Soft light, roses, a glass of Champagne, Enya on the stereo—these are some things called upon when it’s time to get romantic. For some, there’s a little blue pill that’s also necessary for amorous engagements. But what about those who fall somewhere in between—wanting more than Enya, but fully competent without the use of drugs? Welcome to the world of aphrodisiac foods.
Though the FDA has clearly stated that there’s no such thing as an aphrodisiac, history would claim otherwise. Etymologically derived from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sexual love, aphrodisiacs, or substances ingested in the hopes of increased sexual potency, have long been a cultural obsession. From rhinoceros horn ground into a powder and mixed with alcohol, to Spanish Fly—the beetle whose side effects include genital inflammation, priapism, and kidney damage—humans have risked death and looking silly in search of the key to sexual strength. Legend has it that Casanova, the great lover, ate at least a dozen oysters a day in order to keep his sexual powers strong, and the Aztec ruler Montezuma drank 50 cups of hot chocolate daily in an attempt to better service his extensive harem. Third-century B.C. Chinese Emperor Huang Ti, author of the Handbook of Sex, regularly consumed a mixture of 22 herbs mixed with wine, a potion that may have contributed to his status as one of the greatest lovers of all time.
Historically great lovers and potentially deadly side effects aside, many everyday foods have been found to increase sexual desire, stamina, and competence. Here are five common foods that you might never have thought of in “that way” before.
1. Bananas From its obviously phallic shape, the banana easily connotes sexuality. More practically, however, the banana has loads of both vitamin B and potassium, which are important in the human production of sex hormones. Bananas are also chock-full of chelating minerals, which help the body absorb essential nutrients and as a result are said to boost the male libido. Banana Cake with Banana Ice Cream—a light banana cake with a layer of ice cream in the middle—offers a double dose of the fruit.
2. Almonds For thousands of years, almonds have been symbols of fertility. In Christianity, almond branches are sometimes used to signify the virgin birth of Jesus and as a symbol of his mother, Mary. In the Bible story of Samson and Delilah, Samson wooed and won his lady with sweet-smelling almond branches. The sweet fragrance of almonds and the almond flower has been thought to arouse passion in women—which might explain the abundance of almond-flavored soaps and lotions marketed toward the fairer sex. Almond Macaroons are not only sweet smelling but also sweet tasting, and can be made in less than 30 minutes—a good way to get things heated up when you don’t have much time.
3. Honey Flowers are a classic romantic gesture, so is food from flowers exponentially more romantic? Well, almost. Honey, which is produced by honeybees harvesting nectar from flowers, does a lot to encourage sexuality. Honey is a great source of boron, which has been proven to stimulate estrogen production in women and testosterone production in men. Plus it’s sticky and sweet, characteristics that find parallels in sexy substances that the body produces. Honey Caramels offer a bite-size dose of honey, a perfect little boost when you might need it.
4. Pine Nuts Bodybuilders know pine nuts well, as the tiny nuts are a zinc powerhouse, and zinc is an essential chemical in the production of testosterone. Since medieval times, men looking to increase their stamina have been eating pine nuts, as they also serve to increase cardiovascular function, which, when combined with increased testosterone production, can yield sexually beneficial results. Pine Nut Cake is a sweet way to get a full serving of these tiny aphrodisiacs. For a fuller effect, try a cup of coffee on the side, as caffeine is a traditional and effective stimulant.
5. Garlic After onions and coffee, garlic might fuel some of the most repulsive breath odors. It’s surprising, then, that the bulb is incredibly high in allicin, a compound that increases blood flow in a serious way, yielding increased sexual stamina and wild energy. Milder than raw garlic, Garlic Confit is a great way to get the blood flowing—just make sure all parties partake so that everyone has the same funky breath.
Sarah Whitman-Salkin is an editor at Cookstr.com. She lives in New York City.