Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common but hidden condition that affects the sex lives of about 1 million men in Australia and their respective partners.
ED or impotence can dent self-esteem, impact physical health and place a great deal of pressure on relationships.
But what if you could make a few dietary changes to improve your sexual performance and prevent or reduce the incidence of ED?
Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, Anika Rouf, tells SBS that some men may be able to battle the condition by changing what they eat. In particular, she says, males who eat lots of fruit might have a lower risk of ED.
Rouf cites research from 2016 that examines the relationship between ED and a diet high in flavonoids – plant compounds found in foods like fruit and vegetables that provide anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.
“The study looks at data from 25,000 men with erectile dysfunction,” Rouf tells SBS. “The researchers found that the flavonoids in fruits helped to increase the sexual function in these men. It shows that eating more fruits is associated with reduced ED.”
When it comes to mental health, the old saying "you are what you eat" rings true. Foods high in tryptophan boost the serotonin in our brains, leading to improved happiness levels, appetite, sleep, memory and sexual desire.
The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was conducted on men with ED who ate a diet rich in flavonoids from fruit and followed up over a 10-year period.
The long-term study showed that a higher intake of flavonoids from fruit was associated with a reduction in the risk of younger men aged 70 and under, not older men.
“In a food-based analysis, higher total intake of fruit, a major source of anthocyanins and flavanones, was associated with a 14 per cent reduction in risk of ED,” the study reads. “These data suggest that a higher habitual intake of specific flavonoid-rich foods is associated with reduced ED incidence.”
What diet should I follow to help with my depression?
If you want to prevent or better manage your depression, you have a few more dietary options than just following the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet and ED
Other dietary sources of flavonoids include tea, vegetables, legumes and red wine; which brings Rouf to another evidence-based dietary suggestion.
The Mediterranean diet – the gold standard of eating plans that can protect your heart and regulate your weight – is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and even includes the odd serve of red wine.
As it turns out, research suggests if you have type 2 diabetes and your libido is waning as a result, adhering to the Mediterranean dietary principles of eating could improve your sex life.
“While there is no solid evidence for any individual food to be aphrodisiac, the Mediterranean diet may have some positive effects,” Rouf says.
According to the Better Health Channel, men with diabetes may face a higher risk of ED, especially if their diabetes is not well controlled.
“While there is no solid evidence for any individual food to be aphrodisiac, the Mediterranean diet may have some positive effects."
Research from 2010, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, examined the clinical evidence on the role of diet in ED.
The study found that people without ED were more likely to maintain a dietary pattern which is high in fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and fish but low in red and processed meat and refined grains.
It also showed that type 2 diabetic men who had the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet had the lowest prevalence of ED and were more likely to be sexually active.
“The adoption of a Mediterranean diet may be associated with an improvement of erectile dysfunction,” the study concludes.
If you want to have sex more often and fall pregnant faster, eat more seafood
Seafood may feature more regularly on the menu, following the release of new study showing that couples who eat the most seafood have sex a lot more often than everyone else.
Female sexual performance and diet
Another piece of research conducted by some of the same authors as the male study, published in 2010 in the same journal, looked at the impact of the Mediterranean diet on female sexual function.
The study analysed data from around 600 women aged 35-70 with type 2 diabetes. Results showed that more women who adhered to the Mediterranean diet were sexually active. The research concludes that women with type 2 diabetes who strictly follow a Mediterranean diet may have a lower prevalence of sexual dysfunction.
Rouf says that although conditions underlying sexual dysfunction in men and women are complex, following a healthy eating plan like the Mediterranean diet may help some people.
“For the best chance of a good libido, focus on maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet based on the five core food groups – similar to the Mediterranean diet which is primarily plant-based and includes seafood, whole grains, nuts and seafood – combined with regular exercise.”