Oysters are a well-known aphrodisiac, but what about apples, saffron and tea? Food can be a natural and healthy way to get all engines running, and while there's a large focus on boosting libidos, setting the mood and getting your heart in top shape can be just as essential as the functioning of other -- ahem -- organs. Read on to discover 10 in-the-mood foods and heart-smart staples to feed your sex life.
The old adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" may need to be amended to include "and also improves sexual function." A 2014 study of more than 700 women found that eating apples on a regular basis (one to two a day) led to better overall sexual function and increased lubrication compared with women who consumed zero to half of an apple a day. The researchers believe that the abundance of phytoestrogens, antioxidants and polyphenols found in apples may play a role in these results.
Read more: 10 Surprising Flat-Belly Foods
By way of the Andean Mountains, maca root has been used for thousands of years as a healing superfood. The root is typically consumed as a supplement in powder or pill form. A 2010 study published in "BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine" revealed that maca may help to increase sexual desire when taken in a dosage of 1.5 to three grams per day for at least six weeks. Maca has a very distinct, malt flavor and is delicious when added to smoothies or shakes.
"The hotter the better" may pertain to more than just sex, especially when it comes to peppers. Capsaicin, a chemical found in peppers, is what gives chilies, jalapenos and habaneros their fire, and it also increases circulation. Research also shows that capsaicin releases endorphins, leaving the body feeling extra good.
Read more: 12 Foods That Can Improve Your Mood
4. Green Tea
Widely known for its health benefits ranging from weight loss to immunity to cancer prevention, green tea may also have its merits when it comes to sex. Green tea is packed with an antioxidant called catechin that helps to keep blood vessels healthy and circulation pumping. When you go tea, go green: Green tea contains more catechins than black or oolong teas.
5. Red Wine
Who doesn't love a full-bodied wine? Italian researchers surveyed almost 800 women and found that those who drank two glasses of red wine a day reported better sexual desire and function compared with those who drank more than two glasses of alcohol per day or to those who abstained altogether. One theory? Red wine is packed with antioxidants, which may help with blood flow. Be careful: One or two glasses may increase arousal, but too much alcohol can impede performance.
Those chocolate-filled, heart-shape boxes not only make a delectable gift -- they may also help set the mood. Chocolate contains a compound called phenylethylamine, which helps to release pleasure-giving endorphins. In fact, a U.K. study found that chocolate actually beat out kissing when it came to getting the heart pounding and giving the body a "feel-good" buzz. For the most health benefits, stick to chocolate made with at least 70 percent cacao.
Long used in Chinese medicine, ginseng now has research backing its benefits to both men and women when it comes to getting busy. A study from the University of Hawaii found that there was a significant boost in libido and satisfaction among women taking ginseng. Studies have also found ginseng to help treat erectile dysfunction in men.
For those who aren't fans of slurping oysters, crab legs might do the trick. Zinc, the mineral responsible for putting oysters on the map as a libido-boosting food, is also found in crab. Zinc is important for ensuring adequate testosterone levels in men.
In a study recently published in Food Research International, researchers found that saffron, a spice used in cooking and as a fragrance in perfumes, helps to enhance sexual performance. Cooking a romantic Spanish paella dinner or sprinkling this spice on chicken are both easy ways to heat up things in the bedroom.
As a plant source, nuts are one of the highest in an amino acid called L-arginine. In the body, arginine turns into a gas called nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and helps to increase blood flow to all parts of the body. So go nuts! A recent study done on walnuts (the only nut to contain omega-3s) found that men who ate walnuts on a daily basis had an improvement in sperm vitality and motility. And good news for women -- almonds specifically are a good source of vitamin E, which has been shown to help reduce vaginal dryness.
What Do YOU Think?
Did any of the foods on this list surprise you? Have any of these foods worked for you? Are there other foods that should have made the list? Share your thoughts and suggestions with us in the comments below.