Food and sex have a long, complicated history together. For years we’ve heard that what we eat can have sexual effects that work on both a psychosomatic level and a physiological level. Supported in part by mythological beliefs and partly by actual science, we have widely accepted that what turns us on could very well start in the kitchen. But did you ever consider that there are foods that could slow your sex drive down to a near screeching halt?
Let’s back up and discuss the basics first. Sexual desires are controlled by what is known as the libido — a fancy word for sex drive. Libido is determined by a number of factors that include sociological, psychological, and hormonal influences. “In both men and women, the hormone testosterone drives much of human libido,” explains Dr. Michael Hirt, founder of the Center for Integrative Medicine in California's San Fernando Valley, who often hands out a list of foods to patients who complain about a lowered sex drive. “Low testosterone means a lower sex drive.”
This is why the idea of aphrodisiacs, foods that stimulate your sex-drive, is a widely accepted — though there is little scientific evidence that such foods can really rev up your sex drive. The theory is that certain edibles can arouse through their smell, taste, and texture (slurping oysters, anyone?), but also that their chemical makeup can allegedly alter hormones in your body. However, the facts behind arousal through food are slightly more complicated. Take, for instance, “aphrodisiac” chocolate:
“Having chocolate on this list often confuses people because of chocolate’s association with romance," says Hirt. "This makes sense because chocolate contains PEA (phenethylamine), a … hormone that rises any time humans feel love. So, while eating chocolate may make you feel like you are in love, consuming too many chocolate kisses could lower testosterone levels, reducing your interest in taking your romance to the next level.”
Hirt adds that “Certain foods can lower testosterone levels. The foods that are most likely to do so include cheese, yogurt, grains (bread, pasta, crackers, rice, cereals), chocolate, and alcohol. These foods lower testosterone by increasing the activity of an enzyme, aromatase, which converts testosterone into estrogen. The overall effect of increased aromatase activity is lower testosterone levels and higher estrogen levels.”
Hirt suggests that if you looking to increase your libido, you should refrain from eating the aforementioned foods more than five times a week to keep testosterone at healthy levels. “This is especially important for men whose aromatase enzyme activity seems more sensitive to food triggers,” he stresses.
To help you make sure your romantic evening isn’t cut short, we rounded up 11 testosterone-suppressing and sensory altering foods and drinks. To help keep the proverbial fires burning, you might want to keep these foods off your date-night menu.
Sure, a cheese plate is the perfect way to start a party or gathering or to end a serious dinner, but guests may not be taking the party back to their place if they loaded up on cheese. If derived from cow’s milk (which could be loaded with synthetic hormones), it could potentially mess with your body’s natural production of hormones, including estrogen and testosterone.
Sure, bad breath is a turn off, but you shouldn’t be turning to mint for a cure, especially if you are male. The menthol in mint lowers testosterone, which in turn depletes your sex drive.
This article was originally published on August 26, 2014.