Great sex can do wonders for your relationship and overall health. But stress, low sex drive, hormonal imbalances, and erectile dysfunction can all put a damper on your sex life. Read on to discover how to have better sex by revving up your libido with food and supplements.

What Feeds Your Sex Drive?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that what you eat can impact your performance in the bedroom. For millennia, people have used certain foods and plants to enhance sexual vitality, desire, and pleasure. The best part? Many of these are backed by science.

Pills that Don’t Work

Beware of unfounded marketing claims and unproven pills. Some companies claim that their products will help you last longer in bed. Others promise you’ll instantaneously have the “best sex ever” after trying them out. The truth is that there is no magic sex pill.

Lifestyle & Psychological Factors

Sometimes, losing a few pounds if you’re overweight may do more wonders than any drug or supplement–especially if you have ED [1, 2].

You have also probably felt the shattering effects of stress on your sexual performance at some point in your life. It’s no secret that stress disrupts your sex drive and general wellness. If you lead a stressful lifestyle, don’t think a couple of supplements will do the trick [3].

How you view your sexuality is another big one. Do you have a strong “sexual personality”? Is your partner supportive of your desires? Does your family or environment restrict your sexuality? These are all aspects that will feed or starve your libido. They can have a huge impact on your sexual health [4].

Certain foods and supplements can increase your sex drive and enjoyment. But they can only work along with your overall lifestyle and emotional wellbeing.

With this in mind, let’s jump to proven foods and supplements that do work to support your sexual health. You can try them out alone or in combination.

And remember: speak with your doctor before taking any supplement to rule out interactions with the medications you’ve been prescribed.

Aphrodisiac Foods to Boost Your Sex Drive

1) Oysters

Oysters certainly earn their reputation as an aphrodisiac due to their high zinc content. Per serving, oysters contain more zinc than any other food. Just one ounce of oysters provides more than twice the RDA for zinc [5].

Zinc is an incredibly important mineral for testosterone production and libido in both men and women [6, 7, 8].

The thing is, our bodies don’t have a way of storing zinc so we require it daily in our diet. Eating high-zinc foods like oysters can help ensure that you always have enough zinc to feel and perform your best [6].

If you can’t stand oysters, crab and lobster are fairly good sources of zinc as well [5].

2) Beets

Beets are an exceptional food when it comes to boosting your sex life.

That’s because they are one of the highest dietary sources of nitrates. In the past, nitrates have been unfairly maligned for their potential to form cancer-causing compounds. While the nitrates found in processed meats are the same ones found in beets, their health effects are completely different [9, 10, 11].

Nitrates found in processed meats are more easily turned into cancer-causing compounds due to the presence of heme iron (the type of iron found only in meat) [11].

Antioxidants found in vegetables such as vitamin C prevent nitrate from forming these compounds. Instead, they turn into a molecule called nitric oxide that is incredibly beneficial for your health and may be one of the reasons why vegetables are so good for you [11, 12].

Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow throughout the body, including sex organs. In fact, it’s crucial to getting an erection and maintaining proper vaginal blood flow [13, 14].

Better blood flow means stronger erections and more pleasurable sex. It’s that simple.

Let’s dive into the details of what your body does with the nitrates you eat.

Nitrates from food are absorbed into your bloodstream and eventually make their way to your salivary glands, where they are released into your saliva [15, 16].

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Bacteria on your tongue turn nitrates into nitrites, which you swallow. Nitrites then turn into nitric oxide in the stomach and are absorbed [15, 16].

If you use an antibacterial mouthwash within a couple of hours of eating beets, you’ll interrupt this process and you won’t get the benefits of nitrates [17, 16].

Bottom line? Save the mouthwash for later.

3) Dark Chocolate (Cocoa)

Another food that helps with your blood flow down low is dark chocolate. Compounds in dark chocolate and cocoa called flavanols improve blood vessel health and boost circulation [18].

In one clinical trial, people who ate 30 g of dark chocolate every day for 15 days had more than 50% higher nitric oxide levels than those who were avoiding chocolate [19].

It’s no wonder that dark chocolate is an aphrodisiac [20, 21].

If you want to ensure good blood flow down there, eat some dark chocolate (aim for at least 85% cocoa). Or try adding some cocoa powder to your smoothies.

4) Salmon

Salmon are an excellent source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. And heart health may be one of the keys to performing well in the sheets [22, 23, 24].

For men, healthy erections start with a healthy heart. As we age, our arteries become stiffer (atherosclerosis) and blood doesn’t flow as well. Poor blood flow can eventually lead to erectile dysfunction (ED). In fact, atherosclerosis is the most common cause of ED and not being able to get it up can be an early sign of heart disease [25, 24, 26].

ED is common in older men and can kill any chance at having great sex. More than half of men between the ages of 40 and 70 years have mild to moderate ED [27].

Omega-3s can help protect your arteries and heart to ensure you’re getting proper blood flow to your sexual organs.

5) Garlic

Garlic is usually something you want to avoid in intimate situations. But despite the common advice, adding garlic to your diet can enhance your sex life. Like beets and dark chocolate, garlic is a powerful nitric oxide booster that improves blood flow [28].

It’s also helpful for preventing your arteries from hardening due to plaques – going back to how important a healthy heart is for having great sex [29].

People claim that the active compounds from garlic can reach the semen and vaginal mucus. This would enhance garlic’s aphrodisiac effects – but studies are lacking to back up the anecdotes.

If you’re self-conscious about garlic breath, munch on some apples or lettuce. Both foods can neutralize the compounds responsible for the pungent garlic odors [30].

6) Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds stand out for their high concentrations of zinc and magnesium [31].

Like zinc, magnesium is critical for healthy testosterone levels [32, 33].

It’s also important for heart health and preventing heart disease [34].

According to recent estimates, half the population in the US doesn’t meet their daily magnesium requirements [35].

Couple this with the fact that magnesium is depleted by stress, alcohol, and caffeine and it’s easy to see how one can become deficient in this important mineral [36, 37, 38].

Supplements to Improve Your Libido & Sexual Performance

7) Maca Root

Maca is a plant found high up in the Andes mountains of Peru and locals tout the powerful libido-enhancing benefits of its roots. Inca warriors even consumed the root for strength before going off to battles [39, 40].

Although it doesn’t boost testosterone, multiple studies revealed that maca increases libido in both men and women [41, 42, 43].

Maca extract improved erectile function and sexual well-being in men with mild erectile dysfunction. It also improved sexual dysfunction and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in postmenopausal women [44, 45].

Recommended dose: Use between 1.5 and 3 g of maca powder daily. Make sure to get the gelatinized version as raw maca can cause gut distress.

8) L-citrulline

L-citrulline is an amino acid found in food that your body uses to make nitric oxide. Supplementing with it can greatly boost your nitric oxide levels [46].

Given nitric oxide’s key role in getting and maintaining erections, it’s not surprising that L-citrulline levels are lower in people with erectile dysfunction [47].

In a study of 24 older men with mild ED, L-citrulline increased the hardness of erections and restored normal erectile function in 12 of them. The men also reported having more sex and were satisfied enough to continue taking l-citrulline instead of getting a prescription for Viagra [48].

If beets and dark chocolate aren’t enough, L-citrulline should might get the job done.

Recommended dose: Take between 3g to 6g of L-citrulline an hour before sex.

9) Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris) is a plant traditionally used to boost libido. And science suggests its very effective at this [49].

In multiple trials of both women and men with low sex drive, tribulus significantly improved libido, orgasm, and satisfaction from sex [50, 51, 52, 53].

It’s also effective in improving erections and sexual satisfaction in men with ED caused by low testosterone [54, 55].

If a lack of interest is killing your sex life, you might want to give tribulus a try.

Recommended dose: Take 750 mg of tribulus extract daily. Look for one that contains at least 45% total saponins and 6% protodioscin.

10) Ginseng

Ginseng (Panax ginseng, or Korean ginseng) has long been valued in Chinese traditional medicine for its ability to enhance virility, stimulate desire, and improve sexual dysfunction [56].

According to clinical trials, ginseng substantially improves symptoms of erectile dysfunction in men [57, 58, 59, 60].

Ginseng is also helpful for postmenopausal women.

The dramatic decrease in estrogen during menopause can cause symptoms such as vaginal dryness and low sex drive, which leads to painful and less enjoyable sex [61].

In postmenopausal women, ginseng relieved symptoms of sexual dysfunction and increased libido and sexual satisfaction. It also boosts mood, which is key to sexual health [62, 63, 64].

Recommended dose: Take 1,000 mg of Korean Ginseng 3x daily.

11) Horny Goat Weed

Horny goat weed (Epimedium) is another herb with a long history of use as an aphrodisiac in Chinese traditional medicine that’s backed by science [65].

Legend has it that its name comes from a Chinese goat herder who observed his goats became more sexually active after grazing on the plant [66].

Icariin, the active component of horny goat weed, improves erectile function in old, diabetic, and castrated rats. These effects may be linked to its ability to promote blood flow throughout the body [67, 68, 69].

Cell studies hint that icariin may work similarly to Viagra, helping dilate blood vessels in the penis [70].

Icariin also increases testosterone in rats. Although this effect has not been studied in humans, it suggests that horny goat weed’s aphrodisiac properties may be due to its ability to stimulate testosterone production [71, 72].

In a study of 22 people with chronic kidney disease, an extract of horny goat weed improved sex drive and quality of life [73].

Icariin also reduces symptoms of depression, a major libido-killer [74].

Recommended dose: You can supplement horny goat weed extract in liquid or pill form. Make sure to get an extract that contains a specified amount of icariin. Horny goat weed may interact with a number of over-the-counter and prescription medications, so be sure to consult your doctor before supplementing.

12) Tongkat Ali

Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) is renowned for its ability to enhance libido and sexual performance, earning it the name “Malaysia’s home-grown Viagra [75]

In clinical trials, Tongkat ali greatly increased hardness and duration of erections and boosted libido in men. Unsurprisingly, the men also reported increases in well-being and happiness [76, 77].

It also reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increased testosterone levels by 37% in stressed adults [78].

Next time you’re not in the mood because you’re too stressed, see if Tongkat ali can switch things up for you.

Recommended dose: Take between 200 mg and 400 mg daily of Tongkat ali extract. It may reduce the absorption of beta blockers drug so speak to a doctor before supplementing.

Takeaway

If you want to have better sex, add more aphrodisiac foods to your diet. Oysters, beets, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, and salmon can all increase your sex drive. Don’t skip garlic – unless your partner hates its aroma – as it can increase blood flow to your sexual organs. 

Plenty of supplements can also enhance your sexual performance and satisfaction. Maca is great for increasing libido in both men and women, while tongkat is touted for its Viagra-like effects in men. Other proven sex-drive boosters include L-citrulline, tribulus, ginseng, and horny goat weed. 

Lastly, keep in mind that these will only help if you also address the lifestyle and psychological factors affecting your libido and sexual satisfaction.

About the Author

Will Hunter

BA (Psychology)
Will received his BA in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. 
Will's main passion is learning how to optimize physical and mental performance through diet, supplement, and lifestyle interventions. He focuses on systems thinking to leverage technology and information and help you get the most out of your body and brain.

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