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Aphrodisiacs . . . real or wishful thinking?

What Makes Aphrodisiacs so . . . well. . . darn sexy?

Mmm, just imagine, the rich creamy sensation coating your entire mouth, trickling down the back of your throat, and warming your welcoming belly. Chocolate. Doesn’t the word alone just make your toes curl? (In case you didn’t know), chocolate is considered one of the premier aphrodisiacs. The question is why? To answer that question we have to first broach the mystery of what an aphrodisiac is. To some it’s a dirty eleven letter word. To others it’s something that adds a little spice to their sex lives. And to others still, the belief is that an aphrodisiac is nothing more than a marketing strategy used to sell dozens of roses, pounds of chocolates, and bushels of oysters each year.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, “an aphrodisiac is defined as an agent (as a food or drug) that arouses or is held to arouse sexual desire; something that excites”. I know of several people who could care less about the definition, just so long as it does what is does. So this begs the question, what makes aphrodisiacs so, well, darn sexy?

Is it sexy just because it’s supposed to be sexy, or are there some honest to goodness reasons why aphrodisiacs like chocolate, oysters, strawberries, and roses put us in the mood? Maybe it’s the smell, the taste, or the appearance, of these foods or drugs that excites us and gets our motor running. According to Discovery Heath: Dissecting Desire and The Science of Sex, there really is legitimate scientific evidence to prove why some foods make us more inclined to a romantic interlude than other foods do.

There are other aphrodisiacs that were believed to cause instant sexual excitement and increase fertility by the mere sight of them. They are still considered aphrodisiacs today. This group includes foods like strawberries, asparagus, bananas, oysters, and mussels. Why they are considered aphrodisiacs is no surprise considering their resemblance to human genitalia. Strawberries and raspberries are said to resemble a nipple or scrotum. Before you write off early man as simply a bunch of people with dirty minds, please consider this; raspberries and strawberries are both high in vitamin C. Vitamin C reduces stress. Stress causes anxiety and anxiety is a known romance killer. So fruit nipples do have function as well as form. Whether you believe it or not, you have to agree that there is something stimulating about feeding your lover strawberries. With a very suggestive elongated shape, asparagus and bananas are quite phallic aphrodisiacs. Asparagus is rich in vitamin E and vitamin E is taken to stimulate the production of our sex hormones. The Vegetarian Society suggests that “eating asparagus for three day for the most powerful effect”. Bananas are rich in B vitamins and potassium, all of which are necessities for sex hormone production. They also have a lovely aroma, silky texture, and fruity taste. Oysters have been documented as early as the second century A.D. as an aphrodisiac. Casanova, a known user of aphrodisiacs, reportedly ate over 30 oysters a day to keep his libido ‘up’. Oysters and mussels also appeal to the sense of smell because both oysters and mussels have a fresh briny smell. Their striking resemblance to the female sex organ is not lost either. Mussels are more visually stimulating with the ‘beard’ that grows on the outside of the mussel’s shell. And yes, the beard grows where the two shell halves are connected. Once again both contain those wonderful sex hormones. Research shows oysters to be a rich source of zinc, a mineral required for the production of testosterone. Testosterone is not limited to stimulating just the guys, but is believed to stimulate the female libido as well.

Due to modern medical science, we now have a greater understanding of human sexuality and of foods that sexually excite us. These foods have actually been proven to cause a chemical reaction in the brain that gives a feeling of excitement and well-being. Given the right combination and balance of hormones, the limbic lobe of the brain is stimulated. This region of the brain is sometimes called the pleasure center of the brain. The result of stimulating the pleasure zone is an engorgement of the male and female erectile tissues. In other words, every body part that is able to swell, become enlarged, or erect does so. While all of this blood is swiftly moving around, the brain releases neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine to send messages of arousal and pleasure throughout our entire bodies.

Finally, there is a ‘legitimate’ group of aphrodisiacs. Basil, chili peppers, and chocolate are three very common foods that create a natural sexual high. Basil is believed to stimulate the sex drive, produce a feeling of wellbeing, and boost fertility. Can you just imagine the sexual side effects of a pasta sauce made of basil, pine nuts, and garlic? That meal would definitely be part of a night to remember. Chili peppers are hot, their heat coming from the capsaicin. This is a chemical that raises your pulse, stimulates nerve endings, and caused the body to sweat. Research has proven that hot foods trigger the release of mood altering endorphins. Endorphins are often given credit for producing a feeling of wellbeing and often pursued by athletes for giving them a ‘runner’s high’. Luckily foods like chili peppers and chocolates give us that same ‘high’ with much less effort and without the humiliation of having to put on jogging shorts.

Chocolate is the aphrodisiac we started with and it only fitting that we end with it as well. The Aztecs referred to it as “nourishment of the Gods”. Chocolate already has a delicious aroma and a decidedly decadent texture or ‘mouth feel’. On top of that, it also contains a stimulant called phenyl ethylamine that causes the brain to release those fabulous feel good chemicals we all know and love; endorphins. Whether you like your chocolate, dark, milk, or bitter sweet it’s bound to leave you feeling well loved.

Admittedly, some aphrodisiacs may be mind over matter. But others put you in the mood due to hard scientific facts. The next time you want to plan a romantic interlude visit your local grocer and choose your aphrodisiac of choice. You are guaranteed a hotter, sexier love life.


Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 11th Edition, 2003

Chef Jennifer's

Cooking Tips:


Plan your menu around your grocer's weekly sales ad. Your ingredients will be in stock, in season, and on sale!


Shop, Cook & Eat Seasonally. In-season produce is fresh, inexpensive, and tasty!


Cook Once & Eat Twice. Cook a double batch of dishes like soups, beans and chili-for those days you don't feel like cooking!

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