Sorry, guys: There's no miracle food to prevent erectile dysfunction. However, there is some evidence that certain foods may help.
"Evidence that foods can help with ED is probably related to a vascular connection," says Firouz Daneshgari, MD, professor and chairman of the department of urology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. "Erectile problems are usually due to not having a good blood supply to the penis, so foods that are good for your vascular system may also help prevent ED." Should you eat more of the foods containing these key nutrients?
Find out which foods may prevent erection problems — and how they work.
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Leafy green vegetables, like celery and spinach, may increase circulation because of their high concentration of nitrates. Beet juice has been found to be really high in nitrates. Nitrates are vasodilators, which means they open up blood vessels and increase blood flow. Many years before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first ED drug in 1998, several case reports on the beneficial effects of nitrates for erectile dysfunction had already been published. The ED drugs used today are based on the relaxing effects of nitrates on the blood vessels that supply the penis.
A recent study in the journal Circulation found that flavonoids in dark chocolate improve circulation. That could be good for erection problems that are due to poor circulation. Flavonoids are naturally-occurring antioxidants that protect plants from toxins and help repair cell damage. Studies show that flavonoids and other antioxidants have similar effects on people. They may help lower blood pressure and decrease cholesterol, both of which are factors that contribute to erectile dysfunction.
A recent study found that men with erectile dysfunction who ate pistachio nuts every day for three weeks experienced significant improvement in sexual issues, including ED, sexual desire, and overall sexual satisfaction. The benefits of pistachios for erection problems may be due to a protein called arginine, which may help relax blood vessels. "This is another example of how good circulation is good for sexual health, which is good news because I eat a lot of pistachios," says Dr. Daneshgari.
The oyster has always had an aphrodisiac reputation. One reason may be that oysters have high levels of the mineral zinc, which plays an important role in the production of the male hormone testosterone, and low levels of testosterone could be one reason for erectile dysfunction. Research presented at an American Chemical Society meeting may offer another connection: Raw shellfish contain compounds that stimulate the release of sexual hormones in both men and women.
Some studies show that watermelon may have effects on erectile dysfunction that are similar to the ED drug Viagra and may also increase sexual desire. Watermelon is rich in beneficial ingredients known as phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are also antioxidants. One of their benefits is that they relax the blood vessels that supply an erection. Although watermelon is 92 percent water, the other 8 percent may work wonders for your heart and your sexual enjoyment.
Lycopene is one of those phytonutrients that is good for circulation and good for sexual issues. Lycopene is found in deep red fruits like tomatoes and grapefruits. Some studies show that lycopene may be absorbed best when mixed with oily vegetables like avocados and spinach. So you might want to make yourself an ED-fighting salad. Research also shows that antioxidants like lycopene help fight male infertility and prostate cancer.
The bottom line? According to Daneshgari, "Your best bet is to eat a healthy diet that is good for your heart and your circulation." Other foods that are good for your circulation include cranberries, apples, peanuts, onions, tea, and red wine.
Chances are, if you take good care of your vascular health, you will avoid many of the common causes of erectile dysfunction.