[This article was originally published in 2015]
For many people, two things dominate the mind, so it’s no wonder they go hand in hand. Food and sex are closely linked - romantic meals, sweet treats, and let’s not forget that scene from Nine and a Half Weeks.
In fact, we’ve been firm believers in aphrodisiacs for about as long as we’ve been preparing food. But is there any truth in the libido-boosting claims, or are all the theories as limp as a lettuce leaf?
Aphrodisiacs are named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, and it would appear that a lot of our common aphrodisiacs and associations of love stem from that time.
Aphrodite herself was often imagined emerging from a clamshell, and still today seafood and oysters are recognised as aphrodisiacs.
Other foods have perhaps gained a reputation from their appearance - carrots, asparagus, figs and artichokes all bear some resemblance to genitalia. You might consider this a bit infantile, but it isn’t difficult to turn our caveman brain to matters of love, especially with a bit of visual prompting - Channel 4’s Cucumber is, ahem, ripe with suggestive foodie imagery.
Other, more obscure - and bonkers - aphrodisiacs have waned in popularity over the years. Spanish fly, cobra blood, Japanese blowfish and baboon urine have all been ingested in the hopes of a good time. So, sadly, has rhino horn, pushing the animal to the brink of extinction.
Not to be outdone on weird and wonderful miracle cures, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop recommends ‘sex bark’, an innocent enough looking chocolate recipe until you hit your local Sainsbury’s in search of the ingredients - including ho shou wo (a Chinese herb) and “Sex Dust”.
But what of the old favourites, including our old friend chocolate? Here are a few of the more common aphrodisiacs.
In itself a sensuous food, plus it contains the chemicals anandamide and phenylethylamine, which boost serotonin levels - the feel-good hormone. However, there is debate over how much of the chemicals our brain actually absorbs, and gorging ourselves on a family-sized Dairy Milk to make up the difference could actually be a passion-killer. However, a strawberry or two dipped in dark chocolate couldn’t hurt.
Their appearance isn’t just suggestive, it’s slap you in the face schoolboy innuendo. They are also high in zinc, which can boost semen production and regulate sexual hormones, but experts believe it’s that intimate way of eating - or slurping - the oysters that actually get us going.
Stop sniggering at the back, yes, they are a funny shape. Asparagus is also a good source of Vitamin E, which is involved in stimulating the production of sex hormones. But realistically, a couple of stalks with your starter on the night in question won’t make a huge difference.
Spicy food warms you up, gets your heart pumping, stimulates nerve endings and increases the blood flow, so there might be some truth to this one. Just make sure you wash your hands after...
This contains citrulline, which relaxes the blood vessels in much the same way as Viagra does. Plus it’s a less stodgy dessert option to keep you alert all evening.
And here are five you might not have heard of…
This sweet root vegetables has been nicknamed Peruvian Viagra, and animal studies have indicated some aphrodisiac qualities, although this hasn’t been extensively tested on humans. It is also thought to increase stamina and heighten awareness.
It’s not the sexiest of foods, but it contains phyto-androgens, which is similar to testosterone and can increase sexual desire in women.
Known as the love apple, here’s another suggestive fruit that packs a punch. It’s high in anti-oxidants, so boosts blood flow, in turn increasing genital sensitivity.
It’s all about the potassium. While the phallic shape may immediately fuel passions, the potassium delivers muscle strength, so in theory intensifies orgasms.
The Romans discovered the aphrodisiac qualities of rocket, and it was used in love potions. It is a great digestive aid and packed with nutrients, which might leave you feeling great, but it is yet to be proved that it will give you gladiatorial qualities in the bedroom...
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