that'll get you closer to your goal of sexual satisfaction and improved intimacy. The following are all-natural libido boosters:
  • Pumpkin seeds contain zinc, the ultimate sex mineral. Studies show that women with a greater sex drive have higher levels of testosterone. To increase your testosterone, add zinc to your diet. Zinc blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. A quarter-cup serving of pumpkin seeds may do the trick.
  • For increased arousal, try watermelon. The compounds present in watermelon may have a "Viagra-like" effect, relaxing blood vessels and increasing blood flow. Proper blood flow allows the tissues to become engorged, aroused and lubricated.
  • As cliché as it sounds, there's a reason chocolate-covered strawberries are one of Cupid's favorite weapons. Dark chocolate (make sure it's 70% cocoa) helps to increase dopamine levels, the brain's "pleasure chemical"; the bioflavonoids in dark chocolate also open up blood vessels and improve blood flow. The sugar in the strawberries gives you a little boost of energy. Combined, you may find yourself feeling a little more inspired than usual.
  • Add some fish to your diet. Halibut can raise testosterone levels because it's high in magnesium. Magnesium makes it more difficult for testosterone to latch onto proteins in the body. As a result, testosterone is distributed in the blood, helping to kick up your sex drive.
  • Asparagus is considered one of the best libido-boosting foods since it's rich in folate. A naturally occurring form of folic acid, folate regulates the production of histamine -- the chemical that is released during an orgasm.
  • Garlic contains allicin, a compound that thins the blood. Because of this, it improves the blood circulation necessary for an erection by relaxing the arteries. Having strong circulation also allows for greater physical endurance in the bedroom.
  • In addition to containing potassium and B vitamins that elevate energy levels, bananas contain the natural anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain, which aids in triggering greater production of testosterone.
  • Add celery to your salad. It contains androsterone, a pheromone precursor. Pheromones are odorless chemical signals released through sweat glands; once "smelled," pheromones can subconsciously affect the behavior of the receiving mate.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.