Last year UK citizens spent an estimated £391 million dining out on Valentine’s Day. And it’s little wonder that a romantic dinner a deux is the go-to for celebrating 14 February – as humans we’re hardwired to love food, and dining has long been considered a ritual bonding activity that brings us closer together.
So if you’re planning a Valentine’s meal this year why not really go for it and make sure aphrodisiacs are on the menu? Taking their name from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and passion, aphrodisiacs arouse sexual desire and are said to improve romance, fertility, and promote healthy reproductive organs. What’s not to like?
Here’s our 14-strong list of foods that might just help enhance your romance this Valentine’s Day…
It was deemed “nourishment of the gods” by the Aztecs, and in its pure form of raw cacao contains more antioxidants than green tea or red wine. Dark chocolate is deemed to be an aphrodisiac because it contains phenylethylamine, which elicits feelings of excitement and wellbeing, and anandamide, which boosts serotonin levels – just make sure that the cacao content is 70% or more.
Popular in ayurvedic medicine, fenugreek is poised to be an upcoming trend in the food world, due to its anti-inflammatory, libido boosting effects. It’s also shown to contain compounds that the body utilises to create the sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone. Fenugreek is widely used in curries, but the leaves can be used to add flavour to food, or the seeds can be added to salads.
Yes we all know this one, and legend has it that Casanova – the world’s most famous lover – ate 50 oysters for breakfast every day to boost his libido and maintain his stamina. Fables aside, oysters do contain zinc, which helps to regulate sex hormones and improve dopamine levels which in turn could boost your libido.
Thought to stimulate the pituitary gland which is vital for releasing sex hormones, celery also contains phyto-androgens, substances produced in plants that have similar effects to testosterone. Celery is also believed to increase the pheromone levels in a man’s sweat – which can make him more attractive to women. Time to stock up boys.
The ancient Greeks valued Figs more than precious gold, and many cultures associate them with fertility. Figs contain high concentration of antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols, which are said to lead to feelings of relaxation and well-being.
We know what you’re thinking – how can garlic be an aphrodisiac, but some experts believe it’s actually a very powerful one – though it has to be consumed for a month to reap the benefits. Garlic contains allicin, a compound which aids blood flow, ensuring it reaches the body’s sex organs.
This is a vegetable incredibly rich in magnesium, making it a natural relaxant. Additionally, it’s full of iron, folate, zinc, vitamin b, and nutrients – all things that work to keep you healthy and happy.
Since the first century AD, arugula – or rocket – has been praised for its libido boosting properties. It was even granted fertility god status among the ancient Romans. Full of vitamins and minerals, you can just about put it in anything – salads, smoothies and soups.
One of the few aphrodisiacs that has actually been backed by science, several studies have reported* that participants experienced enhanced sexual desire after they consumed maca. It also contains flavonoids which are thought to improve mood and reduce anxiety.
Watermelon is considered an aphrodisiac because it contains the amino acid citrulline which is said to relax blood vessels that stimulate the sex drive. It’s also one of the least stodgy dessert options, and will leave you feeling light and airy rather than heavy and bloated.
Dubbed the “love apple”, pomegranate has many nutritional properties. Incredibly high in antioxidants, it also prompts an increase in testosterone levels to help stimulate sexual appetite and improve mood, reduce stress and increase memory – all factors that add together for a night to remember.
Bursting with calcium, potassium and magnesium, coconut water packs a powerful punch of minerals, helps to balance PH levels within the body and raise its energy levels. Much needed for a night of passion, and it also contains the same number of electrolytes as human blood!
Aside from the obvious… red wine contains resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant which helps decrease inflammation and gets the blood pumping to all regions of the body. The Journal of Sexual Medicine also found that 2 glasses of wine (and yes specifically, 2) increased sexual desire in women. Bottoms up!
Your morning caffeine fix won’t just wake you up and make you feel alert, it helps increase stamina and elevate mood, raising dopamine levels in the brain which ultimately increase desire and pleasure.
Top tip: For the ultimate aphrodisiac drink – combine a teaspoon each of coffee, maca, cocoa and blend with some coconut milk. Happy Valentine’s Day!