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Get turned on with these ‘love’ foods

So which foods are the ones to make this Valentine's extra-special? TODAY Food editor Phil Lempert shares a list of edible aphrodisiacs.
/ Source: TODAY

Thousands of years ago, Egyptian priests were forbidden to eat onions in case the temptation for sex became too great! For years, romantics around the world have believed this and other folklore about certain foods igniting feelings of desire. So what’s the truth? And are there really any aphrodisiac powers to foods?

Food is an aphrodisiac, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

The truth is that some foods do actually stimulate blood flow and combined with the look, mouth feel and aroma have been used as aphrodisiacs throughout time. It's the combination of the senses that create these aphrodisiac qualities. Setting the proper mood on Valentine's Day is just as important as the foods.

So which foods are the ones to make this Valentine's extra-special?

Bananas The banana flower has a marvelous phallic shape and is partially responsible for the popularity of the banana as an aphrodisiac food. An Islamic myth tells the tale that after Adam and Eve succumbed to the "apple," they started covering their "nudity" with banana leaves rather than fig. From a more practical standpoint, bananas are rich in potassium and B vitamins, necessities for sex-hormone production.

Basil (sweet basil) Is said to stimulate the sex drive and boost fertility. It is also said to produce a general sense of well-being for body and mind.ChocolateEver wonder why Valentine's has become synonymous with chocolate? It's more than just a marketing gimmick. Chocolate is a flavorful source of quick energy and can even elevate some people’s moods. Chocolate contains two related alkaloid stimulants — theobromine and caffeine. It is also rich in PEA, or phenylethylamine, a naturally occurring compound that has effects similar to amphetamine's. The Aztecs referred to chocolate as "nourishment of the Gods." Chocolate contains more antioxidants (cancer-preventing enzymes) than does red wine. The secret for passion is to combine the two. Try a glass of Cabernet with a bit of dark chocolate for a sensuous treat

Used for centuries in Europe and among the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Japanese, garlic was one of the most widespread ancient aphrodisiac remedies. It stimulates the secretion of gastric juices, aiding digestion, and increases the blood flow. The "heat" in garlic is said to stir sexual desires. 

GingerGinger helps soothe the stomach and for centuries in England, before modern-day medicines, was used to help relieve menstrual cramping. Ginger root (raw or cooked) and ginger wine were widely thought to be aphrodisiacs as the ginger had the effect of relaxing the smooth muscles of the uterus and intestines as well as being a stimulant. 

OystersAlways thought of as the aphrodisiac, the oyster gets a lot of its reputation from the ritual of opening them and the mouth feel of swallowing them whole. Oysters were documented as an aphrodisiac food by the Romans in the 2nd century A.D. as mentioned in a satire by Juvenal. He described the wanton ways of women after ingesting wine and eating "giant oysters."  An additional hypothesis is that the oyster resembles the "female" genitals. In reality oysters are a very nutritious and high in protein.

The truth is that oysters are rich in zinc and iron. Iron is known for its transport of oxygen through our systems and zinc is an essential element for stimulating our metabolism. Oysters also contain on average 18 micrograms of Vitamin B12 (word of caution: Shellfish spoil quickly, so be sure to buy oysters only if the shells are tightly closed. Oysters will show their freshness by "flinching" when you squeeze lemon juice on them). Also, the folklore of only eating oysters in the months that contain the letter R is a good rule to follow — non-R months mean warmer water temperature, which may promote bacterial growth. 

Taylor Shellfish Farms offers the perfect Valentine's Day gift: five species of live oysters in the shell — Olympia, Pacific, Eastern/Virginia, Kumamoto, European Flat — just harvested from the legendary, nutrient-rich waters of south Puget Sound. Valentine's Day Oyster Package #1:  two dozen oysters (5 different varieties) $29 (plus shipping).  Valentine's Day Oyster Package #2:  four dozen oysters $48 (plus shipping).  Each package includes an oyster knife, shucking instructions, oyster guide, Jon Rowley’s "Art of Eating an Oyster," and a certificate from Cupid guaranteeing success in love.

Pine nutsZinc is a key mineral necessary to maintain male potency and pine nuts are rich in zinc. Pine nuts have been used to stimulate the libido as far back as medieval times.

VanillaThe scent and flavor of vanilla are believed to increase lust. According to the Australian Orchid Society, "Old Totonac lore has it that Xanat, the young daughter of the Mexican fertility goddess, loved a Totonac youth. Unable to marry him due to her divine nature, she transformed herself into a plant that would provide pleasure and happiness."  Fill tall champagne glasses to the rim and add a vanilla bean for a heady, bubbly treat.

And just in case you are running late and want to pick up your aphrodisiac on the way home …

Fever – It's called “the ultimate pleasure beverage,” infused with all-natural products including green tea, caffeine, horny goat weed and panax ginseng, which is said to enhance sexual stimulation for both men and women.  Available in original and now new Low Calorie that is naturally flavored and only 20 calories per 14-ounce serving. Great alone or as a mixer for adult beverages. 12-pack, $35 (inc. s/h)