Food For Love?

Will your Valentine's Day celebration involve preparing a gourmet meal with those special foods we've all heard are aphrodisiacs? An aphrodisiac is any food, drink, or scent that increases sexual desire. The word is derived from Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love, whose allure and sensuality have been associated with many foods through the ages.

Is there any merit to these claims? Here's what I learned as I tried to satisfy my own curiosity about the subject:

  • Oysters: I couldn't find any valid scientific claim regarding oysters and their role as an aphrodisiac. Many people believe that the oyster's reputation as an aphrodisiac is due to its high zinc content and the role of this mineral in sperm production.

  • Chocolate: Some people believe that the caffeine and phenylethylamine-a natural chemical known as the "love drug" for its psychoactive properties-found in cocoa are responsible for the feeling of euphoria some people experience when they eat these delectable sweets. Elevated levels of this naturally occurring brain chemical are thought to produce a "high" similar to the feeling produced when one is in love.

  • Wine and champagne: One glass of wine or champagne can be relaxing but there is little support for the notion that alcohol is an aphrodisiac. Even though alcohol can reduce inhibition, drinking too much of it can also lead to decreased sexual performance.

  • Chili and other spicy foods: These foods have long been considered sexual stimulants. Many spicy foods are high in capsaicin, a substance that has been linked to increased heartbeat, metabolism, and sweating, all physiologic responses that are similar to those experienced during sex.

These are only a few of the many reputedly aphrodisiac foods. Even though much of their reputation for increasing sexual arousal is anecdotal and hasn't been validated by scientific research, this shouldn't dissuade you from doing your own research. Perhaps you'll have an anecdote of your own to add after your Valentine's Day meal!