Can you name the best foods to improve sexual function? It’s no secret that men are often looking for ways to boost their performance in the bedroom, but usually they are told to lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more and regularly, and eat a healthy diet. All of these are excellent and effective recommendations, but why not go a step further, especially with the last suggestion, and take the opportunity to enhance sexual prowess at every meal?
Researchers have explored the best foods to improve sexual function for both women and men, and it turns out they are the same. That’s because the chosen foods improve blood flow to the pelvic region and also reduce inflammation both in the short- and long-term, which may help with sexual functioning, according to study results.
Related: 10 health benefits of the Mediterranean diet
What studies say about foods and erectile dysfunction
For example, the largest study to look at the effect of diet on erectile dysfunction reported that “a 10% risk reduction of ED [erectile dysfunction] was found with each additional daily serving of fruit/vegetable consumed.” This study was conducted using data from the 2011 Survey on Living with Chronic Diseases in Canada—Diabetes Component and included Canadian men with diabetes.
One reason for this improvement in sexual function is believed to be the anti-inflammatory properties of fruits and vegetables, including their high fiber content.
The investigators noted “a significant reduction [in] systemic inflammation, as indicated by…reduced levels of C[-reactive protein”]. It’s well known that fiber consumption can have a significant impact on lowering inflammation in the body. High intake of saturated fat, on the other hand, as is found in meat and many dairy foods, has been associated with higher levels of C-reactive protein.
To further expand on the idea of the best foods to improve sexual function, we can turn to research on the effects of the Mediterranean diet on erectile dysfunction. One study involved men with metabolic syndrome, who are at an increased risk of erectile dysfunction. Sixty-five men participated: 35 were assigned to the Mediterranean diet and 30 to a control diet. Major components of the Mediterranean diet are whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and olive oil.
Related: Best foods for prostate health
After two years, men in the Mediterranean diet showed an improvement in endothelial function and C-reactive protein, while these factors remained stable in the control group. In addition, 13 men in the Mediterranean diet group reported an International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) score of 22 or higher, which is a score indicating no erectile dysfunction. The authors concluded that the Mediterranean diet “might be effective per se in reducing the prevalence of ED in men with the metabolic syndrome.”
Finally, the authors of a recent (2017) review of 13 studies of diet and erectile dysfunction reported that “Erectile dysfunction appears to lessen in men adhering to the Mediterranean diet” and that “men who lose weight through low-fat, low-calorie diets seem to have improvements in erectile function.” All of these studies indicate that the best foods to improve sexual function are those associated with a Mediterranean style diet, which severely limits or avoids added sugar, saturated fat, and processed foods and focuses on plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and healthy fats (e.g., olive oil) and the use of herbs and spices. Red meat should be consumed no more than a few times per month, while fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy can be enjoyed about twice a week.
Read more in our Erectile Dysfunction Health Center.
Di Francesco S, Tenaglia RL. Mediterranean diet and erectile dysfunction: a current perspective. Central European Journal of Urology 2017 Jun 30; 70(2): 185-87
Esposito K et al. Mediterranean diet improves erectile function in subjects with the metabolic syndrome. International Journal of Impotence Research 2006 Jul-Aug; 18(4): 405-10
La J et al. Diet and men’s sexual health. Sexual Medicine Reviews 2017 Aug 1
Wang F et al. Erectile dysfunction and fruit/vegetable consumption among diabetic Canadian men. Urology 2013 Dec; 82(6): 1330-35