In early February those intriguing articles start appearing, claiming aphrodisiac properties for certain foods. Yet we eat many of these foods on a regular basis, without any?well, noticeable effects. Is there any fact behind these claims, or is the truth interwoven with fiction?
Almonds are considered to be an ancient symbol of fertility. In fact, almonds were sprinkled on newly married couples to call down the blessing of fertility upon them. Although the symbolism is picturesque, the almond-aphrodisiac connotation stops there. The scientific literature simply doesn’t suggest any connection between sexual stimulation and almonds. Note, however, that almonds are high in many nutrients, including zinc and magnesium?minerals that are important for reproductive health (and bodily heath in general!) in both men and women.
Another food item commonly touted as an aphrodisiac is chocolate. These claims range from increased ?feel good? neurotransmitter levels in the brain to actual sensual stimulation through chocolate’s taste. Unfortunately for this ?food of the gods,? scientific evidence for chocolate as an aphrodisiac is in fact lacking. Although chocolate does cause the brain to release opioids, which produce a feeling of well-being and euphoria, there is no direct aphrodisiac effect. Rather, the opioids actually are responsible for chocolate ?addiction.? (How many of us can resist a chocolate chunk sitting right in front of us?)
Historically, oysters may be one of the first foods to have landed on the aphrodisiac list; there’s a written Roman record dating from AD 2 linking oyster consumption and the ?wanton behaviour of ladies? afterward. However, evidence shows that people nowadays can consume oysters without any worries of aphrodisiac after-effects.
In fact, oysters don’t directly stimulate sexual functions at all, although indirectly, their nutrient load is beneficial for the overall reproductive health of both sexes. Oysters are an exceptionally high source of zinc; in fact, a three-ounce serving contains approximately 154 mg of zinc (compare this to the same size serving of beef, which yields approximately 9 mg of zinc).
Wine has traditionally been considered an aphrodisiac?or at least an important part of a romantic atmosphere. After all, isn’t a glass of red wine a staple in photos of candlelit dinners? However, It’s extremely difficult to determine whether wine has aphrodisiac properties. Rather, it might be a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg: is wine an aphrodisiac on its own, or does the relaxed, uninhibited feeling that follows the consumption of a glass of wine indirectly contribute?
Clearly, many of the claims for so-called aphrodisiac foods are grounded in folklore, not reality. However, regardless of whether these foods can be used with success in a romantic setting, let’s not ignore their valuable nutrients! This Valentine’s Day, give some love to your body and set the table with a nutritious spread to ensure life-long health.
Katie D?Souza is an AU graduate and a licensed naturopathic doctor. She currently lives in Ontario.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for personal interest only; it is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Readers are always encouraged to seek the professional advice of a licensed physician or qualified health care practitioner for personal health or medical conditions.