Healthy Aphrodisiacs


Valentines’ Day isn’t usually something that we associate with healthy eating, especially with all the candy hearts, chocolates, and fancy, expensive restaurant meals clouding our nutritional judgment. But this year, why not think about your Valentines’ menu a little differently?

When my husband and I got married, a fun-loving friend gave us a cook book titled Food As Foreplay as a gag gift. I was too embarrassed to open it right away, but once I worked up the courage and looked inside, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the delicious recipes it offered. Despite its provocative name, this cook book was neither raunchy nor inappropriate. Just the opposite, in fact! It offered a complete range of recipes, from appetizers to desserts, using specific ingredients that are commonly considered aphrodisiacs. And I was amazed by how many different foods are on this list! Here are some examples, both from my recipe book and from some other compilations:

Oysters            Chocolate            Asparagus
Figs               Arugula              Honey
Strawberries       Raspberries          Avocados
Salmon             Almonds              Red wine
Pomegranate        Walnuts              Vanilla
Basil              Garlic               Chili Peppers

The history behind these foods is mostly conveyed by tradition and word of mouth, with the legends surrounding some of them going back thousands of years! Some supposedly increase energy, arousal, and libido, while others are said to increase amorous feelings in general.

The obvious question that comes to mind is this: Do they work? Can’t say. There are anecdotes and legends galore, and of course these may be true, but unfortunately I couldn’t find much credible research either confirming or refuting the claims. Apparently it’s not something that gets much attention in strict laboratory settings. This makes sense given the sensitive nature of the topic and the practical challenges of measuring the abstract concepts of pleasure, love, etc. And by looking at the list, you can quickly see that they have very few, if any, common features. So it’s unlikely that one specific ingredient or nutrient in all of these foods provides the aphrodisiac effect. There may be more than one factor that causes arousal and emotional stirrings, but as of yet we don’t know much.

But wait! This doesn’t mean that you should throw out the list of foods  and ignore them in your holiday plans.

There’s no concrete evidence that these foods will make any difference in your love life, but there is plenty of evidence that they are healthy, nutritious choices.

Take another look at the list: nearly every item mentioned is something that would get the nod of approval from a dietitian.

Of course there are caveats. You should go light on the chocolate and honey because they’re packed with empty calories, and it’s smart to moderate red wine intake. Nonetheless, this is a fine looking group of foods. So consider including one or more of them in your diet this Valentines’ Day, no matter with whom you’re celebrating. Even if they don’t make you feel any different, they are still a delicious way to show your own body some love by treating it to a healthy meal. Just remember to bring some breath mints if garlic is included!

Copyright: All content © 2010-2018 Nutrition Strategy Advisors LLC. Photographs © Donna P Feldman, unless otherwise attributed. Reproduction or use without permission is prohibited.