Friday, February 11, 2011

APHRODISIACS, Need I Say More?

You are out for a romantic dinner when your significant other orders a dozen oysters.  With a glint in his eye and a raised eyebrow he says, “They’re an aphrodisiac”.  I don’t know about you, but just saying the word is kind of aphrodisiacal!  So is there something to this?  Can foods really have a direct impact on your sex life?

In honour of February and its day of love, (Valentine’s Day), let’s begin a discussion on the sexy side of food.  It all started with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture.  She rose from the ocean on a shell and is said to be the namesake of the word aphrodisiac.  As most people understand it, an aphrodisiac is a food that somehow stirs amorous feelings.  This possibility is due to the non-scientific research of food based nutrients and its action on sexual desire.  The knowledge of aphrodisiacs has existed for thousands of years in every culture but since science is sexless, proof within the scientific community remains untapped...like a virgin.  Psychologically suggestive foods can also arouse sexy thinking...think bananas, popsicles, (homemade with real fruit are far more nutritious)!   Scent as well as attraction with a dollop of chemistry can also be an aphrodisiac.

Food glorious food, cold oysters and chocolate, while we’re in the mood, ripe mangoes and honey....
O.K. so I plugged in different foods for the famed song in the movie Oliver, but these are four of the many foods considered aphrodisiacs.  

Raw oysters have quite the reputation.  Besides a hot date at the Whistling Oyster or sucking an oyster off the belly button of a stranger, there are actually physiological reasons why these succulent shellfish have been labelled aphrodisiacs for thousands of years.  Full of zinc, six medium oysters contain approximately 76 mg of this important mineral.  Zinc is important for normal sex hormone function and works to enhance testosterone in men.  Psychologically, its shape resembles the female sex organ.  It is humorous to note that In the second century AD., a Roman writes about, “the reckless ways of women after they had ingested wine and ate giant oysters.” (1)

Who doesn’t love chocolate?  The texture and the way it melts in your mouth, a cup of tea to wash it down.  In addition, this heavenly treat contains elements linked to mood and aphrodisiac effects.  Phenylethylamine (PEA) is a chemical compound found in cocoa solids which is naturally occurring in the brain.  PEA is a natural amphetamine and releases a neurochemical called dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain and peaks during orgasm.  Sometimes known as the ‘happy’ drug, dopamine is similar to adrenaline.  All together, these chemical messengers produce feelings of excitement and attraction.

Tryptophan is also a component of chocolate and is vital for the production of serotonin.  Known as the ‘happy’ hormone, (although it is not a hormone), serotonin contributes to the feelings of well being. It is found in different parts of the body.

Anandamide, found in the fat of chocolate is in fact a lipid that occurs naturally in the brain. Anandamide helps create feelings of elation.  It is recognized as the bliss molecule.  The love at first sight phenomenon triggers their release.  Involved in the production of dopamine, it plays a crucial role in mental and physical health.  Dopamine affects the brain functions associated with pleasure.
Not all chocolate is equal.  Dark chocolate, (70% cocoa or more) contains alkaloids which are pharmacologically active substances that work as aphrodisiacs.

Honey is also considered an aphrodisiac, (the nectar of Aphrodite), probably because it provides sustained energy and is theorized to produce nitric oxide which in turn opens blood vessels, (Viagra does this also).  Packed with vitamins, the mango’s sweet juicy flesh is a sensual fruit as are strawberries, especially when dipped in chocolate.

There is a long list of aphrodisiacal foods to choose from and whether folklore or fact, Valentine’s Day is upon us, so pick a food and give it a try.  Hint, watch the food scene in the movie 9 ½ weeks for some inspiration.

Bon appetite!

Yvette Rochelle Pritchard
Yvette Rochelle Nutrition
Holistic Nutritionist, CNP, NNCP
416.822.4600

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