Would you like to discover nutrients and foods that will add some sizzle to your romantic life on Valentine’s Day?
We’ve all heard of the aphrodisiac powers of oysters and chocolate. Old wives’ tales? Well, not really.
The keys to enhancing romantic and sexual performance in men and women include improving your blood circulation, your ability to experience pleasure, and your drive. You may be surprised to learn that five nutrients found in a variety of foods have been shown to give you a better sex life, and as these same foods improve blood flow, they are terrific for heart and brain health, too.
And just so you know, these do include the nutrients found in oysters and dark chocolate.
What are these elixirs of passion? Let’s start with those that improve your circulation: nitrates and arginine.
#1: Nitrates: Sounds like a bad chemical that might be put in processed foods, but nitrates in natural plant foods are incredible for your health. Your body uses them to make nitric oxide, the master compound that regulates the function of your arteries. If you increase nitric oxide levels, your arteries will dilate, your blood vessel function will improve, and along with it, you will enhance your athletic, sexual, and blood vessel performance. When men consume foods with “good nitrates” they have better romantic performance. When women eat these foods, they feel more aroused and receptive.
Foods that are rich in nitrates include:
- Beets are an incredible source
- Cooked spinach (You need at least one cup of cooked spinach to make a difference. Raw spinach is mostly water. It takes 7.5 cups of raw spinach to equal 1 cup of cooked spinach).
Not surprising that Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and rapture, recommended beets as an aphrodisiac. And the brothels of ancient Greece and Rome had pictures of beets on their walls—it seems beets were the first form of Viagra on the market.
#2: Arginine: Arginine is another compound the body uses to make nitric oxide. Clinical studies have shown that arginine improves romantic and sexual function. Increase arginine, and you will increase blood flow for men and women. Arginine is a simple amino acid (protein building block), so there are no real safety issues or many side effects with the moderate dosages I am suggesting. (Caution: If you have herpes Arginine may increase your chances of an outbreak.)
Foods that are rich in arginine and contain about 3,000 mg per 5 ounce serving, include:
- All other shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crab)
Studies show that when men take 1000 mg of an arginine supplement 1-2 capsules twice daily, they report improved sexual performance. An excellent quality form of L-arginine is Perfusia-SR.
Next are foods that increase your ability to feel physical pleasure.
The brain requires a chemical compound called dopamine for romantic desire and fulfillment. Endorphins are other compounds that increase relaxation and the sense of fulfillment. Endorphins allow us to feel relaxed, calm, and satisfied.
#3: Tyrosine: To make dopamine, you require a couple of nutrients. The most important is an amino acid called tyrosine.
Foods that are rich in tyrosine include:
- Soy protein
#4: Endorphin precursors: A variety of foods including salmon, vanilla, and bananas have been reported to increase endorphin production, but by far the top rated is:
- Dark chocolate. We are not talking milk chocolate; the chocolate has to have at least 74% cocoa mass to qualify.
Finally are foods that improve your libido.
#5: Zinc: Foods that enhance adrenal function stimulate sex drive and libido. To have drive, you need good adrenal function, and in particular, you need zinc.
- Dark chocolate
What undermines romantic performance? Well that would be too much alcohol. You need hydration, so enjoy sparkling water and iced green tea, but keep your alcohol intake moderate. Since you won’t be over-indulging, you might as well splurge and buy a special bottle of red wine or champagne. For your best performance, don’t exceed two servings per person.
Now that you know the top foods for romantic function and pleasure, you should be able to guess my recommended menu for Valentine’s Day. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Recipes for a Romantic Valentine’s Day
Don’t forget to set the mood with candles and flowers.
Appetizers: (Good choices include)
- Smoked oysters
- Smoked salmon
- Shrimp cocktail
- Shrimp or Lobster
- Roasted beets
- Spinach, sautéed in virgin olive oil, with Italian herbs and fresh garlic
- Try 1-2 ounce of dark chocolate per person, drizzled over fresh strawberries
- Chocolate mousse
Cucumber with Smoked Oysters and Avocado Instead of having oysters with crackers, try them with thinly sliced cucumber. Crunchy and refreshing! Oysters are smart to eat as they are loaded with zinc, protein, arginine, and omega-3 fats. If you can’t find canned smoked oysters in olive oil in your store, you may need to order them online (see our resources); if you can, avoid buying oysters canned in cottonseed oil (NOT a smart fat!)
Prep Time: 5 Minutes Serves: Two
3 ounces smoked oysters (canned in olive oil), drained
1 medium ripe avocado
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground paprika
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro (or Italian parsley), finely chopped
1 medium cucumber, 1/8-1/4 inch slice
Dash of hot sauce (optional)
Drain oysters. Meanwhile, mash avocado and mix with lemon juice, salt, paprika, garlic, and cilantro. Spread sliced cucumber on a serving plate. Add a spoonful of avocado mixture to each slice. Top with 1-2 smoked oysters. For a touch of heat, add a dash of your favorite hot sauce.
Lobster Kabobs (adapted from The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up)
Grilling lobster, shrimp or meat with vegetables on a skewer is easy. Just make sure to marinate for at least 10 to 15 minutes in advance. For a special occasion, my wife and I will have lobster, but you can also choose shrimp, large scallops, chicken, or lean steak. Serve with a mixed green salad and your favorite vinaigrette dressing.
Marinating Time: 15 (up to 60) minutes
Grilling Time: 8-11 minutes
12 ounces lobster tail meat (which would be 16 ounces with the shell; or 12 ounces shrimp, large scallops, or sirloin steak), cut into 18 pieces, about 1-inch each
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces baby-bella mushrooms (or small crimini whole mushrooms)
18 cherry tomatoes (about 1 cup)
1 large red onion, skin removed, and cut into quarters and separated into thin layers
3 Tbsp virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp paprika, ground
1 tsp Italian herbs
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper ground
1/8 tsp cayenne, ground (optional—for those who like heat, but I don’t use with lobster as it diminishes the subtle flavors)
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
Prepare seafood and vegetables as noted above. Whisk marinade ingredients together. Set grill at 450°F or turn on the broiler. Combine seafood, vegetables, and marinade in a bowl, turning occasionally for 15 minutes while grill/broiler heats. Grease 6 metal skewers and skewer red and yellow pepper, red onion, mushrooms, alternating with 3 pieces of seafood and 3 tomatoes per skewer. In truth, you could easily grill or broil without the skewers, but the skewers make it easy to turn everything uniformly, plus they make a great presentation when serving. Grill or broil for 8 to 11 minutes, until protein is cooked, but not dry, turning 2 or 3 times. Meanwhile toss a mixed green salad with your favorite vinaigrette dressing. Serve the salad on the plates and align the kebobs over the salad.
Roasted Beets Beets become sweeter when roasted, and they improve your circulation for several hours after eating them.
Baking Time: 40-45 minutes
3 medium beets, peeled, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 Tbsp Virgin olive oil
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp Italian herb seasoning
Preheat oven to 400° (F). Combine beets with oil, salt, pepper, and Italian herbs in an oven-proof dish. Bake until beets are tender, about 40-45 minutes.
Strawberries with Dark Chocolate Drizzle
A terrific dessert for Valentine’s Day.
2 ounces dark chocolate
1 tablespoon organic butter
2 cups fruit (strawberries are perfect, but you can also try orange, or pitted cherries), cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons chopped nuts of your choice
In a double boiler, melt chocolate, then add butter and stir together; alternatively, melt slowly together in a glass bowl in the microwave. Spread fruit pieces over a plate and drizzle with chocolate; sprinkle with chopped nuts. Serve immediately or chill and save for later.
Chocolate Mousse (adapted from The Better Brain Solution)
Here is one of my wife’s desserts, and my favorite. It’s delicious and packed with zinc, tyrosine, and endorphin boosting chocolate. Use unprocessed cocoa for greater flavonoid content. Caution, as consuming excess xylitol can cause gastrointestinal distress; avoid having multiple servings with xylitol as an ingredient.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Chill Time: 2-24 hours in the refrigerator
½ cup Coffee (espresso or filtered, decaf or regular)
1/3 cup Xylitol
1/8 tsp Sea salt
4 ounces dark chocolate chips (at least 74% cocoa, or use a dark chocolate bar)
½ cup cocoa powder (unprocessed)
12 ounces silken tofu
3 Tbsp Grand Marnier (or brandy)
3 Tbsp Orange rind (divided, process 2 Tbsp, and save 1 Tbsp for a garnish)
Directions: In a saucepan, heat coffee, xylitol, and salt until gently bubbling. Meanwhile in a food processor, process cocoa and chocolate chips until finely chopped, almost powdered. Slowly pour hot coffee into the food processor and process until the chocolate has melted. Add tofu, Grand Marnier, and 2 Tbsp of orange rind and process until smooth. Pour into serving containers, garnish with remaining orange rind. Cover and refrigerate until time to serve.
Steven Masley, MD
I love the idea of recipes. I seem to get into a rut when i cook .
I know that you believe strongly in the benefits of cocoa for heart health. What about carob powder? It has no caffeine, and tastes sweeter than cocoa powder, so requires less sweetener in a recipe.
There is far less research on carob powder, although I think of them as having a similar health benefit. If you like it, enjoy it.
Steven Masley, MD