Throughout history, men and women alike have used food to lure a lover. In some cases, the food itself is a sexual stimulant. In other cases, it’s the food’s affect on your senses that’s the turn-on, says Martha Hopkins, co-author of The New InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook. The way it looks, the way it feels when you eat it and how exotic, rare or expensive it is all have helped certain foods earn the title, “aphrodisiac.” Avocado meets the sensual criteria. The shape brings to mind either male genitalia or the curves of a woman’s body. Its smooth, creamy texture adds to its sensuality, Hopkins says. She suggests serving it in a salad of Boston lettuce, green onion, pine nuts (another aphrodisiac) and a Dijon-honey dressing.
Asparagus, with its phallic shape, meets Hopkins’ visual criteria for an aphrodisiac. But once digested, asparagus works from the inside out by stimulating the urinary tract says Chris Kilham, author of Hot Plants: Nature's Proven Sex Boosters for Men and Women. “It gives you a little itch down there,” Kilham says. “It can be quite pleasantly stimulating.” In fact, the jolt may be compared to that delivered by the famed Spanish Fly, the beetle that is both a strong aphrodisiac and powerful toxin. So if you want some of Spanish beetle’s potency, without the danger, give asparagus a try.
Maca is “a powerful sex enhancer,” Kilham says. A root vegetable, it grows in the Peruvian highlands, where it is a dietary staple. “The only complaint I’ve ever heard about maca is, ‘I had to stop taking the stuff because I was too horny.’” Kilham adds a scoop of powder to his morning smoothie, but it can also be added to breads, cakes and even your coffee. It may be especially helpful for people who suffer low libido as a result of antidepressant medication. The powder is widely available at Internet retailers and natural food stores such as Whole Foods.
Ginger thins the blood, which may help your body respond more quickly to sexual stimulation, says Hopkins. It also aids digestion, which can be helpful to maintaining libido if you’ve had a large meal. It’s also incredibly versatile. Pickled ginger is cool and refreshing; fresh ginger added to stir fries can add a spicy zing.
Can oysters really turn you on? Yes, says Kilham. The sensual experience of eating an oyster is part of its aphrodisiac powers, but so is its high zinc content, which is purported to boost libido. “For many people, the feel of oysters in your mouth is genuinely arousing,” Kilham says. “It’s an extraordinary thing to put in your mouth.”
“The only true love drug we have is cocoa,” says Kilham. Cocoa stimulates production of the “feel good” hormones serotonin and dopamine, and contains phenylethylamine (PEA), produced by the brain in large quantities when we’re falling in love. Cocoa is most sensual when made into chocolate, which melts easily and sensually in your mouth. Since chocolate feels good to eat—and makes us feel good after eating it—a box of sweet treats is never a bad idea. “Chocolate is an agent of love,” Kilham says.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.