What you eat — as well as what you don’t eat — can have a profound effect on your erection health in the coming year. If you’ve acquired some unhealthy eating habits over the years, trading them in for better habits can help you to prevent erection problems or ease your symptoms of impotence if trouble has already begun.
As you may have heard, there is a very close link between the health of your penis and the health of your heart. If you’ve already begun to experience symptoms of impotence, it’s a warning that you may be headed for heart trouble down the road.
For optimal function, both the penis and the heard depend on a strong and unimpeded blood flow. Because the arteries supplying the penis are much smaller in diameter than those that feed the heart, signs of trouble usually show up there first. Acting quickly to change your dietary habits and get rid of other unhealthy lifestyle choices in some cases can reverse the damage done to erectile function and avert more serious cardiovascular illness in the future.
Heart-Healthy = Penis-Healthy
Because the ultimate health of these two organs are so closely linked, adopting a heart-healthy diet usually helps to protect against erection problems at the same time that it improves cardiovascular health. So all the advice you have heard about heart-healthy eating applies when you’re looking for ways to improve erection health.
If you were to adopt a single eating plan or pattern that’s beneficial for both your heart and penis, it would be hard to top the so-called Mediterranean diet, which is rich in plant-based foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, unrefined grains and grain products, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. The diet also incorporates moderate amounts (at least twice weekly) of fish and poultry. Red meat is rarely eaten. For those who drink alcohol, the diet does allow moderate amounts of red wine.
The Mediterranean diet is so-called because it follows the age-old eating habits of the men and women who live along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. They eat plenty of whole-grain bread, but eat it either plain or dipped in olive oil. Salt intake is minimized by using other herbs and spices to season food. If you’ve got a yen for something sweet after a meal, eat some fruit, but steer clear of processed desserts made with refined sugar.
Moderate Dairy Intake
Moderate amounts of dairy products are allowable on the Mediterranean diet and should be consumed primarily in the form of yogurt and cheese. To maximize your benefits from this diet, or any diet for that matter, you should try to stay physically active, which is typical of the people living in the Mediterranean basin.
Oldways, an organization dedicated to the idea that traditional ethnic and regional eating plans can guide us to good health and well-being, created the original Mediterranean Diet Pyramid back in 1993. Food pyramids are helpful visual guides to the overall makeup of a diet and which foods are most important as well as those foods that should be eaten in moderation or not at all.
Main Pillars of Diet
Making up the base of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid are the foods that should provide the basis for every meal. These include fruits, vegetables, grains (mostly whole), olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes and seeds, and herbs and spices. The next level up on the pyramid is fish and seafood, which should be eaten at least twice a week.
The next higher level is devoted to poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt, moderate portions of which are allowable. At the very top of the pyramid are red meats and sweets, both of which should be eaten in very moderate amounts to maintain good health. Drinking lots of water is also an essential part of the diet, which also permits some wine as well. Red wine, rich in resveratrol, is preferable.
Other Heart-Healthy Diets
Although the Mediterranean diet remains the gold standard for heart-healthy eating, other diets and eating plans can help preserve erectile function and protect your cardiovascular system as well. For general guidelines, check out the American Heart Association’s diet and lifestyle recommendations.
Down through the ages, certain foods have developed a reputation as particularly supportive of sexual function. To the extent that these foods are also heart-healthy, you should try to incorporate as many as possible into your personal diet. In an article posted at EverydayHealth.com, Chris Iliades, M.D., offers profiles of six erection-friendly nutrients and the foods that contain them:
- Nitrates in Leafy Greens and Beets: Identical in chemical structure to the nitrates in prescription drugs that treat angina and high blood pressure, nitrates can be found in leafy greens, such as celery and spinach, and beet juice. These nutrients are natural vasodilators, which expand blood vessels to support more robust blood flow.
- Flavonoids in Dark Chocolate: Although binging on dark chocolate isn’t compatible with good heart health, choosing dark chocolate over milk chocolate and other sweets for an occasional treat makes good nutritional sense. Dark chocolate’s flavonoids, plant-based chemical compounds, have been found to improve circulation, which is key to getting and keeping an erection.
- Protein in Pistachios: In a recent research study, men with erection problems who ate pistachio nuts every day for three weeks experienced significant improvements in erectile function, as well as sexual desire and overall sexual satisfaction. Pistachios are rich in protein, particularly the amino acid arginine, which is believed to help dilate blood vessels and facilitate strong blood flow.
- Zinc in Oysters and Other Shellfish: For centuries oysters have had a reputation as a food with aphrodisiac-like qualities, which can be explained in part by their high levels of zinc. Zinc plays a key role in your body’s production of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone. According to the findings of a research study presented at a conference of the American Chemical Society, raw shellfish also contain compounds that trigger the release of sex hormones in both men and women.
- Antioxidants in Watermelon: Rich in plant-based nutrients that are also antioxidants, watermelon is not only a refreshing and healthy summertime treat, but it also helps support erectile function by relaxing blood vessels.
- Lycopene in Pink Grapefruit and Tomatoes: Lycopene is a plant-based nutrient found in high levels in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, guavas, red bell peppers, red cabbage, and papaya. According to EverydayHealth.com, lycopene is best digested when consumed with naturally oily foods such as avocados and olive oil, which makes it easy to get plenty of this nutrient in a salad that combines several lycopene-rich foods with avocado and olive oil.
Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of nutrition and health-related topics.
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