With Valentine's Day around the corner, many may look to food as a way to rekindle the libido. But is this merely wishful thinking?
Like red wine, so-called love foods -- chocolate, oysters, cucumbers, strawberries and cream, licorice, alcohol -- may taste great, but will these foods tickle your libido as much as your taste buds?
According to Lawrence Cheskin, M.D., director and founder of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, there are some foods that can keep individuals in good sexual health, but as far as supposed aphrodisiacs are concerned there is no scientific evidence that they do the trick.
"The reputed sexual effects of so-called aphrodisiacs are based in folklore, not fact, and there is no scientific proof that any food or beverage can treat sexual dysfunction or increase desire," says Cheskin. "In health, there are some food recipes that promise to spice up your food and love life, but the ingredients do not lead to better chances of sexual intercourse."
Cheskin does point out that chocolate contains certain interesting chemicals, such as phenylethylamine (also known as the "love-chemical"), that do stimulate the brain. They are found in high amounts in people who are in love, which is how we get the idea that chocolate is an aphrodisiac.
"However, eating chocolate does not raise levels of phenylethylamine in your brain and increase your libido," says Cheskin. "Candy may be dandy, but it doesn't enhance your chance for romance."
Healthier alternatives to chocolate, with the same sweet taste, are fruits like pineapple, bananas and strawberries, which contain plenty of vitamins and are high in antioxidants.
"The health value of fruit may not be sexy, but they are at least healthy," stresses Cheskin.
Oysters are another food with a reputation for increasing the libido. Cheskin calls oysters "good food" because they are low in fat and high in protein, vitamins and minerals and because they contain some nutrients that are important for the production of hormones that can improve fertility.
"There is no proof that oysters have an aphrodisiac effect," he says, "but they are good for your sexual health and your overall health."
Part of good sex health is having a good body weight because being overweight can contribute to a decreased libido and fertility. For those who want to increase their libido, Cheskin says the best approach is "to exercise and eat the right foods."