Love is in the air and the shops are bedecked with scarlet hearts in honour of Valentine’s Day. This flurry of romantic ads and products makes one think about humanity’s eternal quest for love, sex appeal and sexual prowess.
Human beings have been consuming weird and wonderful foods, herbs and beverages since the dawn of time in the hope and belief that these magic pills and potions will make the consumer more attractive to the opposite sex or increase his/her performance in the bedroom. Of course, nowadays we have Viagra, but the old beliefs die hard and there are thousands of people who firmly believe that eating oysters and caviar, and sipping champagne will turn them into super studs.
But how true are these ideas and beliefs surrounding dietary aphrodisiacs? I believe that every myth is based on a bit of truth, no matter how tiny. Let’s have a scientific look at some of the most popular aphrodisiac foods to see why they've earned "love food" status:
Oysters, caviar, prawns, lobsters, shrimps, perlemoen (abalone) and other forms of seafood have always been regarded as aphrodisiacs. From a nutritional point of view, seafoods are rich in protein, iron, zinc and iodine.
of animal origin, which can also be found in seafood, supplies the body with all the essential amino acids to build strong muscles and lean body tissue - both highly desirable traits in prospective lovers.
is essential for the production of healthy red blood cells, which in turn ensure that your brain and muscles are supplied with plenty of oxygen and glucose, thus increasing stamina.
is one of the most important trace elements found in semen. The zinc level in semen is 100 times higher than in blood. In populations deprived of zinc, puberty is delayed and the sexual organs don't develop normally.
Sufficient zinc in your diet, obtained through seafood, may also help to improve your chances in the Valentine’s sweepstakes. And this is where oysters come in: raw and canned oysters contain a whopping 91mg of zinc per 100g - probably the highest concentration of the mineral found in any food.
is required for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is often referred to as the “power house” of the body. If you don't produce sufficient thyroid hormones, you'll feel sluggish, tired, depressed and have little energy left for amorous pursuits. To keep your thyroid healthy, you require iodine - so tuck into those seafood delicacies.
2. Love apples
When tomatoes were first introduced to Europe, they were called “love apples” because of the stimulating effect they were believed to have. This notion was pooh-poohed by the scientific establishment for many years. And yet, new research is showing that tomatoes are the richest source of lycopene in our diet.
Lycopene, which is one of the so-called carotenoids, is proving to be a potent anti-carcinogen, particularly for prostate cancer.
A large study, which was conducted over a period of seven years, showed that lycopene in foods such as tomato sauce and pizza had a dramatic effect on the incidence of prostate cancer. Men eating ten servings of tomato-rich foods a week were 35% less likely to develop prostate cancer than men eating only one serving a week.
Tomato sauce, that much maligned product, has the highest lycopene content of all foods, and gives the greatest protection against prostate cancer.
Valentine’s Day menu
This Valentine's Day, prospective lovers should tuck into raw oysters with all the trimmings, followed by a seafood pizza with plenty of tomato sauce and a large green salad garnished with olive oil. Have a mango sorbet for dessert and accompany your meal with champagne or red wine.
You'll find that this menu isn't too heavy to make you feel sluggish and that it's packed with love foods that will boost your health, if not your prowess!
- (Dr I.V. van Heerden, DietDoc, updated April 2011)
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