Historically, aphrodisiacs were chosen for their resemblance (however vague) to sexual organs, or their alluring smell and taste. Centuries later, modern science gives us cause to doubt whether these old remedies really work ... or does it?
We can’t speak for the potency of a phallic shape, but our philandering fore bearers didn't have it all wrong. Science suggests that a number of foods really can make you frisky. Should you add these tidbits to your date's plate? Maybe you should let your taste buds and consequent passion - or lack thereof - decide.
OystersYou don’t get more classic than this evocative mollusk. Legend has it Casanova ate 50 oysters a day; he even fed these sensual, slippery creatures to women as a form of seduction!
The Science: Oysters are high in zinc, which has been shown to boost sperm count as well as testosterone (an important libido-boosting hormone for both sexes). In 2005, a team of American and Italian researchers found that oysters are rich in rare amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Oysters also have the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to increase happiness, which is never a bad quality to bring to bed. Plus, it doesn't hurt that a raw oyster has a smooth, salty texture that's reminiscent of ... well, you know. (Read more about libido boosters in The Truth About Herbal Sex Pills for Men.)
AvocadosThe tree that bears this fruit was known to the Aztecs as the ahuacuatl, or testicle tree. Maybe the Aztecs were especially dirty-minded (after all, they didn't have satellite TV), but they thought that the trees' double-hanging fruits looked a lot like the family jewels. In fact, Spanish Catholics found the fruit so sexually obscene that the devout were banned from eating it.
The Science: Avocados not only have a beautifully creamy texture, but they are also an amazing source of nutrients. Although there's no study that explicitly links avocado consumption to better libido, a healthy body is an essential aspect of sexual health. This fruit's potential sex-boosting powers include omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in the production of testosterone; vitamin E, which is said to aid in the production of sex hormones, and protein to help get you through a long night of hard loving. (For some tips on how to keep things exciting, read Beyond Plain Vanilla: 8 New Things to Learn in the Bedroom.)
AlmondsThere's nothing sexy looking about these, but they pack a nutritional punch. For one reason or another, these tasty little nuts have been considered a fertility symbol throughout history. The famous womanizer (and author) Alexandre Dumas had almond soup before meeting one of his many mistresses. Almonds are even mentioned in the Bible, where Samson uses a fragrant olive branch to seduce Delilah.
The Science: Like avocados, almonds have tons of energy-sustaining nutrients, including vitamin E and fiber. They also contain L-arginine, a substance that has been used in creams and gels designed to be applied to the genitals to increase arousal. So, not only do almonds make an excellent snack, they may also have what it takes to boost your sexual endurance ... if necessary.
FigsHave you ever cut a fresh fig open? What does it look like to you? To get the low down on the seductive secrets of the fig, try reading D.H. Lawrence’s poem dedicated to this delectable pink fruit. In the poem, he touches on how the Italians say it stands for "the female part" and how Eve and Adam sewed fig leaves to cover their shame. "Fig, fruit of the female mystery." This might explain how this delicious fruit came to be known as an aphrodisiac. But does it work?
The Science: Although there are no studies to back up the fig's believed libido-boosting powers, this little fruit provides iron, potassium and various minerals that really can’t hurt when you’re trying to get it on. Try feeding one to your partner!
BananasIt's no mystery why this phallic fruit came to be known as an aphrodisiac. In India, bananas were used as offerings for fertility gods. In Central America, the sap of the red banana tree is consumed as an aphrodisiac. In Islam, it was the banana, not the apple that was the forbidden fruit.
The Science: Not only is the banana full of potassium, magnesium and vitamin B (all important for your sexual and general well-being), it also contains the bromelain enzyme, which is believed to boost immune function, and possibly male libido. The science to back this one up is limited though, so this suggestive food may be all tease.
AsparagusWhy is this food considered an aphrodisiac? Well, it does have a shaft. According to Nicholas Culpepper, a 17th century English herbalist, asparagus "stirs up lust in man and woman." This tasty vegetable was believed to be so potent in Europe that in 19th century France, prenuptial dinners served three courses of it.
The Science: Asparagus contains potassium, fiber, vitamins ... are you sensing a pattern yet? Asparagus also has folic acid, which is said to boost histamine production, which helps both men and women reach orgasm. These slender green spears also contain protodioscin, which is used in some libido-boosting supplements.
TrufflesAlthough these earthy brown mushrooms are considered a culinary gem, their flavor is not for everyone, particularly those on tight budgets. But throughout history, these rare, flavorful fungi appeared as aphrodisiacs. Napoleon ate them to boost his libido, and according to 18th century French politician Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, truffles "awaken lustful and erotic memories among the skirt-wearing sex and erotic and lustful memories among the beard-wearing sex."
The Science: Although truffles' bedroom benefits aren't backed by science, that characteristic truffle musk is said to evoke the scent of the male pheromone androstenone. In other words, the scent that makes male pigs irresistible to the ladies (or, more specifically, to lady pigs). It also doesn't hurt that truffles most often appear in fancy meals at romantic restaurants.
If you're expecting a few oysters to turn your sex life around you might be disappointed. Although many of the most famous aphrodisiacs deliver a big boost of vitamins - and even slightly elevated hormone production - many of them don't live up to the hype their long-standing reputation suggests they deserve. But it can't hurt to tingle your taste buds with these treats. Most will go down a lot easier than a boiled baby duck - and preparing them for your sweetie might just put nookie back on the menu.