Surely, it was noted to me, they are definite ways to increase the sex drive.
Well, I didn’t talk about foods that might increase the sex drive because the jury is still out on that one.
And that’s because most anyone claiming to know what foods are or aren’t aphrodisiacs, from avocados to zebra tongue, acknowledge that it’s all highly subjective. As Dr. Ruth has famously put it, “the most important sex organ lies between the ears.”
But let’s look at a few anyway.
Chili peppers, for example, quicken the pulse and induce sweating, mimicking the state of sexual arousal, as well as stimulating the release of endorphins, which play a role in sexual pleasure.
Chocolate appears to be highly exaggerated in its abilities. It does contain some chemicals like phenylethylamine, which produce feelings of euphoria. Yet one widely cited study showed that a 130-pound person would have to eat 25 pounds of chocolate in one sitting to significantly alter the mood. And who would be in the mood after eating 19.2 percent of their weight in chocolate?
The scent of doughnuts, on the other hand, have some potential to heighten male sexual response, but only paired with licorice, according to one study. And of course, like chocolate, how many licorice-enhanced doughnuts do you want to eat?
In this same study, female sexual response was heightened by the scent of baby powder and also the combination of Good & Plenty candy with cucumber. Coming in second place in the study was a combination of Good & Plenty and banana nut bread.
This same study also found that the aroma of cherries caused a sharp drop in excitation among women, as did the smell of meat cooked over charcoal.
So ladies, next time you’re barbecuing your meat, make sure you’re also not eating cherries. That would be a double whammy.
Culture and tradition play an important part. Certain foods with aphrodisiac status, like basil, rosemary, saffron, honey, grapes and pine nuts, were coveted for their great libidinal powers by ancient Greeks and Romans and medieval Europeans.
Others, like figs, asparagus and cucumbers, have long been seen as erotic because of their resemblance to the male and female sex organs.
Some ingredients are considered sensual by virtue of how they are eaten, for example, “sharing food from a common platter,” as Dr. Meryl Rosofsky, a doctor and adjunct professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, wrote in an entry on aphrodisiacs in the “Encyclopedia of Food and Culture” (Scribner, 2002), or, in the case of oysters, “sucking and slurping seductively.”
Oysters also are considered aphrodisiacs because they contain zinc, which is linked to increased sperm production. However, a zinc-deficient person would have to chow down enormous quantities of oysters before he noticed a difference.
And according to Dr. Rosofsky, garlic contains an amino acid that enhances blood flow and could augment erections.
One thing researchers have found to be an absolute is the strong links between scent, emotion and sexual attraction. Smell can induce emotion that then triggers neurochemical changes. Of all the senses, it is the only one that bypasses the conscious parts of the brain and goes directly to the limbic system, the region responsible for basic memory, motivation and emotion.
Amy Reiley, the author of a recipe book structured like “The Joy of Sex,“ suggests that restaurants wanting to serve truly carnal cuisine go with guacamole, not only because avocados have long been considered aphrodisiacs.
“Guacamole, in the ways it is typically served, offers a silky foil to crunchy chips, a cool, slippery and sexy topping for spicy burritos and tamale pies.”
She also likes to use lots of saffron, mint and vanilla, all ingredients she considers aphrodisiacs, and, of course, chili pepper.
And then there’s alchohol, and especially that most sensuous of drinks, wine.
But as Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth, alcohol “provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.”