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ERECTIONS | 2 minutes

Are there foods that can help improve erectile dysfunction?

By Duncan Fisher

Are there foods that can help improve erectile dysfunction?

Small changes in your diet can have a positive impact on your erectile function. Here we run through the best foods to eat.

One of the main focal points in optimising erectile function is cardiovascular health. A key component of this is your diet.

One of the best studied diets for good cardiovascular health is the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce or even prevent health problems as varied as depression, colorectal cancer, diabetes, asthma, and –  you guessed it – erectile dysfunction. This diet improves your lipid profile, your endothelial function, and your platelet function. It also improves your glucose metabolism and helps manage your blood pressure. What more could you ask?!

Here’s an up-close look at some of the components of the Mediterranean diet – plus a few extras that appear promising:  

The Mediterranean Diet

Fish. Fatty fish, like salmon, are abundant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, one of whose additional benefits to men is to increase nitric oxide production, which is critical to the erectile pathway. Prevailing medical opinion in the UK is that we need at least 2 portions of fish a week.

Unsaturated fats, such as olive oil. There is cardio-protection in unsaturated fats, like olive oil, probably because of their phenolic compounds, that act as powerful antioxidants, free radical scavengers and enzyme modulators.

Fruits and vegetables. It’s not completely clear why, but fruits and vegetables appear beneficial in ED. This could be related to reduced caloric intake, or in the micronutrients they contain. There are known antioxidant properties in fruit and vegetables, and there are health benefits deriving from the flavonols in them. It may be as well that fruits and vegetables help you manufacture nitric oxide.

Wholegrain fibre intake has been shown to be of benefit in cardiovascular disease. The reasons for this may be related to reduced inflammation, reactive oxidation, lipid profiles, blood pressure, better glucose metabolism. It may also inhibit absorption of fats, carbohydrates, or toxins.

Nuts and legumes. There is preliminary data to suggest that legumes (like lentils and peas) have a beneficial effect on your cardiovascular health. There is slightly stronger data in support of nuts as a beneficial component of the Mediterranean diet. Nuts have a lot of arginine, an amino acid that helps you make use of the nitric oxide in your erectile pathway. They’ve also got folic acid, and low serum levels of folic acid is emerging as a new risk factor in erectile dysfunction.

Possible added extras (with less scientific backing)

Dark chocolate. Here’s a good source of flavanols, which are known to be associated with reduced erectile dysfunction. Flavanols are organic nutrients that can increase blood flow and lower blood pressure. They also help you make nitric oxide.

Oysters. Some oysters and mussels appear to contain a natural compound that works very much like your first-line erectile dysfunction medications.  They also contain the amino acid, d-aspartic acid, which may increase your testosterone level. That may be why the ancient world knew oysters as an aphrodisiac. We know they contain lots of zinc, too, and we know that low serum zinc levels appear to associate with erectile dysfunction.  

Coffee. One study has found that men who have 2 or 3 cups of java a day are less likely to have erectile dysfunction. It’s not clear what’s going on here, but there is evidence that caffeine has beneficial microvascular effects in healthy individuals.

The take-away on foods.

The punchline is that you’re after cardiovascular health. That’s because proper erectile function begins with good blood flow. Keep your heart as healthy as you can, and those veins clean and functioning, and you’re off to the best start possible.  

Feature image: istock/SonjaRachbauer

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