Erectile dysfunction in younger men is rising, and about 1 in 8 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime — so your sexual health and prostate health may be top of mind.

One unexpected way you can improve your sexual health is — surprisingly — through diet.

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The foods you eat provide the building blocks you need to power your body, including the penis and other sexual organs.

However, instead of eating as if your penis needs special attention, you can fill your day with nutritious whole foods that help your blood deliver the nutrients your penis, prostate, and other sexual organs need to function optimally.

Whether your concern is low testosterone levels, erectile dysfunction, or prostate health, these foods may help boost your sexual health and function.

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Spinach worked for Popeye, and it may help you, too.

Spinach is rich in folate, a known blood flow booster. Folic acid plays a critical role in male sexual function. Low blood folic acid levels have been linked to erectile dysfunction (1).

Cooked spinach contains 77% of the Daily Value (DV) for folate per cup (185 grams), making it one of the most folate-rich foods around. Additionally, spinach contains a fair amount of magnesium, which also helps stimulate blood flow and may boost testosterone levels (2, 3).

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Your morning cup of java may help below the belt, as well.

One study in over 3,000 men noted that those who self-reported the highest daily caffeine intake (85–300 mg per day, equivalent to 1–3 cups or 240–720 ml of coffee) were less likely to report erectile dysfunction than those with the lowest caffeine intake (4).

It’s important to note, however, that these findings were based on self-reporting from the participants, so they may not be completely reliable.

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Apples have some great all-around health benefits, but one of their lesser known advantages pertains to prostate health.

Apple peels, in particular, contain the active compound ursolic acid. One test-tube study has noted that ursolic acid may “starve” prostate cancer cells and prevent them from growing (5).

Note, however, that much more research is needed to fully understand how this effect would translate to apple peels being eaten — rather than ursolic acid being directly applied to cancer cells.

Regardless, some other studies also suggest that men who consume more fruits and vegetables have better odds of beating prostate cancer (6).

If you have prostate cancer, you should follow your trusted health professional’s treatment plan.

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Oddly enough, because of their shape and the fact that they grow in pairs on avocado trees, the Aztecs named avocados after a word meaning “testicles” when they discovered them in 500 B.C.E.

Avocados are rich in vitamin E, which may improve sperm quality in men with infertility. One medium (150 gram) avocado provides 21% of the DV for vitamin E (7, 8).

A medium (150 gram) avocado also provides 9% of the DV for zinc, an essential mineral with roles in sperm quality, testosterone production, and fertility (9, 10).

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Can you handle the heat? One small study found that men who preferred spicier food had higher testosterone levels in their saliva than those that preferred milder flavors (11).

While this doesn’t mean spicy food increases testosterone levels, the chemical capsaicin found in hot peppers may have some bedroom advantages.

Dietary capsaicin intake may stimulate your brain’s pleasure centers, which could potentially improve your mood and provide an aphrodisiac effect. However, most of the research regarding capsaicin and mood has been done in animal studies — so it should be taken with a grain of salt (12).

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Looking to improve your sperm count? Science says to eat more carrots. They’ve long been recommended for male infertility in traditional medicine, as well (13).

This veggie may improve both sperm count and motility (the movement and swimming of sperm) due to its carotenoid content. Carotenoids are the orange-pigmented antioxidants in carrots that provide many of their health benefits (14).

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Oatmeal may not be the first food that comes to mind when you think of sexual health, but it could have some beneficial effects on erectile function.

Oats are considered an aphrodisiac, and they may be beneficial for improving blood flow to the penis. They contain the amino acid L-arginine, which may help treat erectile dysfunction and boost testosterone levels (15, 16).

L-arginine is thought to help blood vessels in the penis relax so that blood flow to the area can increase. However, recent studies suggest that the blood vessel relaxing effects of L-arginine may not be as powerful as they were once thought to be (17).

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Nutrient- and antioxidant-rich tomatoes offer several potential benefits related to male sexual health, fertility, and prostate health.

They contain lycopene, a red-pigmented antioxidant that has been linked to healthier sperm production. In addition, they’re rich in vitamin C, which may be linked to increased sperm concentrations in healthy men (14).

Because of their lycopene content, tomato consumption may also be associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer (15).

Finally, one small study in 44 men with infertility also noted that drinking tomato juice for 12 weeks was associated with healthier semen and increased sperm motility (16).

These eight foods all have some research pointing to their positive effects on male fertility, sexual health, or prostate health, but most of the research is limited.

What’s important to note, though, is that all of these are whole, minimally processed foods.

Dietary patterns that are rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other minimally processed foods — along with adequate protein and healthy fats — have been shown to help reduce erectile dysfunction risk, improve prostate health, and optimize fertility (7, 17, 18).

Looking for more ways to promote prostate or sexual health? Check out our best tips to prevent prostate cancer and advice on improving your sex life.

After all, your health is more than one body part.

Tiffany La Forge is a professional chef, recipe developer, and food writer who runs the blog Parsnips and Pastries. Her blog focuses on real food for a balanced life, seasonal recipes, and approachable health advice. When she’s not in the kitchen, Tiffany enjoys yoga, hiking, traveling, organic gardening, and hanging out with her corgi, Cocoa. Visit her at her blog or on Instagram.