People have been talking about aphrodisiac foods and their ability to increase sex drive in men and women for hundreds of years.
But not many have honed in on the scientifically-based reasons natural aphrodisiacs are a critical complement to thriving, passionate long-term relationships, nor have they explained why the order in which you eat specific types of foods and beverages is a key factor determining whether or not you receive benefits from them.
To begin, let’s make sure you understand the basics.
An aphrodisiac is an agent that intensifies sexual desire and increases the behaviors that make sex attainable and pleasurable. Essentially, these agents boost your libido, assisting you in entering the right frame of mind to feel and act sexy.
Your libido, aka sex drive, is defined as “a person’s overall sexual drive or desire for sexual activity.”
To fully understand the effects of aphrodisiacs, it’s important to first have a basic understanding of the chemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters in play when you initially fall in love, as these are the same agents you are hoping to bring into play when eat or drink an aphrodisiac.
The initial rush you feel at the beginning of a relationship stimulates a feeling of euphoria in the brain, in some ways similar to feelings of being “high” on cocaine.
This is what creates and strengthens relationships’ initial foundation of loving memories. These “love drugs” heighten all five of your senses, help you focus on your love, give you more energy and endurance, emblazon memories into your mind and make you feel good.
Truth be told, however, your body isn’t meant to continually release these chemicals for the long haul.
The increased levels of adrenaline, endorphins, PEA, and norepinephrine would tax your body and brain over time. Plus, it’s hard to function properly in other settings when love completely takes over your mind.
Once you settle into a relationship after a few months or several years, your chemistry is designed to shift from that initial high to producing more of your bonding chemicals and hormones instead. This change is marked by an increase in serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin, and a decrease in testosterone, all of which are meant to keep you and your love together for the long run.
Research shows that couples who do novel things together on a regular basis have better, more satisfying relationships.
These new and exciting experiences re-stimulate the production of that chemical cocktail you sipped on during the initial stages of falling in love, once again enhancing special moments and strengthening your intimate bond.
This extra boost grows more critical over time, and it won’t happen automatically. These moments of rekindled excitement need to be deliberately cultivated.
To take full advantage of the benefits available from aphrodisiac foods, you first need to engage your brain.
Employing all five senses and drawing awareness to your emotional state with background music and a seductive atmosphere will begin producing endorphins, which, in turn, stimulates more dopamine production.
These two neurochemicals work in tandem, ensuring the experience elicits a powerful, steady stream of pleasurable feelings.
Norepinephrine is then added to the mix, boosting memory, enhancing learning, and sharpening your ability to stay focused. It also has positive effects on your arousal, reward system, mood, and blood pressure. A boost in norepinephrine may also help you temporarily put aside worries and distractions so you can have a more satisfying sexual experience with your partner.
Dopamine and norepinephrine are synthesized in the body by the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine.
Protein-rich foods like red meat, poultry, seafood, and hard cheeses boost your levels of tyrosine, aiding in metabolizing norepinephrine.
Phenylalanine is not made internally by humans, so must be found in our diets. Good sources include dairy products, avocados, nuts, seeds, legumes, leafy vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, some seafood, and some diet beverages.
The one neurotransmitter you need to decrease in order to get the full effect of aphrodisiacs is serotonin, as lower levels of serotonin allow you to hyper-focus on your love.
The primary objective of a meal designed with aphrodisiac foods is to keep your serotonin levels super low.
That means keeping tryptophan — the amino acid famous for its involvement in helping Thanksgiving turkey put people to sleep — out of the scene. If tryptophan hits your system before tyrosine, your mood and internal chemistry will be relaxed and calm, rather than excited and brimming with increased energy.
That means putting down the bread before eating your protein.
Here are 3 categories of aphrodisiacs for men and women who want to increase their libido quickly:
1. Those that engage all five senses
The first category contains those aphrodisiac agents that evoke the full engagement of your senses, enveloping you and your love before the first taste sensations enter your mouth.
It’s how you prepare for and initially engage with your love on your date night — the music you listen to while getting dressed, the thoughts about what your partner would like to see you wear as you choose an outfit, the way you design the environment to evoke romantic feelings with fresh flowers, candles and a playlist of your favorite songs.
These things prompt your endorphins to set the stage for a night of pleasure.
As Dr. Ruth Westheimer says, “When it comes to sex, the most important six inches are the ones between the ears.”
Thus, the first step toward a night of passion begins with mentally preparing yourself to receive the full benefits of aphrodisiac foods by creating a romantic ambiance.
2. Substances, foods, and beverages that give you an instant impact
The second category is what most people think of as aphrodisiacs — substances that immediately increase arousal once they hit your system.
These include alcohol, capsicum (spicy foods), foods and spices with certain smells an individual finds arousing, ginger, ginkgo Biloba, and foods or supplements that give you a super dose of vitamin E — such as spinach, avocados, nuts, sunflower seeds, and squash.
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3. Nutrients that should be in your diet on a regular basis
The third category includes nutrients you should always have available in your system in order to achieve a peak state, such as zinc, vitamin C, iron, iodine, and vitamin E.
It’s true that what’s good for your heart is good for your sex life. A wholesome, balanced diet full of these nutrients helps keep your stress low, your senses engaged, your focus on your love, your blood circulation strong, and your energy and endurance levels high.
Remember that the order in which you consume aphrodisiacs is important.
If you drink alcohol, making a cocktail the first thing to hit your lips will give you an immediate hit of dopamine, which works in partnership with endorphins to solidify the meaning and pleasure you derive from your magical evening. For the ladies, you’ll get an extra dose of testosterone to jump-start your sexual desire, as well.
Your first bite of food should always be protein. This encourages energy, endurance, focus, and strong blood and oxygen circulation throughout your entire body.
A high-protein, low-carbohydrate meal raises your levels of dopamine.
And above all, do not eat carbohydrates or excessive sugars before protein, so try leaving the carbs and sugar for dessert.
Now you’re prepared to get revved up and feel sexy all night long.
Joy Nordenstrom is a relationship coach who helps men and women overcome attachment issues and build healthy relationship skills that foster lasting love.