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Much of the lore surrounding the desire- and performance-enhancing effects of certain foods is anecdotal. But a good diet can help boost your libido and ensure your body is working well. A poor diet can lead to a host of health issues, which may negatively effect your sex life. For example, erectile dysfunction is often linked to obesity and diabetes, which can be caused by a poor diet.
Food is an important part of your everyday life and overall health. So it may not surprise you that your diet can affect your sex life. Changing your eating habits and behaviors may not be a cure-all for sexual issues, but it’s a good place to start.
Eating a well-balanced diet and taking certain supplements may help improve your overall health and sex life. It’s also important to avoid drinking too much alcohol.
Fueling your body with the right kinds of food can help boost your mood and energy levels to support a healthy relationship and sex life. For optimum health, eat a nutrient-rich diet that’s low in trans fats, saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium. Eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and lean proteins. To avoid gaining weight, don’t eat more calories than you burn in a day.
Arginine, also known as L-arginine, is an amino acid used by your body to make nitric oxide. This important chemical helps your blood vessels relax, which promotes good blood flow. If you’re a man, good blood flow to the erectile tissues in your penis is important for sustaining an erection.
When you take supplemental arginine, your intestines break most of it down before it reaches your bloodstream. It may be more helpful to take L-citrulline supplements. L-citrulline is another amino acid that’s converted to arginine in your body. A small study published in Urology found that L-citrulline supplements were more effective than a placebo for treating mild erectile dysfunction.
Both amino acids are also found in foods. L-citrulline is found in foods such as watermelon. Arginine is found in many foods, including:
The link between zinc and sexual health isn’t completely understood, but zinc appears to affect your body’s production of testosterone. It’s also necessary for the development of sperm and semen in men. Adequate zinc levels may boost male fertility. Zinc and other nutrients, such as folate, may also impact female fertility.
Zinc is available in supplement form. It’s also found in some foods. Oysters are nature’s richest source of this essential element. Not surprisingly, they have traditionally been viewed as aphrodisiacs, capable of kindling sexual desire.
Drinking alcohol may lower your inhibitions and increase the likelihood that you’ll engage in sexual activity. However, it can also cause acute or chronic erectile dysfunction. It can lead to unsafe behavior too. When you mix sex with alcohol, you’re less likely to use proper precautions to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Out of control drinking can also negatively affect your behavior and relationships with other people. Don’t rely on alcohol to improve your sex life.
Sometimes, food can be a source of stress and conflict in relationships. On the other hand, you and your partner may bond over shared meals together.
In some sense, your brain is the most important sex organ. Sex begins with affection, intimacy, and desire. Mealtime is a great time to unwind with your partner and build intimacy in a relaxed and pleasurable setting.
Sometimes, different food preferences and habits can be a source of stress in a relationship. To help build intimacy and trust, talk to your partner about issues surrounding your relationship with food. Sources of potential conflicts include:
If either of you have a history of eating disorders or chronic dieting, that can also influence your relationships with food and each other.
Body weight is tied to self-esteem and body image for many people. If your partner is trying to lose weight, help them along the way. If you know they’re an emotional eater, offer them support when they seem upset. Criticizing their food choices or looking over their shoulder while they’re eating won’t foster good feelings. Be supportive, not destructive.
Many diet-related health conditions can negatively impact your sex life, as well as your overall health and quality of life. Take steps to prevent and treat diet-related conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Obesity has been linked to lower fertility. Being overweight or obese may also damage your self-esteem, which can affect your libido and desire to be intimate.
To lose excess weight, burn more calories than you consume. Eat healthy portion sizes and limit foods that are high in fat and added sugars. Getting regular exercise is also important.
Eating too much sodium can increase your blood pressure and limit your blood flow. This can lead to erectile dysfunction in men and reduce blood flow to the vagina in women. Certain blood pressure medications can also cause undesired sexual side effects.
To help maintain healthy blood pressure, follow a well-balanced diet, don’t eat too much sodium, and include potassium-rich foods daily. If you think you’re experiencing negative side effects from blood pressure medication, talk to your doctor. An alternative medication may be available.
A diet high in saturated or trans fats can increase your "bad" LDL cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol can lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries, which can limit blood flow and contribute to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of most heart disease. It can also contribute to erectile dysfunction.
To help maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels, eat a well-balanced diet that’s rich in fiber and low in saturated and trans fats. Include foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Written by: Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N
Medically reviewed on: May 11, 2016: Natalie Butler, RD, LD
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