Let’s get something straight: Eating certain foods probably won’t spice up your sex life overnight. When it comes to sex, most experts agree it’s what in your head—not what’s on your plate—that counts most. “Sexual performance is more about body confidence than nutrition,” says Jessica Crandall, R.D., a certified diabetes educator and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Still, a healthy diet can do lots of good things—like improving blood flow, increasing energy and sexual stamina, lifting mood and even boosting a limping libido—all of which can add up to better adventures in the bedroom. Crandall helped us narrow down the top foods most likely to help the sparks fly, plus a few that can douse them in nothing flat. Just for fun, we’ve even included some tasty recipes to help get you in the mood. The rest is up to you.
Those frisky ancient Greeks and Romans may have been on to something. Long touted as an aphrodisiac, oysters—the “food of the gods”—are high in zinc, which is linked to higher sperm counts, according to several studies. Bonus: Slurping them down can feel sexy—especially when you share them.
Recipe to Try: Oysters on the Half Shell with Hog Wash
2. Dark chocolate
You probably know dark chocolate, with its high dose of antioxidants, has lots of heart-healthy benefits. But it can help get things pumping in the bedroom, too. Its flavanols help boost blood flow, which in turn heightens sensation, so you feel tingly in all the right places. For men, that may help improve erectile dysfunction, or ED. Look for dark chocolate made with at least 60 percent cacao, says Crandall. But go easy. “You just need one ounce, or one square—not a whole chocolate lava cake,” she says.
Recipe to Try: Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries (Bonus: strawberries are loaded with vitamin C, which also boosts circulation.)
They may not seem sexy, but don’t underestimate them. Beets are packed with potassium, another nutrient that helps with blood flow. Fun fact: Their rosy hue may help in the romance department, too: some research suggests men are attracted to red.
Recipe to Try: Beet & Goat Cheese Tartines
4. Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, cashews and peanuts are all high in magnesium, which can help boost energy and circulation. Pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas) are tiny but mighty: they’re rich in magnesium, potassium and zinc, so they’re great for improving blood flow. Crandall notes that some research says they may boost testosterone levels as well. “Studies about that are limited,” she cautions. “But they’re a healthy snack, so it’s not harmful to eat them—and they may be helpful.”
Try Almonds in Pear-Almond Crostata
It’s a no-brainer that the caffeine in a cup of joe may help you feel perkier in the bedroom. “But too much can make you jittery and get in the way of sexual performance,” Crandall says. It’s also dehydrating, which can lead to fatigue, dryness, and other problems. Stick to one to three cups throughout the day, she suggests.
The summer refresher is naturally hydrating, which can help boost a lagging libido. A good source of potassium, it can help with circulation too.
Full of unsaturated fat and vitamin E, avocados help provide the healthy oils you need to keep things “down there” running smoothly. “If you aren’t getting enough fat, then typically your skin is drier, your hair and nails are more brittle, and well, other parts are drier, too,” Crandall explains.
Foods to Limit for a Better Time in the Bedroom
We’ll admit, this is a tricky one. While a glass of wine at dinner may help break down inhibitions and put you more at ease, too much can spoil the mood. “Have just one drink, and stick to that,” Crandall says.
2. Spicy or Gassy Foods
Got a romantic date night? Nix the bean tacos and hot salsa. It only makes sense that you don’t want a bad case of indigestion—or the toots—to ruin a magic moment. “If you don’t feel comfortable, or if you’ve eaten too much, you won’t feel like engaging,” Crandall says.
It all goes back to feeling confident in your own skin—and eating clean, healthy foods can help, Crandall says. “Eating healthy boosts your energy and confidence, because you know you’re making the right decisions,” she says. “You feel more empowered to embrace yourself. And someone else.”