Can Food Make You Fall in Love? September 25, 2012

It’s true: certain meals are scientifically proven to jump-start a chemistry-based connection. Here’s what to eat on your next date!

By Elise Nersesian


If you’re looking to add a sexy spark to dates (and who isn’t?), the key to more romance may lie closer than you think — in the food you eat that evening. No, we don’t mean aphrodisiacs; those foods that are rumored to magically turn you into sex-starved maniacs are total wives’ tales. Still, certain foods canhave a subtle yet significant impact on how amorous you’re feeling, says Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a renowned biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, author of Why We Love, and chief scientific advisor to So whether you’re dining out at a candlelit restaurant or making something at home, make sure some of the selections below are on the list, and you may very well find yourself (and your date) getting cozy in no time. 

Start off with a cheese plate, and it may get you canoodling. That’s because cheese is loaded with zinc, which can help boost your sex drive by curbing your body’s production of a libido-dampening hormone called prolactin. And according to studies by Alan R. Hirsch, M.D., director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, even the smell of cheese can increase penile blood flow by five percent — ladies, how’s that for getting a rise out of a guy?


Pomegranate juice
There’s a reason this exotic fruit drink became such a big trend in 2006: it gives your sex life a major kick. Scientists have discovered that pomegranate juice is packed with loads of nutrients such as: a) vitamin E, which improves fertility, b) vitamin A, which increases testosterone and estrogen levels, and c) vitamin C, which boosts levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin, leading to increased sexual desire in both men and women. So indulge in pomegranate martinis, or just feed each other the juicy seeds — their tartness will make you both pucker up in more ways than one.


One roll of the raw stuff packs a quadruple punch: fatty fish like tuna and salmon contains Omega 3 and L-Arginine, two chemical compounds that improve circulation and stimulate alertness and sexual arousal. And kelp (a.k.a., seaweed) is high in iodine, which boosts levels of libido-revving testosterone. Don’t forget to add some wasabi, since its active ingredient, capsaicin, causes changes in the body (flushing, sweating, increased heart rate) that mimic sexual arousal and can cause people to project those fiery feelings onto individuals around them (like you). Dipping your fish in soy sauce has a blissful benefit too, since it contains a chemical that ups levels of estrogen in women.


This famed aphrodisiac almost lives up to its reputation: according to experts, these little sea creatures are loaded with zinc and other minerals that are crucial for the body’s production of sex hormones (and where would our love lives be without hormones?).


Sure, caffeine provides a serious jolt of energy. But did you know that your afternoon latte has some other, um, perks, too? Not only does java keep your mind and body alert, it also heightens sensations. A new study conducted at Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX, says that women who drink coffee have higher libidos and are more sexually active than those who don’t down caffeine. Next stop: Starbucks!


There’s a reason why this stuff is universally loved. According to legend, Emperor Montezuma drank 50 cups of chocolate every day to boost his virility before visiting his harem of 600 women. And history’s most famous lover, Giacomo Casanova, reportedly indulged on a daily basis. The sweet stuff contains a compound called methylxanthine, which stimulates the transmission of nerve impulses, and releases dopamine into the center of the brain that’s associated with sexual pleasure. Plus, eating just one square generates high levels of serotonin, which induces relaxation. Snuggle up with cups of steaming hot chocolate, or just savor a few pieces to cash in on their erotic effects.


Pumpkin seeds
This salty snack is also loaded with zinc, which kicks up testosterone levels and contains a mood-boosting amino acid called tyrosine that’s been known to relieve anxiety, making you feel less inhibited. Here’s a reason why you should eat the roasted seeds while baking a pumpkin pie: you’ll get a double-dose on the libido-boosting front. Here’s why: According to Hirsch, just the scent of pumpkin pie increases penile blood flow by 40 percent. Remember this at Thanksgiving!


Visiting a swanky wine bar: romantic? Of course! But all that grape-y goodness boosts your sex drive, too. That’s because alcohol contains estradiol, a substance that’s linked to increased libido in women. But if you’re planning on getting it on later, beware: too much alcohol depresses your nervous system and can make your libido flatline fast, so moderation is the way to go.


This salty delicacy is rich in magnesium — essential for balancing sex-hormone levels, sexual stamina, and skin sensitivity. So splurge on this treat when you can. Don’t fancy fish eggs? You can achieve a similar benefit by eating a leafy green salad sprinkled with almonds.


Nope, it’s not exactly what you think of when you hear the word romance, but soy has some surprising benefits. Tofu binds to estrogen receptors, which encourage female sexual response, and combats symptoms of menopause — particularly hot flashes. Studies also show that soy is beneficial to the prostate, a crucial male sex organ. Hit up a vegan restaurant or chow down on edamame (soy beans) when out at a Japanese restaurant to reap the benefits.


This sugary spread has a romantic history: many medicines in Egyptian times were made from honey, including cures for sterility and impotence. And medieval men gave their brides a honey-based fermented drink, believed to sweeten the marriage. What was all the fuss about? The sticky stuff contains boron, a mineral that helps metabolize estrogen and boost testosterone levels. Drizzle some in your tea (or hey, on each other) and you’ll see what we mean!


Elise Nersesian has written for Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and other publications. 

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