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Love in your Plate


This month, I chose a somewhat lighter topic (in every sense of the word)! February is generally associated with two things: one, skiing, and two, love (I say love because Valentine's Day shouldn't be reserved only for lovers 🥰). And since skiing is not my cup of tea, partly because I look like an elephant on a silk thread on skis, and partly because raclette and tartiflette for a nutritionist are always a bit complicated. So, I have no choice but to talk to you about love... through food, of course!



I wondered why some foods are said to have "aphrodisiac" properties, what are they? And what are the biochemical mechanisms that give them these characteristics?

 

Among the most frequently mentioned, we find ginger, ginseng, maca, cinnamon, saffron, dark chocolate, red fruits, and seafood.

 

For the most part, they are said to be aphrodisiacs for their "stimulating" or "energizing" effects. Indeed, behind these two terms hide metabolic effects closely or remotely related to sexual function. Studies are few and unreliable on the subject, but the important thing is to believe in them 😅. What is certain is that they improve circulation, protect blood vessels, and enhance your health due to the antioxidants they contain. All of this will undoubtedly make you more performant (imagine in what way) and also, ensure a healthy heart. After all, isn't love symbolized by the heart 💓 ?

 


Ginger is said to be aphrodisiac, I suppose, for its beneficial effects on blood circulation (anti-platelet, vasodilator, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory) and thus on cardiovascular health. The active molecules it contains (6-shogaol, 6-gingerol, and 10-dehydrogingerdione) have inhibitory effects on the NF-kB factor and certain cytokines highly involved in inflammatory processes. It is also an excellent antioxidant due to its action on two enzymatic complexes, SOD and GSH-Px, the two main barriers our body has to fight oxidation. Finally, it has a vasodilatory action (by inhibiting nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme that catalyzes the production of nitric oxide NO - see detailed explanations in the paragraph on ginseng). Vasodilation is crucial for an erection.

 

Ginseng is used in Chinese medicine to treat sexual disorders in men. And apparently, this is proven by several scientific studies! Gentlemen, ginseng would improve erectile function... These actions are mainly attributed to ginsenosides, which are the main active pharmacological components of ginseng. They promote the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO) in endothelial cells and perivascular nerves, and improve the sensitivity of blood vessel cells to NO. This release of NO causes vasodilation (dilation of blood vessels), thus promoting better blood flow to erectile bodies (or cavernous bodies) and therefore a better erection. Furthermore, it would have an effect on testosterone levels and therefore on libido. It seems to act as a regulator of the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis (the "brain-testicles" axis) at hormonal and neuronal levels. Finally, it would also have effects on fertility by improving the quality of sperm.

I just want to draw attention to the fact that the results of scientific studies on the subject depend on the dose administered and the duration of treatment (not to mention lobbying).

 

Maca is a plant native to Peru, renowned for stimulating sexual desire. But not only that, it would also have neuroprotective effects, effects on memory improvement, and antidepressant, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. However, research struggles to formally demonstrate the role of maca in sexual desire, libido, sperm production, and fertility. Some studies also suggest that maca could contain bioactive compounds with effects similar to testosterone, but again, this is not scientifically established.

 Despite the lack of solid scientific evidence, participants in various studies generally mention an improvement in sexual desire and libido. Is this the result of a placebo effect? Is it due to its general toning effect (which is proven, however)?


Regarding saffron, again, research is limited, but it is said that certain compounds in saffron (such as safranal) would have beneficial effects on libido and sexual function. I think the

aphrodisiac properties attributed to it are more related to its antioxidant and antidepressant properties than to direct effects on libido.

 

The beneficial effects of cinnamon are numerous: antimicrobial and antiparasitic effects, effects on blood sugar and insulin resistance, on blood pressure (vasodilator effect), on serum cholesterol levels, antioxidant properties, and capture of free radicals, inhibition of protein tau aggregation and filament formation involved in Alzheimer's disease, inhibitory effects on osteoclastogenesis, anti-secretagogue and anti-ulcer gastric effects, anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory activity, wound healing properties, and finally, hepatoprotective effects. In short, needless to say, it is one of my favorite spices! But if cinnamon has been attributed aphrodisiac properties for several millennia (in Greek mythology, Aphrodite, goddess of love, desire, and beauty, used it in her rituals), it is because of its vasodilatory effect which, like ginger, helps with a better erection and performance. Moreover, cinnamon bark contains cinnamaldehyde, an organic compound that warms the body... and the hearts?


 Seafood is indeed rich in zinc, a crucial mineral in sperm production. So undoubtedly, I classify seafood as scientifically proven aphrodisiacs!

 

And finally, dark chocolate and red fruits, is the classic image of a strawberry dipped in dark chocolate representing desire and sensuality justified? Indirectly, why not... dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a compound that stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain, thus providing a sensation of pleasure. This is one of the reasons that places it in the category of foods improving stress and anxiety (see September's blog "a stress-free back to school/work"). Moreover, it contains, like red fruits, a large number of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants. The antioxidant effect protects the body against oxidation in the broad sense and, therefore, including sperm and sperm quality. Antioxidants present in red fruits, and particularly anthocyanins, protect blood vessels, contributing to better circulation and therefore a better erection. Obviously, I think the color red, associated with love, contributes to the aphrodisiac effect.



 

In conclusion, I don't know if all these foods deserve the label "aphrodisiac." But what is certain is that each of them has beneficial effects on your health, particularly because they have scientifically proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Just for that, I endorse the label... maybe I'll have more success with gentlemen with my recipe ideas and nutrition advice 😜.


Loving yourself and giving love to others nourishes your inner self🥰


 



 

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