If you’ve begun to experience some frustrating and embarrassing erection problems in the bedroom, you might be able to prevent them — or at least keep them from getting worse — by changing what you eat.
After all, the vast majority of all erection problems can be attributed to insufficient blood flow to the penis, in much the same way that most cardiovascular disease can be blamed on compromised blood flow to the heart and brain. All of which confirms the widely held observation that what’s good for your heart is also good for your penis, and vice versa.
Atherosclerosis Is the Culprit
And one of the biggest contributors to both impotence and cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries. That plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood and derived for the most part from what you eat and drink. Over time this plaque on artery walls hardens, which explains why atherosclerosis is also known as hardening of the arteries. As the plaque builds up and hardens, it limits the flow of blood through the arteries, thus leading to a host of health problems, including high blood pressure, impotence, heart disease, and stroke.
For obvious reasons, fast-food addicts run a very real risk of atherosclerosis because much of what they eat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. To reduce your risk of developing erection problems or cardiovascular disease, you should eat a diet that supports heart health, which by extension also promotes strong erectile function.
Recommendations from the American Heart Association call for a diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, and nuts, while limiting your intake of red meat as well as sugary foods and beverages.
DASH Diet Can Help
If you trust yourself to follow a diet that follows these broad guidelines from the AHA, you can probably prepare an eating plan on your own. However, if you prefer a somewhat more detailed diet plan, the AHA gives high marks to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which was designed to lower blood pressure. In so doing, it lowers the risk of both impotence and cardiovascular disease.
The DASH diet is also highly recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. NHLBI offers this helpful summary of a typical day’s intake on the DASH eating plan:
Grains and Grain Products: You may have seven to eight servings of grain or grain products daily. Typical serving sizes include one slice of bread, one cup of ready-to-eat cereal, and a half-cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal.
Vegetables: Four to five servings daily. Typical servings might include one cup of raw, leafy vegetable, a half-cup of cooked vegetable, or a 6-ounce glass of vegetable juice.
Fruits: Four to five servings daily. Typical servings include a medium-size fruit, such as an apple; a quarter-cup of dried fruit; a half-cup of fresh, frozen, or canned fruit; or a 6-ounce glass of fruit juice.
Low-Fat or Fat-Free Dairy Foods: Two to three servings daily. A typical serving might include an 8-ounce glass of milk, a cup of yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of cheese.
Lean Meats, Poultry, or Fish: Two or fewer servings per day. A typical serving would be three ounces of cooked lean meat, skinless poultry, or fish.
Nuts, Seeds, and Dry Beans: Four to five servings per week. Typical servings include one-third cup or 1.5 ounces of nuts, one tablespoon or a half-ounce of seeds, or a half-cup of cooked dried beans.
Fats and Oils: Two to three servings daily. A typical serving might be a teaspoon of soft margarine, a tablespoon of low-fat mayonnaise, two tablespoons of light salad dressing, or one teaspoon of vegetable oil.
Sweets: Five servings per week. Typical servings might include a tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon of jelly or jam, a half-ounce of jelly beans, or an 8-ounce glass of lemonade.
The DASH diet is by no means the only game in town. Another heart-healthy diet that supports healthy erections is the so-called Mediterranean diet. In a recent post on U.S. News & World Report’s Eat + Run blog, registered dietitian Tamara Duker Freuman says the Mediterranean diet is probably the best-studied diet when it comes to its effects on erectile function. When compared to the typical Western diet, ¨this pattern of eating is associated with an improvement in erectile function among men with erectile dysfunction – as well as reduced risk of developing erectile dysfunction among men who do not yet suffer from it.¨
Avoid Atkins-Style Diets
And the Mediterranean diet is vastly superior to the low-carb Atkins-style diets, which seem to be the default selection of men who are looking to shed some extra pounds, says dietitian Duker Freuman. Such diets go heavy on the types of foods most likely to clog your arteries while steering clear of foods that are rich in antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, such as whole-grain oats, barley, fruit, and beans.
While not unlike the DASH diet in some respects, the Mediterranean diet has as its centerpiece olive oil, a monounsaturated fat that has been shown to help promote healthy erections, particularly when combined with lycopene from tomatoes. In a Spanish study, 40 men — all age 50 or above and all with symptoms of mild to moderate impotence — were given daily doses of 20 milliliters of organic extra virgin olive oil and 8 milligrams of tomato lycopene for three months. At the end of the trial period, roughly half of the men with mild erection problems reported significant improvement in erectile function.
Mediterranean Diet Guidelines
As outlined at MayoClinic.com, the Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. It replaces unhealthy fats, such as butter, with healthy fats, primarily from olive oil. The diet cuts down on sodium intake by using herbs and spices to flavor food. Red meat consumption should be limited to no more than a few times each month, while fish and poultry can be eaten at least twice a week. The diet allows — but does not mandate — moderate consumption of alcohol, as in one or two glasses of red wine daily.
For men who are not already taking medications to treat angina or impotence, Duker Freuman has another suggestion. Roughly two to three hours before sexual activity, drink two cups of beet juice. This nitrate-rich juice stimulates the body to produce more nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and thus lowers blood pressure and optimizes blood flow to the penis. She warns those who opt to try this remedy that the beet juice ¨will tint your urine a lovely pink and dye your stools a beautiful magenta color for a day or two. Don’t panic.¨
Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of nutrition and health-related topics.
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