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Published February 11, 2013, 11:35 PM

Can certain foods spice up your Valentine’s Day dining experience?

Can food help to spice up your love life on Valentine’s Day? Depends on who you ask. Some believe certain foods have aphrodisiac powers. Taking the name from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, these foods supposedly have the ability to increase our sexual desires.

Can food help to spice up your love life on Valentine’s Day?

Depends on who you ask.

Some believe certain foods have aphrodisiac powers. Taking the name from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, these foods supposedly have the ability to increase our sexual desires.

Count Tony Nasello, chef of Sarello’s Restaurant & Wine Lounge in Moorhead, among the believers. Nasello thinks food has the ability to make us hungry for, ahem, something other than food.

“You can really get into the chemistry of it, what foods have what ingredients that stimulate something, but who wants to talk about that?” Nasello asks. “I don’t know the answers to that. I’m not a doctor.”

Rather, Nasello thinks that a combination of other factors – such as the appearance of foods – can have an effect on our overall mood.

“There are foods that are suggestive of seduction from their visual,” he says, pointing out foods with a distinctive shape, like asparagus, carrots, bananas and more.

Nasello said a proper combination of such appealing foods can produce a powerful, even sensual, reaction.

“Those kinds of foods can relax you and satisfy the senses,” he says.

But not everyone believes that food has such sexual powers.

Ellen Lutgen, a registered dietitian and instructor in Concordia College’s nutrition and dietetics department, says there’s just no sign that these foods can affect us in a sexual way.

“For scientific evidence, there’s nothing directly linking foods to having the effects of an aphrodisiac,” she says. “The Food and Drug Administration has been quoted as saying there’s no evidence.”

Lutgen agrees that people may respond in particular ways to the aesthetic aspect of foods – their appearance or their texture, for example – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re aphrodisiacs.

Instead, Lutgen and other dietitians would just recommend that people focus on having a balanced, nutritious diet.

“An overall healthy diet and regular physical activity help you stay healthy and feel good about yourself,” she says.

Though Lutgen and Nasello disagree on whether foods qualify as aphrodisiacs, per se, both suggested some of the same foods for this time of the year because of the health benefits they bring to the table.

So, try adding some of these foods to your plate for the next few days – and for every day beyond.

Seafood

Oysters in particular have been considered to be an aphrodisiac in the past. The reason behind this, Lutgen thinks, is because they contain a high level of zinc.

“Zinc is something that’s beneficial for healthy sperm production,” she explains.

Salmon, too, is another food suggested by both Nasello and Lutgen because it contains omega-3 fatty acids.

“Omega-3 fatty foods are really good for you, like salmon,” Nasello says. “They give you energy.”

That healthy fat can also help regulate your hormones and blood flow properly, Lutgen adds.

“We recommend that for a healthy diet,” she says.

Vegetables

In addition to the visually seductive vegetables mentioned by Nasello, Lutgen pointed to tomatoes as another supposed aphrodisiac that’s part of a healthy, balanced diet.

“It’s a folk story that tomatoes were supposed to be helpful for love and whatnot,” she says. “But we know that tomatoes have other nutrients that are good for you.”

Nuts

Nuts, which provide many nutritional benefits, have also said to be aphrodisiacs. In particular, walnuts, like seafood, provide that important omega-3 fatty acid, Lutgen says.

She referred to a study done by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles that found that walnuts have a similar health benefit for men as oysters.

“They found that men that ate walnuts every day had better semen qualities than men that didn’t eat walnuts,” she says.

Chocolate

Chocolate also comes to mind as a particularly romantic food for Valentine’s Day.

For full effect, Nasello recommends pairing dark chocolate with an aged port wine.

“That’s like firecrackers right there,” he says.

Lutgen agrees that chocolate does have its nutritional benefits. But like many things, it’s best eaten in moderation.

“There’s not really clear research on that, if it helps your mood or anything,” she says. “But we do know that dark chocolate, in small amounts, might be beneficial to your health.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

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