Supplements to improve men's sexual health are a dime a dozen, but why take tonics in pill form when you can include the libido-boosting nutrients in your regular meals? Whether you're looking for ways to improve your sperm motility, a natural cure for erectile dysfunction or special foods to rev up your libido, check out our selection of foods to work into your diet to maximize your mojo.
If family and weight-loss medicine physician Dr. Spencer Nadolsky had to recommend a single food for men's health, he'd pick the humble walnut. Not only does it improve sperm vitality, motility and morphology in healthy young men, it also improves endothelial function (the health of the lining of our blood vessels). We typically think of cardiovascular disease when discussing endothelial function but it's also linked to erectile dysfunction. Foods that improve endothelial function open up the blood vessels and therefore can help with erections. Walnuts are also rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, the plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid), antioxidants, magnesium and more.
This deliciously juicy red fruit is loaded with citrulline, which may alleviate erectile dysfunction, specifically if it's caused by high blood pressure. Citrulline is converted into arginine, which boosts the natural production of nitric oxide. And nitric oxide has the benefit of increasing blood flow to muscle tissue as well as male genitalia, which improves male sexual function.
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Not only are peaches delicious, their high vitamin C content makes them a good choice for sperm motility, says fitness nutrition specialist Joey Thurman. "A study came out that shows that men who were smokers for the majority of their lives who increased their vitamin C intake…and were considered infertile became fertile," he explained. In addition, vitamin C lowers the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol and testosterone can quickly get out of balance, and the higher your cortisol levels are, says Thurman, the lower your testosterone levels are going to be. "Those two hormones are competing against each other," he explains, so lowering your cortisol will help your testosterone shine.
If you're a gym rat, listen up: "As athletes, we lose a lot of zinc," says Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, a family and weight-loss medicine physician. "There are reports of athletes not getting enough zinc, and if you're zinc-deficient, you may have issues with lower testosterone than usual." Make up for it by eating foods rich in zinc, such as oysters, which contain more zinc than any other type of food. Crab, lobster, nuts, beans and whole grains can also help you meet your zinc requirement if you're not into oysters.
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"Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries have antioxidants, which are good for cardiovascular health," says physician and Endocrinology Fellow Dr. Karl Nadolsky, who points out that overall cardiovascular and cardiometabolic health lead to improved hormonal health. Indeed, research shows that berries seem to have cardioprotective effects that preserve normal vascular function and blood pressure, slow the progression of atherosclerosis and counteract the negative effects of free radicals.
6. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are packed with nutrients, but that's not all they're full of. They're loaded with magnesium as well. "One great thing that magnesium does is dilate blood vessels, which essentially is what Viagra was trying to do -- increase blood flow to the male genitalia to get a better erection," says fitness-nutrition specialist Joey Thurman. So bring on the spinach and kale and Brussels sprouts. Cabbage, Swiss chard and any green leafy veggies will also do the trick.
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7. Full-Fat Dressings
Magnesium-rich greens not only increase blood flow to the areas down in your pants, they're a perfect base for a delicious salad to boot. Just make sure to top 'em off with a bit of healthy fat in your dressing. "Studies show that adding a healthy fat to your salads helps you absorb lycopene and nutrients in general," says fitness nutrition specialist Joey Thurman, so skip the low-fat and no-fat salad dressings and opt for the full-fat version instead to get the most bang for your buck. Or make your own dressing: Olive oil combined with an equal amount of balsamic vinegar is delicious.
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8. Egg Yolks
Vitamin D is crucial for keeping testosterone levels in check, and egg yolks are loaded not only with vitamin D, but tons of other nutrients as well: protein, folate, phosphorus, vitamin B12 and selenium. But if egg yolks aren't your thing, look for fatty fish (salmon and tuna) or fortified milk and orange juice instead.
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"Every time they've studied chocolate for cardiovascular health and diabetes, they always find that it is beneficial," says physician and Endocrinology Fellow Dr. Karl Nadolsky, so now you can indulge in moderate amounts of dark chocolate without guilt. It improves your circulation, which can help with blood flow to your genitalia, which will improve your ability to get an erection. And the phenylethylamine in chocolate can affect the serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain.
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What Do YOU Think?
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