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Are Aphrodisiacs Real?

Cup of coffee with some hearts.

Are aphrodisiacs—foods or substances that increase sexual desire—real? Or, are they simply an old wives’ tale? While the FDA has concluded that non-medicinal approaches to increasing sexual desire are ineffective, some research points to the possibility that we aren’t just imagining that aphrodisiacs improve our sex lives.

Studies have shown that eating certain ones can:

  • Increase your hormone levels
  • Create feelings that mimic the sensations of arousal
  • Provide health benefits

Want to take a chance on groceries with some sexy side effects? Here are five foods famous for putting people in the mood:


Oysters are one of the most notorious aphrodisiacs. Known for evoking the shape of lady anatomy, oysters are high in zinc, which can improve a nutritionally deficient diet and lead to increased sperm production. However, a stronger link was found in a study conducted in 2005, which found that oysters are rich in rare amino acids that trigger increased levels of sexual hormones in both men and women.

Chili Peppers

Considered both an aphrodisiac and a symbol of love, chili peppers make you sweat, speed up your heart rate, and stimulate endorphins (chemicals which can produce a feeling of euphoria). According to Dr. Meryl S. Rosofsky, a professor in the department of nutrition and health studies at NYU, the effects of chili peppers mimic a state of sexual arousal.


The caffeine in coffee speeds up your heart rate and increases blood flow, but did you know it could also put women in the mood for sexy time? One study showed that female rats exposed to the stimulant were quicker to scurry over to the male rats for sex.


The avocado has been known as an aphrodisiac since the time of the Aztecs, who called it ahucatl (which also means testicle). King Louis XIV of France also turned to the avocado when his libido began to wane in older age. Despite the sexy reputation, there’s no scientific proof that avocado directly affects sexual arousal; however, there is proof avocados can boost the immune system and give the skin a more youthful appearance.


The phallic shape of the banana has always invited sexual innuendo (and plenty of snickers in health class). Yet the fruit also contains potassium and vitamin B, which elevate energy levels, as well as bromelain, an enzyme that Dr. Oz says aids in greater production of testosterone.

So while research indicates that there is some science behind the centuries-old theories about erotic foods, the jury’s still out on whether any of these items are directly responsible for sexual arousal. Still, there’s one tried and true aphrodisiac that doesn’t need to be digested: your own imagination. As Dr. Ruth once famously said, “The most important sex organ is between the ears.”

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