Can Food Get You in the Mood? A Guy's Guide to Aphrodisiacs

Hey, you guys… listen up. Valentine’s Day is this weekend. If you're in a significant relationship, this is the one day every year when you’re expected – no, mandated – to express your undying devotion to that person in your life whom you love more than…
(a)  beer
(b)  pizza
(c)  your dog
(d)  your mother
(e)  all of the above

This is also the day, every year, when there is extra pressure to, um, “perform” like the stud-muffin that you are. In other words, Valentine’s Day would be the wrong time to fall asleep early in front of the TV, dressed in your wife-beater undershirt and ketchup-stained boxers.

But don’t let this pressure negatively affect your ability to “express yourself“ adequately. Take my advice: Don’t go running to your doctor asking for the little blue pill that makes those couples in the TV ads look so insipidly blissful. Instead, find the boost that you may need in your food. Appropriately chosen, local, organic and sustainable food, of course.

Food that puts you in the mood is considered an aphrodisiac. For centuries, humans have been debating whether anything you eat can truly enhance sexual performance, physiologically speaking. Some scientists, doctors and "sexperts" scoff at the idea, claiming that the only performance-enhancing benefits of eating certain pre-coital foods are purely mental. So if the taste of warm brownies turns you on (or off, as in my husband's case), it’s probably all in your head, rather than a different part of your body.

On the other hand, there's no dispute: there are some foods scientifically proven to enhance health, mood and vitality, probably the three most important ingredients in the recipe for a robust libido. The web site writes:

“Certain nutrients are especially helpful in regulating the levels of sex hormones in our body, and some can even help to protect our reproductive system from any potentially damaging effects of infection or disease. Below is a list of top 10 foods which will help you pep up your sex life, by improving your sexual and reproductive health. In addition these foods also help you fight the stress, tiredness and a lack of sexual energy induced by the current lifestyle.”

It then lists (1) oysters, (2) avocados, (3) celery, (4) bananas, (5) chocolate, (6) pomegranate, (7) asparagus, (8) oats, (9) red wine and (10) ginger. Forget asparagus in February, which leaves Minnesota locavores only locally produced oats and wine to choose from. And although I perused (almost) all of the 1.68 million Google search results for “oats” and “wine,” I could not find a single recipe that incorporates both as ingredients. So, let's make it simple: eat oatmeal every morning for breakfast; drink wine every night before bed. Or vice versa.

On, the list is similar, but adds basil, vanilla and almonds. Basil is the only one of these three that can be grown locally; so, hopefully, in the back of your freezer, you still have a few servings of pesto that you whipped together last fall. Thaw some out, warm some up, and toss it with a plate of fresh, organic linguini. Serve it to the one you love wearing only an apron and a smile.

In an article on, “Aphrodisiacs Through the Ages,” Cynthia Finley, a dietician from Johns Hopkins University, is quoted saying “the only true aphrodisiac is good health achieved by a balanced diet.” She's probably right. But she doesn't sound like much fun. Next…

Matchmaking website knows how to squeeze a juicy topic; it invites you to “test [its list of] love foods for yourself.” Included are pine nuts, pineapples, hot chili peppers, garlic and – hey, here’s a local one! – honey. (As Tracy wrote a couple of days ago, you can spread it on anything: "Use your imagination!") You can tell that EHarmony is all about bringing people together and spicing things up, with sentences like this:  “Eating together, especially when using our hands or dining on messy munchies, arouses the senses and primes the body for some touchy-feely.” For a demonstration, watch 9 ½ Weeks.

Julie Upton of CNN gets into the mood by providing recipes for three dishes filled with ingredients “that have been major players in aphrodisiac history and lore – and also have modern-day science to help back up their claims.” Hey, these look really tempting! Arugula, avocado and grapefruit salad. Seared Alaskan salmon with tomatoes, leeks and artichokes. Dark chocolate-dipped mission figs with almonds. Believe me, if you make this meal for your significant other and sparks don’t fly, you'd better take a pulse and check for signs of life.

In “The Hunt for an Edible Equivilent of Viagra,” which ran in the New York Times this week, Amy Reiley, a “restaurant consultant and cookbook author,” offers guacamole as the ultimate aphrodisiac. She coos, “Guacamole, in the ways it is typically served, offers a silky foil to crunchy chips, a cool, slippery and sexy topping for spicy burritos and tamale pies.” Spicy burritos and tamale pies? Don’t be coy, Amy. What are you really referring to here?

Finally, I leave you with more of my own advice. Even though Shakespeare wrote, in Macbeth, that alcohol “provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance,” don’t hesitate to use it: wine, beer, vodka, gin, rum, scotch, tequila, sake, whatever. Just make sure it’s served at the proper time (after the car is parked for the night); in the proper setting (in the privacy of your own home); and in the proper amount (stop before speech starts slurring).

Local would be good. The best you can afford would be even better. Because Valentines’ Day is not the occasion to bring home a case of Schlitz just because it’s from one state over and cheap. If the sky’s the limit, you can’t go wrong with Dom. Dom Perignon. $149.99 a bottle. The stuff of legends. Like "drinking stars."

Come on, stud muffin. You are so worth it.