Getting older leaves you with all kinds of questions, including how to spice up your sex life. For men, there may be more specific concerns. And like most modern medicine techniques, the treatment of low libido in men tends to start with a prescription. However, no amount of little blue pills can permanently treat a low libido if the root cause isn’t addressed. But where do you even start? First, check your diet. Surprisingly, what you eat has a lot to do with your sex drive.
Having a lack of sexual desire isn’t all that uncommon. In fact, one report of over 25,000 men and women in 30 countries found that 18 percent of men claim to have “a lack of interest or desire in sexual intercourse.” Eleven percent of the men participating in the study even said they lack pleasure from sexual encounters. (1) The problem with pharmaceutical drugs designed to treat erectile dysfunction or low libido is that they attempt a blanket solution for a wide variety of experiences for a wide variety of people.
While medications like sildenafil (Viagra) might temporarily encourage you to find sexual fulfillment by forcing your body to seek the physical release of sex, they rarely (if ever) solve the actual reason for low libido in men. Plus, sexual enhancement drugs (whether over-the-counter or prescription) come with some pretty nasty side effects, including headaches, diarrhea, back pain, hearing loss, dizziness and more. (2) Therapy is also a common prescription, but it can be costly—and it may not get to the root of your low libido if diet is the main culprit. (3)
How to increase libido with food
My guess is that you’d like to know how your diet actually changes your desire for sex. While there aren’t clear, scientific lines linking certain foods to low libido in men, overall diet is associated with factors that can most certainly affect a healthy sex life.
For one, low libido is related to a number of illnesses like diabetes, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s disease, menopause, heart disease/heart failure, kidney failure, stroke and HIV. Each of these diseases is at least somewhat related to a diet lacking important nutrients, particularly diabetes and heart conditions.
Because there is a weak-but-significant correlation between low androgen levels and low libido, obstructive sleep apnea (which bottoms out your testosterone) may also contribute. (4) And, yes, one of the most effective, natural ways to treat sleep apnea is by changing your diet to shed excess pounds.
Speaking of weight, it’s important to understand all the effects of obesity on your health. Very obese men tend to have significantly more sexual dysfunction than men in a healthy weight range. One reason for this is the way obesity impacts hormone levels that directly influence sex drive. (5) The truth is this: not only do obese men struggle with sex drive, they also have a drastically increased chance of experiencing erectile dysfunction (and other diseases that contribute to this cycle). (6)
And, let’s be honest—you feel better when you eat a wholesome, nutrient-rich diet. Eating healthy foods that nourish your body and support a healthy weight can help improve your confidence levels, which may certainly be part of the reason you’re not interested in sex like you used to be.
5 foods and supplements that support a healthy libido†
I personally follow a modified Paleo diet and practice cycles of the high-fat ketogenic diet. In my experience and research, I’ve found these practices to be the most healthful ways to give my body the most nutritional punch, plus protect me from disease.
When it comes to low libido in men, though, there are a few specific foods and supplements that are scientifically proven to improve your sex drive and get you back between the sheets.
- Maca root
Maca root – often referred to simply as “maca” – is an adaptogen herb that has been used in many traditional medicine systems as a sexual stimulant. A 2009 study on trained male cyclists showed maca extract supplementation improved performance and sexual desire in as little as two weeks. (7)
Maca root is available in whole-food form or as a supplement. All varieties of maca are typically thought to be equally useful. Though I always recommend looking for supplements that are made from whole foods and that are, preferably, organic.
There are many uses for watermelon. Is one of them to act as nature’s Viagra? Well, maybe. Scientist Dr. Bhimu Patil at Texas A&M has been conducting research about the nutrients found in watermelon and believes the interactions between the phytonutrients in it may have the ability to mimic Viagra’s blood vessel-relaxing effects and potentially increase libido. (8a, 8b) When you purchase a whole watermelon, retain as many of the beneficial compounds as you can by keeping it on the counter until it’s time to cut open.
- Tiger nuts
Tiger nuts are a high-antioxidant food that have been found in preliminary research studies to improve sexual behavior and increase male hormones. (10) Tiger nuts aren’t actually nuts – they’re technically tubers – so they’re safe for anyone with nut allergies. If you’re looking for tiger nuts, you can enjoy them whole as a nutritious snack. There’s also tiger nut flour, which is a gluten-free flour that’s perfect for baking (paleo chocolate cake, anyone?).
Ginseng (both Asian and American varieties) is another adaptogen that helps improve your body’s healthy stress response. It’s also been shown to be an effective libido-booster in initial studies conducted in animals. Interestingly, ginseng doesn’t act on sex drive by increasing testosterone or other hormone levels. Instead, it more likely impacts nerve function and the central nervous system. (11)
You can find fenugreek in herb and essential oil form, and it might be worth it if you want to increase your desire for sex. In a study of 60 males between 25 and 52 years of age, researchers observed that treatment with fenugreek significantly improved parameters for libido and sexual pleasure. It also seemed to help regulate poor testosterone levels. (12) If you purchase fenugreek leaves for the first time to season food, don’t be surprised if it smells somewhat bitter. The taste of fenugreek becomes much more pleasant once it’s cooked.