The Nutrition-Libido Connection

man and woman kissing

A recent study in the British Medical Journal found half the women and nearly two-thirds of the men surveyed wanted more sex.

In my Charlotte sex therapy practice, I hear many reasons for couples having less sex: anxiety, stress, vaginal dryness after menopause, and sexual pain disorders among them.

As it relates to stress, diet may also be a factor:

  1. Anxiety and stress lead us to reach for foods high in fat, salt, sugar and refined carbs. These encourage fat storage, which can cause the endocrine system to produce oestriol, a hormone that reduces libido.
  2. Stress also depletes magnesium, a contributor to libido.
  3. Some of us eat too much when we are stressed, which leads us to feel bad about our bodies and not want our partners to see us naked.
  4. Others exercise or diet to excess when we are stress, making it difficult for our bodies to produce sex hormones from fat stores.

It’s a delicate balance.

Wider Links

A number of foods encourage the production of dopamine, which improves sexual motivation, erectile function and genital reflexes:

  1. Fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly blueberries, avocados and asparagus
  2. Nuts, seeds and leafy vegetables, which are magnesium-rich; spinach is especially beneficial. It also has iron, which can help desire, arousal, orgasm and sexual satisfaction, particularly in women.

Foods with flavonoids, such as high-cocoa chocolate, tea, red wine and berries, cherries, grapes, apples, pears and citrus fruits can improve erectile function.

The vitamin E in nuts, oils, seeds and vegetables has been shown to improve erectile function in only six weeks, when combined with ginseng.

Pomegranate juice can boost your mood, improve your blood flow, and raise your testosterone levels.

Watermelon contains an amino acid called citrulline, which the body turns into arginine, another amino acid that helps relax blood vessels.

Good nutrition overall can result in:

  • Better sexual function
  • Better overall health
  • A stronger sex drive
  • Better hormonal balancing
  • Improved fertility
  • A healthier weight

Chocolate Good; Nicotine, Alcohol and Red Meat Bad

Chocolate releases feel-good serotonin and has methylxanthines, which activate the libido. Nicotine promotes the formation of artery-clogging plaque in the penis’ blood vessels and constricts them.

Alcohol lowers inhibitions and makes you feel liberated, but it’s also a depressant (except tequila). Alcohol can throw women’s estrogen levels off balance. For men, it can lead to temporary impotence.

Meat cuts high in saturated fat can hurt circulation and slow blood flow to your sex organs.

Hormones and Nerves
Balanced hormones and optimal nerve function are necessary for sexual performance. A proper diet helps. A diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes will improve your sexual health, function and appetite. You may also experience weight loss and more stable moods.

Food for Fertility

Good nutrition practices help you maintain a healthy weight, which is important if you want to have children. Obesity has a negative influence on fertility, especially in men.

Natural ways to improve fertility include a diet of:

  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Low carbs
  • Low glycemic index foods
  • Antioxidants
  • Vegetable proteins
  • Skim milk (for men)
  • Whole milk (for women)

If you’re trying to get pregnant, add foods high in folic acid and vitamin C, such as oranges, kiwis, tomatoes and broccoli. Avoid fish, ice cream, meat and alcohol.

Foods rich in zinc, vitamin E and omega-3, including nuts, beans, shellfish, green vegetables, seeds and seafood can optimize sperm production.

Zinc in particular is thought to help produce fast-moving sperm. Oysters, beef, pork, fortified cereal, pumpkin seeds, cashews and yogurt are all high in zinc.