Looking for whole, nutritious foods that increase libido? If so, fish and seafood should be at the top of your list. Rich in zinc, omega-3s, arginine and selenium, these foods can give your sex life a boost.
What you eat has a direct impact on your libido and sexual health. Certain foods and beverages can kill your sex life, while others have the opposite effect. Fish is loaded with minerals, amino acids and heart-healthy fats that promote sexual wellbeing.
Foods That Increase Sex Drive
Dark chocolate, oysters, celery, red grapes and other foods have been used as aphrodisiacs for centuries. Some are known for their ability to improve sexual function, while others are marketed as natural libido boosters. Modern science doesn't support these claims. However, researchers agree that certain nutrients in food may contribute to a better sex life.
A research paper published in the January-June 2013 edition of Pharmacognosy Review assessed the efficacy of herbal aphrodisiacs. As the scientists point out, aphrodisiacs are foods or drugs that increase sexual arousal and performance. Some are promoted as natural remedies for sexual dysfunction, a condition that affects nearly half of all men and up to 63 percent of women.
Yohimbe, ginseng and tribulus terrestris, for example, have been studied for their effects on sexual function. Although most studies are conflicting, these plants exhibit significant pharmacological activity. More research is needed to evaluate their safety and mechanism of action.
Take oysters, for example. This delicacy is considered a natural aphrodisiac despite the lack of scientific proof. However, it may indirectly improve sexual function due to its high zinc content. Each serving of canned oysters (3 ounces) provides more than 700 percent of the daily recommended zinc intake.
According to a small study featured in the Asian Journal of Andrology in October 2016, zinc supplementation may slightly increase sperm production in men with hypogonadism, or low testosterone levels. Its effects are negligible, though.
As the researchers note, clinical evidence suggests that zinc may improve sperm motility and testosterone synthesis. Again, more studies are needed to validate these findings.
Fish Consumption and Sexual Health
Rich in protein and heart-healthy fats, fish has its place in a balanced diet. Eating just one serving per week could lower your risk of heart disease by up to 15 percent, according to a May 2012 review published in the Global Journal of Health Science. Regular consumption of fish and seafood has been linked to a lower risk of diabetes, dementia, inflammatory disorders and cancer.
Read more: 7 Reasons to Consider a Pescatarian Diet
These potential health benefits are attributed to EPA and DHA, the polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish. In clinical trials, daily intakes of polyunsaturated fats have been shown to protect against cardiac events and all-cause mortality. A diet rich in healthy fats may also help reduce body fat mass and increase satiety, leading to weight loss, as reported in the above review.
Little is known about the effects of fish on libido and sexual health. A recent study posted in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in May 2018 suggests a possible connection between seafood intake and fertility.
Scientists found that couples with the highest seafood intake engaged in sexual intercourse 22 percent more frequently than other groups. Furthermore, they had 61 percent greater fecundity, meaning that their chances of conceiving a baby increased significantly during the study.
It's interesting to note that when both partners consumed seafood on the same day, their odds of engaging in sexual intercourse were about 39 percent higher than normal. Over 90 percent of couples who consumed at least two seafood servings per week became pregnant within six to 12 months.
As the researchers point out, several other studies have linked seafood intake to improved semen quality and quantity. Additionally, diets rich in omega-3s may have beneficial effects on ovulation and female sexual health as well as on early embryo development. The above study was conducted on 501 couples, so the number of participants was large enough to provide reliable data.
These findings say nothing about libido or sexual arousal but do indicate that fish and seafood may have aphrodisiac effects. Several other studies conducted over the years pinpoint the relationship between total omega-3 intake, fertility and sexual health.
Omega-3s and Sexual Function?
Fish and seafood are chock-full of omega-3s. Bluefin tuna, for example, provides nearly 30 grams of protein and 1,714 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per serving (approximately 3.5 ounces, cooked). The same quantity of canned salmon boasts 23.6 grams of protein and 1,581 milligrams of omega-3s, while cooked whitefish offers 24.5 grams of protein and 1,885 milligrams of healthy fats per serving.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, these fish are the lowest in mercury and can be safely consumed up to three times per week. The same goes for cod, crab, oysters, shrimps, clams, sardines, lobsters and anchovies. In fact, fish and seafood are staples of the Mediterranean diet and offer various health benefits.
Read more: The 9 Safest Seafood Options
For example, a December 2016 study conducted on 225 men linked the Mediterranean diet to improved semen quality. The results were published in the journal Human Reproduction.
Dietary fat may influence semen quality, as reported in a May 2015 review featured in the journal Andrology. As the scientists note, protein and carbs don't have significant effects on male fertility. Certain vitamins, minerals and fats, on the other hand, may help maintain and improve semen quality. Fatty acids, for example, build up in testicular cells and may influence sexual function.
The above review suggests that omega-3s regulate sperm head morphology, which in turn, may improve sperm function and male fertility. In clinical trials, men who supplemented their diet with fish oil or omega-3s experienced an increase in sperm concentration and motility.
Trans fatty acids, such as those found in junk food, pastries and processed meats, have the opposite effect. These fats may decrease sperm concentration and affect sperm metabolism.
Plant-based foods, including walnuts, almonds and chia seeds, are rich in omega-3s, too. A study cited in the Andrology review found that semen motility, vitality and morphology improved in men who consumed 75 grams of walnuts per day for three months. Therefore, if you're a vegan or a vegetarian, you can snack on nuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds or seaweed to get more healthy fats in your diet.
It's hard to say whether fish and seafood consumption will boost your libido. However, it may increase your chances of conceiving and improve sexual health. Plus, eating fish and seafood twice a week can significantly lower your risk of stroke, heart disease and heart failure, leading to a longer life.
- Pharmacognosy Review: "Exploring Scientifically Proven Herbal Aphrodisiacs"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Canned Oysters"
- Asian Journal of Andrology: "The Effectiveness of Zinc Supplementation in Men With Isolated Hypogonadotropic Hypogonadism"
- Global Journal of Food Science: "Seafood Consumption and Components for Health"
- Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: "Seafood Intake, Sexual Activity, and Time to Pregnancy"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Bluefin Tuna (Cooked)"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Canned Salmon"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Cooked Whitefish"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Advice About Eating Fish"
- Human Reproduction: "Association Between Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet and Semen Quality Parameters in Male Partners of Couples Attempting Fertility"
- Andrology: "Dietary Fatty Acids Affect Semen Quality: A Review"
- American Heart Association: "Eating Fish Twice a Week Reduces Heart Stroke Risk"