Eating a balanced and healthy diet holds the promise of better health in virtually every aspect of your life, including sexual health. And for men, the most obvious manifestation of good sexual health is reliable erectile function.
Ignore the guidelines for healthy eating, and you run the very real risk of gradually losing your edge, sexually. For those not listening closely, that means that you may very well find it difficult or even impossible to get and keep an erection strong enough for sexual intercourse.
It won’t happen overnight, but rest assured that you will eventually either reap the benefits of eating healthy or pay the price for indulging in an unhealthy diet full of saturated fats, refined sugars and flour, and way more calories than your body needs to function properly.
Healthy Diet Offers Bonus
If you’ve already decided that 2015 is going to be the year you change your eating habits, whether for purposes of losing weight or just improving your overall health, more power to you. And as an added incentive to stick to your new healthier eating plan, just bear in mind that it will probably pay dividends in the bedroom over time.
So what constitutes a healthy diet?
Although erection problems may stem from a variety of causes, medical professionals agree that far and away the biggest single cause of impotence is compromised blood flow to the penis. So a diet that promotes vascular health is one that will benefit erectile function. Or, as a number of doctors have observed, what’s good for your heart is also good for your penis, or vice versa.
Heart-Healthy Diet Guidelines
Thus, a heart-healthy diet is also an erection-friendly diet. From the University of Maryland Medical Center come these guidelines for a diet that should promote both cardiovascular and sexual health and function.
- A well-balanced diet should contain plenty of high-fiber foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Steer clear of food and beverages that are high in calories but relatively poor in nutrients.
- Try to eat fish at least twice a week. Oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon, and trout, are good choices because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids that have been clinically shown to help prevent death from heart disease.
- Equally important to a healthy diet are omega-6 fatty acids, which can be found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils such as corn, safflower, soybean, and sunflower. Ideally, you should try to get 5 to 10 percent of your daily calories from these foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids.
- When it comes to dairy products, stay away from full-fat products, choosing instead those that are low-fat or fat-free.
- Keep your daily consumption of foods that are high in cholesterol and saturated fats to a minimum. Such foods include full-fat dairy products, red meat, egg yolks, and shellfish.
- No more than 1 percent of your daily caloric intake should be allocated to foods that contain trans fatty acids, which are found in many so-called fast foods as well as baked goods. Check your nutrition labels to be sure.
- Substitute healthier unsaturated fats from fish and plant oils for the saturated fats and trans fats you eliminate from your diet.
- Try to keep your sodium intake as low as possible. A good daily limit is 1,500 milligrams a day.
- Instead of beverages or processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients, choose fruits that are high in nutrients.
- Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, if at all. For men, that means no more than drinks a day and only one drink a day for women.
- Exercise on a regular basis, ideally at least 30 minutes a day.
If you’re looking for a model diet that can promote healthy erectile function and also keep your cardiovascular system in tip-top shape, you probably can’t find a better one than the so-called Mediterranean diet. That diet is based on the traditional eating patterns of the men and women living in the Mediterranean Basin, whose incidence of heart disease and erection problems (among men) is far lower than that found in the general population.
Mediterranean Diet Basics
In a nutshell (yes, the diet features nuts as one of its mainstays), the Mediterranean diet focuses primarily on plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. According to MayoClinic.com, other key elements of the diet involve replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil; replacing salt with herbs and spices to flavor foods; eating fish and poultry at least twice a week; and red meat consumption to only a few times a month. For those who like to relax with a glass of wine, the Mediterranean diet allows you to indulge in red wine in moderation.
Across the years, certain foods have developed a reputation — deserved or undeserved — for enhancing both sexual desire and function. In a recent article posted at Yahoo! Health, writer Heather Hurlock lists 15 foods and beverages that have been proven to have beneficial effects on male sexual health and function. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of these items are featured prominently in the Mediterranean diet.
Alcohol in Moderation
Alcohol, preferably red wine, in moderation can have beneficial effects on erectile function, according to research conducted by David R. Meldrum, M.D., a clinical professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. One or two drinks at most. More than that can actually suppress blood flow and make it more difficult to get an erection.
Three kinds of nuts — almonds, pistachios, and walnuts — get high marks for their beneficial effects on erectile function. Almonds are a prime source of vitamin E, which enhances your body’s production of nitric oxide, a key player in the erectile process. Both pistachios and walnuts are high in arginine, an amino acid that is a building block of nitric oxide.
Bananas, cherries, and watermelon are fruits that promote erectile function. Bananas (it figures, right?) are an excellent source of potassium, which helps to relax the smooth muscles lining blood vessel walls, thus promoting strong blood flow. Cherries have high levels of flavonoids that are potent antioxidants, cleansing free radicals from arteries, thus allowing them to relax and carry more blood. The citrulline in watermelon stimulates your body’s production of nitric oxide, which plays a big role in the erectile process, as we’ve already noted.
In the fish and shellfish category, oysters and salmon get high marks. The former are loaded with zinc, which in and of itself promotes blood flow but also stimulates your body’s production of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone.
Spices with Beneficial Effects
Among the spices, garlic, ginger, and nutmeg all have a beneficial effect on erectile function. Garlic works it magic by promoting nitric oxide production, while ginger has strong antioxidant effects, decreasing inflammation and killing off free radicals so that blood vessels can relax, thus boosting blood flow. Nutmeg is considered a natural aphrodisiac, which may come from its high levels of myristic acid that has been shown to increase nitric oxide production.
Olive oil, the healthy fat that is one of the mainstays of the Mediterranean diet, also helps to stimulate your body’s production of testosterone, which plays an important role in stimulating sexual desire.
The last two food items — dark chocolate and grass-fed butter — on Heather Hurlock’s list should probably be eaten only in small amounts, but both appear to have a beneficial effect on erectile health. Dark chocolate has high levels of flavonoids that tend to dilate arteries, promoting strong blood flow. Grass-fed butter is high in vitamin K2, regular consumption of which is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. And, as we’ve already noted, what’s good for your heart is good for your penis.
Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of nutrition and health-related topics.
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