I have been married for more than a year — and I’m now definitely post-honeymoon. That is why when my editor suggested, for our annual Get Fit section, I write a story about food that is good for something, I took an unorthodox approach. She suggested food that was good for the brain, for the heart, for the bones. I decided to find out what foods were good for the libido.
Just as for any story, I knew I would have to do some preliminary research. But as I typed “sex + food” into the Google search bar on my work computer I was a little nervous. What was going to pop up and, if it was bad, say, seven midgets frolicking in maple syrup bad, how could I pin it on co-worker Jeff Mucciarone?
Much to my relief the results were pretty tame. There were many familiar websites offering advice, like menshealth.com, webmd.com, even cosmopolitan.com. But, as one of those ancient Roman poets used to say: Fortune favors the bold. So I clicked on thefrisky.com.
Deciding on a more conservative track, I checked out health.com. This site had a wholesome photo of a husband kissing his wife in front of a cutting board covered in vegetables. This seemed more my speed. The title of the article was “Enough about oysters, already!” It went on to suggest several aphrodisiacs including avocados, arugula (now we know why then-candidate Obama was so outraged it was becoming more expensive), strawberries, citrus and almonds. Well, that seems nuts. My wife eats all of those things, minus arugula, and yet here I am.
It was time I took matters into my own hands and heeded the words of askmen.com, “Oysters are high in zinc, which raises sperm and testosterone production. Oysters also contain dopamine, a hormone known to increase libido.” I went to the grocery store and bought a ton of oysters. At home I lit some candles, cranked some Michael Bublé and prepared to shuck (you shuck oysters, come on guys). When my wife arrived I learned a valuable lesson: she hates shellfish and may, in fact, be allergic. Askmen.com had not prepared me for that. Insensitive jerks who try to kill their wives with oysters sleep on the couch. Strike one.
I considered a visit to Forbidden Fruit, the, ahem, adult entertainment shop in Manchester, but walking into that shop at 3 in the afternoon on a work day takes some guts and I don’t usually have any. Eventually I gave up on the idea. Strike two.
It was time to seek out the experts. I began contacting marriage counselors who specialized in sex therapy, nutritionists, human sexuality professors and the New Hampshire Dietetic Association. I even tried contacting, via Twitter, notorious adult film star and former Charlie Sheen goddess Bree Olson. While I didn’t really expect to hear back from Olson — this was probably better for my marriage — I did expect to hear from these local experts. As it turns out, it seems I touched on an oddly taboo subject. My e-mails and phone calls were swallowed up by the universe. But at the eleventh hour I heard from Dr. Laura Riley Jones, a naturopathic doctor in Concord. Dr. Jones cleared up all misconceptions about what foods were good for the libido. Turns out — surprise, surprise — there is no magical potion.
“I am sorry to say that in my clinical experience, I have not found foods that have any significant impact on increasing my patients’ libido,” Dr. Jones wrote via e-mail. “There are several claims that foods can in fact do this and from a biochemical or hormonal standpoint I can understand how foods should be able to have a positive impact here. However, healthy libido is best attained and maintained in a healthy body that has everything it needs; proper diet, exercise, adequate sleep, balanced stressors and healthy relationships. All factors are equally important in a healthy libido.”
Jones went on to explain that cortisol, a stress hormone produced by our adrenal glands, and sex hormones share a precursor hormone of which there is only a limited amount available. Since cortisol is needed to avoid danger and maintain our survival it takes precedence, leaving little chance for the sex hormones to thrive. The increasingly high-paced and stressful nature of our culture, in Jones’s opinion, is leading to growing rates of low libido, fatigue, moodiness, sleeplessness, infertility and weight gain.
So the less stress the better. If all things are equal and stress isn’t hogging all of those precursor hormones then Jones did say eating certain foods might — might — increase the libido. She suggested eggs, dark chocolate and nuts.
“Nuts in general (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans) are high in fatty acids which are used in the production of sex hormones,” according to Jones. Just make sure there are no nut allergies involved.
It should also be noted that fruits, vegetables and sea creatures are no substitutes for love.
“Also, one should not underestimate the power of a healthy, loving relationship for improving libido,” Jones said. “This is particularly true for women but can also apply to men. For women, feeling loved, cared for and important in her lover’s life can drastically improve her desire to be intimate.”
And, when times get desperate, there is one last recommendation: pop in the Troy DVD. Three words: shirtless Brad Pitt. Although I have no scientific proof to validate this theory. Just experience.