Food and Sex: Healthy Eating for a Healthy Relationship and Sex Life

Written by Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N | Published on July 22, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD on July 22, 2014

Food and Sex: Healthy Eating for a Healthy Sex Life

While much of the lore surrounding the desire-and-performance-enhancing effects of certain foods is anecdotal, a good diet can boost libido and ensure that the equipment is working well, so to speak. A poor diet contributes to a host of health issues, which can often find their way into the bedroom. For example, erectile dysfunction is often linked to obesity and/or diabetes, both conditions that are often linked to poor diet.

Changing your eating habits and behaviors may not be a cure-all for sexual issues, but it’s a good place to start. Food is an important part of everyday life, so it only makes sense that a person’s eating habits can affect their sex life.

Behavioral Changes

Eat Together

In a very real sense, the brain is the most important sex organ. Sex begins with affection, intimacy, and desire. Mealtime is a great time to unwind with your partner and build intimacy in a relaxed, pleasurable setting.

Resolve Food Conflicts

It may be helpful for couples to build intimacy and trust by discussing any personal issues surrounding each partner’s relationship with food. Examples of potential conflicts include:

  • vegetarian vs. omnivore
  • cultural differences
  • religious dietary restrictions
  • picky vs. adventurous
  • one person may be an obsessive dieter

Support

Always be supportive of a partner’s weight-loss journey. Body weight is tied to self-esteem and body image for most people. If you are aware that your partner is an emotional eater, offer your support. Criticizing or looking over your partner’s shoulder while they are eating will not foster good feelings when eating together. Be supportive, not destructive.

Healthy Diet

Fueling the body with the right kinds of food has been linked to better mood and greater energy. Omega-3s improve heart health, and may reduce the risk of depression (which is often linked to the loss of sexual desire) by increasing dopamine production, and may have a positive impact on libido. A consistently healthy diet may help maintain a better mood to support a healthy relationship.

Arginine

This amino acid is used by the body to make nitric oxide, an important chemical involved in helping blood vessels relax, which correlates with better blood flow. Better blood flow to the erectile tissues, especially the erectile tissues in the penis, correlates with better, more sustainable erections capable of penetrating the vagina. Studies suggest that supplemental L-arginine does little, however, to improve erection, because it is broken down in the intestines before reaching the bloodstream. It may be more helpful, therefore, to supplement with L-citrulline, another amino acid. L-citrulline is converted to arginine in the body, after absorption into the circulation. L-citrulline is found in foods such as watermelon. Arginine is found in foods such as

  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • fish
  • whey
  • fruits
  • leafy vegetables

Zinc

Although the link between zinc and sexual health is not completely understood, it is known that this mineral is interrelated with the body’s production of testosterone, and is necessary for development of sperm/semen in men. Adequate zinc may boost male fertility. Zinc and other nutrients, such as folate, may also impact female fertility. Traditionally, oysters have been viewed as aphrodisiacs, capable of kindling sexual desire. There may be something to this myth—oysters are nature’s richest source of this essential element.

What to Avoid

Being Overweight or Obese

Obesity has been linked to lower fertility. It may also damage self-esteem, which can affect libido and the desire to be intimate.

High Blood Pressure

Excess sodium can increase blood pressure and limit blood flow. High blood pressure has negative sexual effects for both men and women: It can lead to erectile dysfunction in men, and reduce blood flow to the vagina in women. Certain blood pressure medications can cause undesired sexual side effects. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any negative side effects; an alternative medication may be available.

High Cholesterol

A diet high in saturated fat and/or trans fats can increase “bad” LDL cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol may lead to buildup of plaque in arteries, which can limit blood flow and contribute to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of most heart disease.

Alcohol

While drinking alcohol may lower inhibitions and increase the likelihood that you will engage in sexual activity, it can also cause acute or chronic erectile dysfunction. Sex during alcohol use also increases the chances that you will fail to use proper precautions against the transmission of sexually transmitted infections. Out-of-control drinking can also negatively affect relationships and behavior. Do not rely on alcohol to improve your sex life.

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