On Mondays one of our local restaurants serves raw oysters for a dollar each. Last Monday the bar was packed with men who appeared to be in their 50s and older. I wondered if they were there for the camaraderie and world cup soccer or the rejuvenating power of oysters?
Several articles floated through my news stream this week on libido-enhancing foods. Of course oysters featured in several and to my surprise, so did watermelon. Apparently watermelon makes us feel sexy. It makes me feel messy and a little juvenile—the dripping juices and the child-like delight of spitting the seeds across the deck into the yard below.
Throughout history we have looked for the magic pill or exotic food to make us feel sexier—regardless of age. Today we’re bombarded with articles about foods that will supposedly rejuvenate us, make the years slip away.
Dr. Bhimu Patil, the director of Texas A&M’s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center, studied the watermelon. His article “Watermelon may have Viagra-effect” was published in July 2008. He believes that watermelon consumption is beneficial to the body because of the phyto-nutrient citrulline, which is converted to arginine upon eating. Arginine is thought to promote heart heath, boost the immune system and “may prove to be very helpful for those who suffer from obesity and type 2 diabetes.” But the allure of watermelon is that citrulline-arginine has been shown to boost nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps to relax blood vessels, promoting the increased flow of blood, in the same way that Viagra works.
Dr. Patil cautions, “Watermelon may not be as organ specific as Viagra, but it’s a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side-effects.”
Asparagus and strawberries are often called aphrodisiacal foods. But there’s no scientific proof to show they increase libido. There might be anecdotal evidence that slowly nibbling on a stalk of firm asparagus in front of your lover peaks his curiosity and excitement. Every Valentine’s Day, we are presented with yummy images of chocolate dipped strawberries, seductively placed between red, swollen lips.
The lure of seductive food is ancient history:
- Ancient Greeks thought of the fig as a symbol of love; the arrival of a new fig crop elicited a copulatory ritual.
- “When Montezuma shared avocados with Cortez and his fellow conquistadors, the Aztecs explained that their name, ahucatl (also meaning testicle), came not only from their physical appearance, but also from their ability to incite sexual passion. The Aztecs believed in the aphrodisiac power of the ahucatl so much that they would not allow virginal women to leave the house while they were being harvested.” (PBS)
- In Greek mythology Aphrodite ate beets to enhance her appeal.
- According to rumor busting website, Snopes, when red M&Ms were temporarily taken off the market in 1976, after the FDA banned the use of red dye #2, a rumor spread that the red ones were such a powerful aphrodisiac M&M employees were pocketing them directly off the production line.
- And chocolate, that most romantic of foods, is sure to make your beloved feel amorous. However, a 2006 study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, looked specifically at women, who are thought to be more sensitive to the effects of chocolate. The Italian researchers studied a random sample of 163 adult women with an average age of 35 and found no significant differences between reported rates of sexual arousal or distress among those who regularly consumed one serving of chocolate a day, those who consumed three or more servings or those who generally consumed none. (New York Times)
Most scientists and nutritionists will tell you that the scientific evidence on so-called aphrodisiacs is negligible. Figs, avocados, red wine, oysters, chocolate, spices like cinnamon and cayenne, all have nutritional value and therefore provide beneficial effects to the body. People who have poor diets, are obese and physically inactive are generally less likely to indulge in sex. A diet of coffee, cigarettes and fast food isn’t helping the heart, but rather clogs the arteries. Men who have clogged arteries are more likely to have difficulty with erections. Men and women who take care of their bodies and live healthy lifestyles tend to have a healthier sex life.
When we don’t feel good we don’t feel sexy. It’s really that simple. We search for the magic elixir but fail to consider the basics. A good diet, plenty of sleep and exercise, combined with a good relationship in which we communicate with our partners offer the best chance for a satisfying sex life.
By all means stock up on some fresh watermelon this summer. And make it a sensuous experience—feed each other partially clothed. Lick the juices on your partner’s chest. Luxuriate in the taste, the mix of cold and juicy, feel the stickiness on your bodies. Have a seed spitting contest and get playful. That will get your libido going.