Salmon, berries, leafy greens, and dark chocolate are just a few of the many foods with health benefits relevant to men with erectile dysfunction (ED). Remember: a diet that’s good for your heart is also good for erections.
Men who want to head off erection problems before they become serious enough to require treatment with drugs may want to take advantage of some of Mother Nature’s erection-friendly superfoods.
Such foods contain high levels of nutrients that promote or support erectile function. And for those who like plenty of variety in their diet, the good news is that these superfoods straddle almost all food categories, including some that are most popularly considered dessert selections. The only folks likely to be somewhat disappointed are those whose idea of a good meal is one centered almost exclusively on red meat.
Impotence Has Many Causes
Although the most widespread cause of erectile dysfunction is insufficient blood flow to the penis, it is not the only cause of impotence. Other causes include nerve damage and psychological factors, such as depression, anxiety, and stress or a combination of all three.
Men who suffer from underlying health conditions that compromise blood flow and/or damage the nervous system may want to look for foods that either reverse such conditions or at the very least ease their effects. Such underlying health disorders include atherosclerosis and other manifestations of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hormonal disorders.
For those whose erection problems arise from vascular problems, going for heart-healthy foods will not only help to support erectile function but will also help to reduce the risk of more serious cardiovascular episodes, such as heart attacks and strokes.
Early Warning Sign
Fortunately, one of the earliest warning signs of cardiovascular disease is persistent difficulty in getting and keeping an erection. Men who heed this warning sign and do something about it may be able to regain normal erectile function while also heading off the threat of more serious consequences.
So for those who like to keep things as simple as possible, eating a heart-healthy diet is a good place to get started, particularly for men whose erection problems are linked to underlying vascular disease. However, to maximize the benefits of a heart-healthy diet, one should try to include certain superfoods that are rich in the nutrients that play key roles in the erection process.
Heart-Healthy Diet Guidelines
As to the basic elements of a heart-healthy diet, these are pretty straightforward and provide a sound foundation for anyone interested in improving overall health, including sexual health. Here are some pointers offered by the University of Maryland Medical Center:
- Eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legume, and nuts, while at the same time reducing your consumption of foods and beverages that are high in calories and low in nutrients.
- Eat fish at least twice a week. The most preferable selections in this category are oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon, and trout, all of which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Try to get 5 to 10 percent of your daily caloric intake from foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids. These healthy fats are abundant in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils such as corn, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils.
- Opt for dairy products that are either fat-free or very low in fat.
- Limit your consumption of foods high in cholesterol and saturated fats. These foods include egg yolks, red meat, shellfish, and whole-fat dairy products.
- Limit consumption of trans fatty acids to less than 1 percent of your daily caloric intake. These dangerously unhealthy fats are found in fast foods and products from commercial bakeries. If in doubt, check product labels and nutritional information posted at restaurants.
- Restrict your intake of sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day.
Once you’ve established a heart-healthy diet as your nutritional foundation, you can begin to add some erection-friendly superfoods to maximize the benefits for your erectile function. Here are some that you’ll want to make part of your overall eating plan:
Dark Chocolate: Widely considered an aphrodisiac by ancient civilizations, dark chocolate is a treat that, consumed in moderation, can help to support the erectile process, particularly in men experiencing vascular problems. A study published in “Circulation,” the official journal of the American Heart Association, found that dark chocolate’s flavonoids — plant-based chemicals with antioxidant properties — helped to improve vascular function. There is also evidence that dark chocolate can lower blood pressure as well as levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.
Berries and Cherries: Also rich in flavonoids, cherries and blue, purple, and red berries can help to improve blood flow, which is essential to optimal erectile function.
Bananas: Bananas contain high levels of potassium, which helps to relax blood vessels and may also help to offset the negative effects of a diet that is too high in sodium. So, if you’ve found that your salt intake has slipped a bit higher than you’d like, you may be able to undo some of that damage by eating a banana.
Garlic: While it may do nothing to enhance your breath, garlic has plenty of benefits for erectile function. It contains plant chemicals that promote your body’s production of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, and also helps to increase levels of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels to increase blood flow to the penis.
Walnuts: These popular tree nuts are rich in arginine, an amino acid that is one of the body’s building blocks for nitric oxide, essential to strong blood flow.
Oysters and Other Shellfish: Yes, it turns out that oyster’s reputation as an aphrodisiac has some basis in fact. The oyster and many other shellfish contain high levels of zinc, which helps to promote the production of testosterone.
Pistachios: A popular and healthy snack food in moderation, pistachios contain plenty of arginine, which is a chemical precursor to nitric oxide, essential to good erectile function.
Watermelon: A perfect summertime treat, watermelon is loaded with healthy phytonutrients, plant-based chemicals with antioxidant properties. Of particular note is watermelon’s high levels of citrulline, an amino acid that the body converts first to arginine and then to nitric oxide.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes and other fruits that are deep red in color owe their hue to lycopene, which is known to promote stronger circulation.
Nitrate-Rich Vegetables: It turns out that eating your spinach can help to ensure optimal erectile function. Popeye’s favorite food is rich in nitrates, which promote strong blood flow. Other nitrate-rich vegetables include celery, chervil, lettuce, red beetroot, and watercress.
Salmon and Other Oily Fish: Salmon and other oily fish, such as herring, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote your body’s production of nitric oxide.
Red Wine: A glass or two of red wine offers a generous helping of resveratrol, a plant-based compound with strong antioxidant properties that promote optimal vascular health, thus helping to support erectile function.
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Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of nutrition and health-related topics.