If you had to choose between eating a rich piece of chocolate cake and having mind-blowing sex, which would you pick? If you're finding it a tough call, here's why: Food and sex are two of the strongest and most closely linked human desires.
"The satisfaction from eating a delicious meal and the satisfaction from having sex both activate pleasure receptors in the brain," says Audrey T. Cross, Ph. D., formerly a professor of nutrition at Columbia University's School of Public Health. "This explains why humans often associate eating with sex." And while the notion of aphrodisiacs is largely unfounded, there are certain foods that can energize you, trigger your libido, and give you stronger orgasms. Eat these foods regularly for a boost in the bedroom.
Enhance your chemistry
Share a dark chocolate dessert
Of course, the act of devouring something gooey and decadent is incredibly sensual. But there's an even sweeter side to chocolate: According to research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, a compound in dark chocolate called phenylethylamine releases the same endorphins triggered by sex and increases the feelings of attraction between two people. And indulging could pay off in bed: The Journal of Sexual Medicine reports that those who consume at least one cube of dark chocolate daily experience greater desire and better overall sexual function than those who don't partake.
Add a carnal condiment
A spicy meal can spice up your romance. Sauces, sides, and dressings made from chili peppers (such as hot sauce or salsa) contain the chemical capsaicin, whose effects mirror the signs of arousal (sweating, tingles, rapid heart rate, and flushed cheeks). And, according to WH advisor Yvonne K. Fulbright, Ph. D., people tend to credit their date with evoking those spine-tingling feelings.
Munch on a banana
Got pre-date jitters? Eat a banana a few hours before your rendezvous. This yellow superfruit helps release serotonin (the happy chemical) into your bloodstream, lifting your mood and calming your nervous system. And they have a sexy side effect: "Bananas contain potassium, a mineral that increases muscle strength, an element crucial to orgasm," says Lou Paget, author of "The Great Lover Playbook."
Fuel your libido
Feast on salmon and mackerel — two fish high in omega-3 fatty acids that keep sex-hormone production humming along. And tuna is a good source of selenium (a mineral that beelines to your guy's testicles to help increase his sperm count). And don't forget the sides. "Ginger is a natural blood thinner, so it aids overall circulation, and edamame contains phytoestrogens, which help lubricate the vagina," Paget says.
Hit happy hour
Sure, red wine makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but its powers go way beyond that. It increases estrogen levels, and it contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that improves circulation during sex. And if you're single, alcohol makes you a better kisser: According to the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, single guys prefer smooches that taste like alcohol (any kind will). Just hold yourself to one glass — being drunk isn't just unattractive; it's a libido killer.
Make breakfast sexy
On the scale of sensual foods, oatmeal may rank at the bottom, but it has a hidden talent — whole grains increase testosterone, which boosts your sex drive. Drizzle on some honey (it contains a mineral called boron, which has a libido-enhancing effect) and chase it with a cup of OJ — one study found that people who eat foods high in vitamin C report better moods and have more sex.
Linger over cappuccino
Order that post-dinner cup of joe. Coffee drinkers have higher libidos and hit the sheets more often than those who don't indulge, according to a study conducted by Southwestern University. And add real sugar. "Sugar releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that provides a brief euphoric feeling," says Abby Aronowitz, Ph. D., author of "Your Final Diet."
Drink pomegranate juice
When scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles studied this ruby-red fruit, they found that pomegranates are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that allow blood to flow through your veins — a key component of good sex, according to Paget.
More from TODAY.com
'The Sound of Music' is 50! See the stars reunite for its anniversary
- Italy's highest court overturns Amanda Knox murder conviction
- Ludacris on being a busy parent: Spend quality time with your kids
- 25 years later: Best moments from the 'Pretty Woman' reunion on TODAY
- Happy and baby knows it! Watch incredible ultrasound of fetus clapping
- 'The Sound of Music' is 50! See the stars reunite for its anniversary
Intensify your orgasms
Nibble on asparagus
It can make your pee smell funky (so not sexy), but this vegetable is bursting with folate, a B vitamin that increases blood levels of histamine, a neurotransmitter that helps you orgasm. "Asparagus also contains the plant chemical protodioscin, which has been shown to boost arousal and even help combat erectile dysfunction in some men," says Lynn Edlen-Nezin, Ph. D., coauthor of "Great Food, Great Sex."
Serve filet mignon
"Lean cuts of red meat are great sources of zinc, a mineral that curbs production of a hormone called prolactin, which at high levels can cause sexual dysfunction," says Jennifer Berman, M. D., director of the Berman Women's Wellness Center in Los Angeles. Choose deep red cuts with round or loin in the name. These types are the leanest.
Split a pizza
Cheese contains magnesium, a mineral your muscles need in order to contract (spasm) during orgasm, according to Edlen-Nezin. Add healthy toppings like mushrooms and broccoli — both of these vegetables contain vitamin A, which regulates progesterone, a steroid hormone that helps flip on your sex drive. And don't be surprised if he feels a surge of desire too — studies show the scent of cheese (any type) increases blood circulation to his nether regions by 5 percent.
When you're feeling frisky, steer clear of cherries. The scent has been found to inhibit sexual desire in women.
Source: The Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation
© 2012 Rodale Inc. All rights reserved.