From the stigmata of the crocus flower, saffron has a long history of use as an aphrodisiac, and modern studies support its benefits. In one study, women who suffered from lower libido as a result of taking antidepressants showed increased arousal and lubrication, decreased pain, and improvement in sexual function after taking saffron. In another study, men who took 200 mg per day of saffron for 10 days also had improvements in symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED).
Try this: Crumble saffron into tomato sauce; steep it in warm water and drink with honey; add a generous pinch of saffron threads to a pint jar of olive oil and allow to infuse for five days.
Because they resemble female genitals, oysters (as well as mussels and clams) have long been considered aphrodisiacs. And there’s truth behind the legend: oysters are the richest dietary source of zinc, necessary for healthy testosterone levels. And increased zinc has been shown to improve sexual performance. Zinc also inhibits the body’s production of prolactin, a compound that contributes to decreased libido.
Try this: Dredge oysters in bread crumbs and fry until golden, then serve over arugula with hot sauce; top oysters in the shell with a mixture of puréed garlic, spinach, onions, butter, breadcrumbs, and anise-flavored liquor, then sprinkle with shredded Parmesan, and broil; simmer oysters in fish stock, white wine, tarragon, and shallots, then serve with lemon aioli.
Tuna is loaded with omega-3 fats, which have been shown to increase levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases sexual motivation and performance. It’s also a great food source of vitamin B, which has been linked with decreased risk of ED.
Try this: Mix canned tuna with mayonnaise, Sriracha, black sesame seeds, and cilantro; grill tuna steaks, then thinly slice on the diagonal and serve on a bed of greens with olives, green beans, hard-boiled eggs, and tomato wedges; toss raw sushi-grade (or cooked) tuna with cubes of avocado, baby spinach, and a dressing of mirin, ginger, lime, sesame oil, and tamari.
It’s a rich source of phenylethylamine (PEA), a compound that triggers the release of endorphins and can stimulate sexual desire. In one study, women who ate dark chocolate on a regular basis enjoyed and desired sex more than those who did not. It’s also high in magnesium, which can reduce the body's levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), a compound that suppresses testosterone. Because chocolate also increases levels of mood-boosting serotonin, it can reduce stress and make you more amorous.
Try this: Stir cocoa powder and honey into plain almond or peanut butter, and spread on apples; purée bananas, coconut milk, and bittersweet chocolate until smooth, then freeze in an ice cream maker; blend cocoa powder with chickpeas, coconut oil, and honey for an edgy chocolate dessert hummus.
A centuries-old symbol of romance and passion, pomegranates were traditionally associated with fertility. (In classical mythology, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, planted the first pomegranate tree.) Modern studies show that pomegranates are rich in antioxidants that support blood flow and can improve ED. One study also found that pomegranate juice lowered cortisol levels, linked with increased testosterone in both women and men.
Try this: Toast flatbread, then top with ricotta cheese, minced parsley, and pomegranate seeds; combine pomegranate juice with sparkling water, and add a sprig of rosemary; toss pomegranate seeds with cubes of cooked butternut squash, pistachios, and crumbled goat cheese.
6. Red Wine
It contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that can treat ED and improve sexual function in men. Studies show that red wine can also enhance sexual function in women; in one, women who drank one or two glasses of wine per day had increased desire, lubrication, and overall sexual function than teetotalers or women who drank more than two glasses a day.
Try this: Mix red wine with grape juice for a lower-alcohol drink with the same benefits; combine red wine with rosemary, orange juice, and orange zest for an easy marinade; simmer tomatoes, onions, garlic, and red wine, purée until smooth, and stir in capers and chopped olives.
Romancing the Truffles
Try our Trio of Truffles Recipes, the perfect accompaniment to a romantic evening. Choose from Saffron Truffles, Pomegranate Truffles, and Red Wine Truffle—or make all three!