By: Noelle Harada, Columnist
Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is upon us. For many people, Valentine’s Day is about three things: love, sex and food. For centuries, humans have believed in the power of food to improve their sex lives. Foods, drinks, or drugs that supposedly arouse sexual desire are known as aphrodisiacs. Aphrodisiacs differ throughout cultures and have evolved throughout history, but the thought processes behind these powerful foods are quite similar. Aphrodisiacs are typically smooth, rich, creamy, exotic or spicy foods, and they can be grouped into multiple categories.
Foods that create “heat” in the body are thought to “heat” up passion. Foods such as ginger and chili peppers fall into this category. Ginger has been used for centuries in Eastern cultures as an aphrodisiac. In India, ginger is often mixed with eggs and honey as a treatment for impotence — it supposedly improves blood flow to the limbs and the loin. Another spicy aphrodisiac, the chili pepper, stimulates endorphins, speeds up heart rate and makes you sweat. These symptoms mimic the feeling of arousal. The red color is also a symbol of fiery love and passion.
The next category of aphrodisiacs include foods that look like sexual organs. This group includes avocados, figs and bananas. Although the initial belief stems from their shape, there is science behind the suspicions. Avocados contain high levels of Vitamin E, which is essential to the production of sex hormones. This aphrodisiac goes back to the 15th Century — when the Aztecs called the avocado tree the “Ahuacuatl,” which translates to “testicle tree.” This makes sense because the avocados hang low on the tree in pairs. Figs represent fertility, and the leaves represent modesty. These fruits contain potassium and antioxidants needed for sexual health. Besides the obvious phallic shape, bananas offer similar nutritional attributes. The potassium and B vitamins elevate energy levels needed for sex.
The third category consists of foods that are exotic — and therefore erotic. Oysters and chocolate fall into this category. There is an extensive history behind the aphrodisiac properties of oysters. Oysters have long been considered luxurious. Their smell has been described as similar to a female pheromone, and they contain nutrients that increase libido. Oysters contain zinc, a key nutrient for testosterone production (which increases libido in both men and women).
Another luxury item, chocolate, has an aphrodisiac reputation dating back to the Mayans who supposedly used cacao beans to pay for prostitutes. Fast forward to modern times, and chocolate remains a known aphrodisiac. In the late 20th Century, researchers discovered that chocolate releases phenylethylamine (PEA), the same hormone as sex, into the body. This effect, however, is too small to actually be noticeable, and you would have to consume a lot of chocolate to feel the effects. Also, chocolate may spike dopamine levels to induce feelings of pleasure. Again, you’d have to eat about 25 pounds of chocolate in a sitting to really feel the effects.
Although some science backs up the validity of aphrodisiacs, the power of these foods is not promising. You would have to eat a lot of oysters or chocolate to experience any real effects. The power of aphrodisiacs is more of a placebo. So, if you and your partner share a romantic night with a platter of chocolate covered strawberries and oysters — and you both believe in the power of aphrodisiacs — then you are more likely to jolt your sex drive. If nothing else, you will have a fun night eating food and enjoying each other’s company, which will brighten the mood and improve your chances in the bedroom.