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Oysters, chocolate, avocado: Can certain foods really boost your libido?

Find out if serving foods like oysters, strawberries and dark chocolate can set you up for an evening of romance.
Marianna Massey / Getty Images

Whether it’s date night or a quiet evening at home, you’re looking forward to a special night — just the two of you. And you might wonder whether serving up some foods that have reputations as aphrodisiacs could help put you and your partner in the mood for a fun night between the sheets.

What foods are considered aphrodisiacs?

It’s possible that certain foods could make a difference when it comes to your libido. Foods that improve your circulation or help regulate your testosterone levels may be beneficial for your sex drive. Some of the foods thought to be natural aphrodisiacs include:

  • Oysters. They are a rich source of zinc, and zinc can help regulate testosterone, which plays a role in libido in both men and women. “But if you have a zinc deficiency and low testosterone levels, your oyster dinner isn’t going to light things up,” Samantha Cassetty, a registered dietitian based in New York City and the coauthor of “Sugar Shock,” told TODAY. If you’re not a fan of oysters, you can also find zinc in pumpkin seeds and fortified whole-grain cereals.
  • Watermelon and beets. These foods don’t traditionally top the list of aphrodisiacs, but they contain a compound called citrulline that increases nitric acid and helps dilate your blood vessels. Maintaining or improving your blood flow is key to improving your sex drive.
  • Dark chocolate. Many people consider chocolate an aphrodisiac, and the dark variety does have antioxidants that could improve your blood flow. “Of course, if you have two little squares of dark chocolate, I don’t know how much that’s going to wind up doing for you, but if it makes you feel good, that’s what really counts,” Bonnie Taub-Dix, a New York-based registered dietitian nutritionist and author of “Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table,” told TODAY.
  • Mushrooms. Mushrooms are a rich source of selenium, which is reported to improve fertility in men.
  • Avocados. The word “avocado” is reportedly derived from the Aztec word for testicle. They can help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Chili peppers. Hot peppers and other spicy foods may boost circulation.
  • Whole-grain carbohydrates. Carbohydrates increase the feel-good chemical serotonin — Taub-Dix recommends whole-grain carbs rather than refined carbs.

Can these foods really boost my libido?

Maybe. It’s possible libido-boosting foods work because you think they will. “In terms of immediate benefit, I think it might be mind over matter. But if it is, so what? The power of suggestion could be stronger than the chemicals that are within the foods,” Taub-Dix said.

Setting the mood has a lot to do with how you feel emotionally and physically. Suppose you put together a meal including guacamole as an appetizer, a glass of red wine, a seafood dish with oysters and mushrooms and some dark chocolate. You had a good night’s sleep, and you exercised that day. “All you need then is to pick the perfect music and maybe light a candle or two,” Taub-Dix said.

Can a glass of wine help me get in the mood?

Red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that could help your circulation. “For some people, a glass of wine could be relaxing and could be a great idea,” Taub-Dix said. “However, too much wine could make you tired and have the opposite effect.”

Cassetty agreed. “People have this sense that alcohol is going to increase their desire or loosen their inhibitions, but it will make you sleepy in the moment,” she said. “Maybe a glass might help, but you probably don’t want any more than that. It’s not going to work to your advantage in this situation.”

How can I eat to improve my sex drive in the long term?

What you eat overall will make a more significant difference in your libido than what you eat or drink with any one meal. “Eating healthy foods and focusing largely on plants is going to help keep you healthy and allow you to function optimally in many different ways,” Cassetty said.

Choosing a heart-healthy diet is the top long-term strategy for getting in the mood regularly. That’s because a diet that lowers your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can improve blood flow to your organs, including your genitals. (Men who don’t have good blood flow can experience erectile dysfunction.)

To boost your circulation, think along the lines of the Mediterranean diet, emphasizing vegetables, fruit, whole grains and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as seafood, walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds.

What to avoid? Eating too much added sugar, which can interfere with healthy sleep. If you’re not sleeping well, you probably won’t have the energy for sex.

What else can help improve my sex life?

Think about how you feel after you eat. Foods that make you feel good physically will make you more likely to want to hop into bed with your partner. “If you are feeling low energy, gassy, bloated or constipated, it’s going to be much harder to feel sexy,” Cassetty said. When you’re deciding what to eat, try to recognize which foods you digest well and which you digest poorly, and pay attention to when you feel too full or uncomfortable.

And Taub-Dix pointed out that how you feel about yourself overall is probably more important than what you eat if you want to improve your sex life. “You have to feel good about yourself,” she said. “When you feel better about yourself, you’ll feel more romantic.” Feeling self-assured, getting enough sleep and exercising can all make a bigger difference in your sex drive than whether oysters, avocados or chili peppers were on your dinner plate.