Around half of men over the age of 40 will experience some form of erectile dysfunction (ED) at some stage in their lives. Erectile problems are usually caused by insufficient blood flow to the penis, so foods that are good for your vascular system may also help prevent erectile dysfunction.
If you want to keep your erections (and your heart) strong, here's what you should be eating...
See also: Natural alternatives to Viagra
See also: Facts about the penis that might surprise you
A joint study by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Harvard University suggests that eating flavonoid-rich foods – such as cherries and blueberries - may help to prevent ED.
Researchers analysed the diet, lifestyle and sexual performance of 50,000 middle-aged men. Of all the foods they tracked, cherries were found to have the most significant impact on preventing problems with getting or maintaining an erection. The magic ingredient is a flavonoid called anthocyanin – found in cherries, blueberries, blackberries, radishes and blackcurrants.
If you really want to get the blood pumping, exercise as well as eat fruit. Researchers found that men who ate plenty of fruit (more than 3.7 servings a day) and exercised were the least likely to experience problems in the bedroom.
2. Red wine
Aside from fruit, it seems that drinking red wine may reduce your risk of erectile dysfunction. Researchers from Norwich Medical School studied the diets of 25,000 men for a decade. Just over a third of the men developed ED during that time. Men who reported eating more than three servings a week of five key foods were 19 percent less likely to develop a problem. The five foods? Red wine, berries, oranges, apples, and pears – all of which contain blood-boosting flavonoids.
3. Leafy greens
While you're stocking up on fruit, add some leafy greens to your shopping trolley. Foods like spinach, greens and celery may increase circulation because of their high concentration of nitrates – which act as vasodilators to open up blood vessels and increase blood flow.
4. Dark chocolate
Several studies have found that flavonoids in dark chocolate may help improve circulation – which is also good news for your erection. While painting each other with body chocolate and licking it off might be fun, it's best to go for quality chocolate with 70% cocoa to benefit.
Another study has found that men with erectile dysfunction who ate pistachio nuts every day for 21 days experienced significant improvement in sexual issues, including ED. Experts suggest the key ingredient may be a protein called arginine, which may help relax blood vessels.
Low levels of the male hormone testosterone could be another reason for low desire and erection problems. Oysters are high in the mineral zinc, which plays an important role in the production of testosterone.
You might know that eating tomatoes helps protect against prostate cancer, but there's evidence to suggest they may also help to improve circulation and prevent sexual problems. The active phytonutrient is lycopene – which is best absorbed when mixed with olive oil.
While improving your diet is good for your health in general, other lifestyle factors are important too. Eating handfuls of cherries won't do much to keep your erections strong if you don't exercise, if you smoke or are obese.