It’s date night, and before you’re even dressed for going out, you have your sights set on the sexy play you hope will follow. Dining together can serve as awesome foreplay, bringing pleasure and a sense of connectedness well before getting hot and heavy. Choose the wrong foods, however, and you may end up feeling anything but in the mood. Read on to learn about foods that are likely to either stoke or extinguish your sexual fire.
1 WORST: BEANS
Gas may be natural, but it’s not exactly ideal during sex. While beans are full of protein and antioxidants, they unfortunately also power up flatulence in many people. They contain large amounts of soluble fiber and a natural sugar called raffinose, both of which trigger gas production during digestion. This is also true for lentils. So for a nongassy veggie-protein alternative, have grilled or baked tofu instead. Lean meats and fish also make for good choices. Trust us, your partner will thank you!
2 WORST: HOT PEPPERS
If you’re one of the more than 60 million adults in the U.S. who experiences acid reflux every month, eating hot peppers and other foods that trigger symptoms can make sexy time anything but pleasant. “If you’ll be reclining during intimacy, the last thing you want is stomach acid interrupting things. A large meal or one with foods that you don’t tolerate well can put a damper on things,” says dietitian Keith-Thomas Ayoob. Other potential food culprits include coffee, citrus fruits, tomato-based foods, garlic, onions and fried foods. Keep track of which foods cause flare-ups for you, then avoid them for at least a few hours before getting physically intimate.
3 WORST: GARLIC
Even if you aren’t prone to heartburn, you may want to skip the garlic before sex. Garlic tends to produce strong odors in the body, which may become especially pronounced as your body warms or sweats. It can also make the smell and taste of semen less appealing. And the same can be said for onions. Smells affect people differently, however, and some people find the aroma of garlic to be a turn-on. One study, published in Appetite in Feb. 2016, showed that men who ate garlic were perceived as more attractive. But if you don’t want to risk it, stick to less pungent vegetables and flavorings before intimacy. Season rice and fish with oregano and basil instead of garlic, for example, and swap onions with celery.
4 WORST: BACON
Here’s another reason to go for tofu: Fatty meats such as bacon may make you and your lover smell and taste less pleasant. In a study published in Chemical Senses in October 2006, participants ate a vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet for two weeks. When odor samples were collected and tested, non-meat eaters were perceived as more pleasant and attractive than those who ate meat. Because smell plays a major role in taste — consider how tasteless food seems when you have a cold — foods that make you smell less appealing may also lead to a less pleasant flavor. Fatty meats can also cause or contribute to inflammation, which tinkers with blood flow, and increase your risk for heartburn and acid reflux. Other high-fat meats include fried chicken and pork sausage.
5 WORST: STEAK AND POTATOES
Rather than save your appetite for dinner, eat smaller amounts throughout the day. If you eat a heavy meal like steak and potatoes before joining your partner in the bedroom, you’ll end up having more snooze than sex. “Large meals can really make you tired. Think Thanksgiving,” says dietitian Keith-Thomas Ayoob, “and this is one time you want to bring your A game.” If you do end up famished by dinner, take the edge off with a dinner salad or large glass of water. A study published in the journal Appetite in February 2012 showed that eating a salad with a meal can reduce your calorie intake by 11 percent. Because it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger, water (or another noncaloric beverage, such as tea) can also help keep the munchies at bay.
6 WORST: SODA
The air that adds bubbles to soda also adds air to your body as you sip, which can lead to uncomfortable bloating — a major buzzkill. While a small amount of bubbly may not make a huge difference, guzzling down soda and other carbonated drinks (e.g., energy drinks, tonic water and Champagne) before sex could leave you bloated and belching between kisses. On top of that, research in animals shows that a substance called quinine in tonic water may temporarily reduce testosterone levels. The same may happen in humans. Opt instead for flat beverages, such as water, tea or a modest amount of wine.
1 BEST: BEETS
Before you strip down, you may want to make a beet salad. The clitoris and penis both require engorgement to obtain that happy ending, says Chris Shuff, a registered dietitian in Florida. The rich nitrate content of beets can help make that happen, sending blood where it’s urgently needed. Shuff suggests having your beets a couple of times per day and 90 minutes before getting down to business for maximum potential benefits. Enjoy them on their own, with other veggies or blended into a juice or smoothie. Not a fan of beets? Celery is a low-calorie, hydrating alternative that can keep you feeling refreshed and limber during sex.
2 BEST: RICE
Carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel source, and you definitely want plenty of energy in the bedroom. If you’re prone to gas, however, choose your carbs wisely. Most starchy foods naturally trigger some amount of gas during digestion. But here’s the good news: Rice is the one starch that doesn’t produce any gas in the body, making it an ideal pre-sex pick. Have steamed or boiled rice — ideally brown or wild — served with nongaseous veggies like peppers, lettuce, zucchini and okra. For sex-friendly protein, pair rice with baked or grilled fish, such as salmon, trout or albacore tuna. The omega-3s in oily fish are heart-healthy, making them good for circulation.
3 BEST: DARK CHOCOLATE
Those dark chocolate hearts may sweeten more than your palate, thanks to natural substances in cocoa known as flavanols. “There’s actually good research that supports dark chocolate improving blood flow,” says Keith-Thomas Ayoob, registered dietitian and associate clinical professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. This is important because circulation plays a major role in sexual arousal, allowing blood to flow to your genitals, increasing size and sensation of the penis and clitoris. And one study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in January 2016, linked high intake of flavonol-rich foods with a lower likelihood of erectile dysfunction. Go for a modest portion of high-quality chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cocoa.
4 BEST: PINEAPPLE
Eating fresh pineapple before sex may make oral play that much sweeter. While clinical research is lacking, many people report that eating pineapple a few hours before sex makes way for better-tasting ejaculate. Other sweet fruits to consider include mango, bananas and dates. You can also blend them into a smoothie. Fresh fruits and smoothies provide valuable amounts of water, lowering your risk for potential buzzkills such as a headache or irritability from dehydration. Plus, the carbohydrates and fiber in fruit can help keep you energized — a must for when you’re feeling in the mood.
5 BEST: RED WINE
For many people, wine is as much a part of a romantic dinner as what’s on their plates, and a modest amount may help you get in the mood, says registered dietitian Keith-Thomas Ayoob. Research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in October 2009 showed a link between regular moderate red wine intake in women and heightened sexual desire, lubrication and overall sexual function. And while other alcoholic beverages may have a similar effect, wine contains heart-healthy flavonols, which increase circulation. But don’t go overboard on the wine, warns Ayoob. “Alcohol suppresses the central nervous system, and too much of it can interfere with intimacy and even cause you to get sleepy.”
*August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer with more than 10 years of experience as a nutritionist. Her work is featured in the Huffington Post, DAME Magazine, The Good Men Project and more. She specializes in eating disorders and loves connecting with readers and writers via her blog and social media.