Ask Keri: Are oysters really an aphrodisiac, and will eating them boost my libido?
Keri Says: Unfortunately, there’s no solid scientific evidence that shows a link between eating oysters and an enhanced libido. But sexual desire is complicated, and so is the connection between what you eat and how often you want to jump into bed.
Here’s what you need to know.
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Oysters as an Aphrodisiac
The connection between oysters and sex is usually traced back to Casanova, an 18th century intellectual who became known for an erotic memoir he wrote about his sexual exploits. Apparently, he ate a lot of oysters and assigned them all kinds of credit for his sexual appetites.
Oysters are a great source of zinc, and studies in both animals and people have shown a link between zinc deficiency and erectile dysfunction. In 2005, George Fisher, a professor of chemistry at Barry University in Miami, and his colleagues claimed that bivalve mollusks (AKA clams, oysters, mussels and scallops) contain amino acids like D-aspartic acid and N-Methyl-D-aspartate, which have been found to increase production of testosterone and progesterone in male and female rats, respectively. Meanwhile, everyone started reporting that the findings meant that oysters were human aphrodisiacs.
The problem is that their logic relied on many leaps. First, the study was conducted on mussels, not oysters. And, second, the increases were in lab rats, not humans. Research in human men on how D-aspartic acid impacts testosterone is all over the place, showing increases in some groups and decreases in others. And even if supplementation with the amino acid did raise levels, it’s unclear how that rise would impact sexual desire. This is especially true if you’re just eating a few oysters on a date, as opposed to regularly taking a supplement.
Human sexual desire and response is incredibly complex and involves much more than just a simple hormone tweak. In fact, a lot of it has to do with what’s going on in your fascinating, complicated brain.
Of course just like stress and sleep, what you eat can have an impact, because feeling healthy and energized (part of which means getting adequate vitamins and minerals!) can make you want to get busy. I mean, who wants to have sex when you’re tired, cranky, and bloated?
Foods That Boost Your Libido
I might be dating myself here, but remember the food scene in the movie “9 ½ Weeks” where Mickey Rourke feeds Kim Basinger in front of an open fridge? (No? You can thank me later.) Well, as iconic and sexy as that scene was, few—if any—of those foods can be considered aphrodisiacs.
Read on for a list of foods that research shows can crank up desire and tone down the sexual blahs.
Beyond their, ahem, suggestive shape, bananas are rich in potassium and B vitamins, which are nutrients we all need for producing sex hormones.
In South America, maca is commonly used to boost fertility. Dubbed the “Peruvian Viagra” because it’s mainly grown in the Andes region there, this cultivated root is part of the brassica family (think broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale). Small studies have shown that it decreases erectile dysfunction and boosts libido in men, and improves sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women.
3. Pistachio nuts
A Turkish study of 17 men who added pistachios to their diet for 3 weeks saw improvement in erectile function (ED). Though the study was small, it supported a bunch of evidence that pistachios are super healthy. Beyond ED, they improve heart and blood vessel health, weight management and blood pressure control. Pistachios are also a great source of vitamin K, vitamin B, thiamin, magnesium and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Remember that food scene in “9 1/2 Weeks” we mentioned earlier? Well, it ends with Rourke spraying Basinger with Perrier and then covering her in honey. (So maybe the movie got the science right on that part.) Known for its sticky sweetness, honey is also a good source of boron, a trace mineral that helps women metabolize estrogen (the female sex hormone). Some studies have also suggested that it boosts testosterone levels in the blood. That’s great news because testosterone helps amp up the sex drive and orgasms in both men and women.
Chocolate contains the feel-good chemicals phenylethylamine, or PEA, and serotonin, which occur naturally in our bodies. Our brains release them when we’re happy or in love. PEA affects our moods and energy similar to how amphetamines would, acting as a stimulant. No wonder chocolate is so universally loved.
6. Chili pepper
Chili peppers contain the chemical capsaicin, which speeds up metabolism and increases circulation—things our bodies do in response to sex. Large amounts of capsaicin may also irritate the genitals and urinary tract, which can translate to sexual excitement.
The Bottom Line
If you want to eat food that boosts your libido, try some of the suggestions above. As for oysters, what we know is that adequate zinc may support arousal in men, so that’s a good thing. And remember my point about sexual desire being rooted in your brain? If oysters remind you of romance and get you in the mood, why not eat them? They’re incredibly delicious and rich in omega-3s, vitamin B12, and zinc and selenium, which support thyroid health.
In other words, I’m a big fan of the health benefits of both sex and oysters, so feel free to combine them however you see fit.