Excess alcohol, stress, smoking, and too little sleep can all do a number on how well a guy’s penis functions. But it’s not just these lifestyle habits that influence the health of his manhood—his diet does too. “We know that a healthy body makes for a healthy reproductive body,” says Paul Turek, MD, a fertility urologist in California.
We’re not just taking about his ability to get an erection and maintain it during sex. (Though of course, strong erections can mean a rocking sex life.) Sperm count, sex drive, even the risk of prostate cancer are also affected by what a man piles on his plate. A few simple food choice changes can make a difference, so ask the guy in your life to start adding these 5 ingredients to his meals—and steer clear of a few penis health offenders outlined below.
You’ve heard all about the heart-health benefits of olive oil. But a recent study discovered that those benefits extend to the bedroom as well. Researchers at the University of Athens School of Medicine in Greece found that men who replaced butter with olive oil while following a Mediterranean diet saw serious improvements in their sexual health. In fact, scientists said oil olive might even be better than Viagra when it comes to fighting erectile dysfunction.
“As a polyunsaturated fat, olive oil has known cardio-protective effects,” explains Dr. Turek. “We don’t know the exact mechanism, but it’s good for the blood vessels in the heart and the penis.” If blood flow from the heart is restricted, it can limit the blood flow to his member, potentially weakening his erections or rendering a guy impotent. Bring on the EVOO!
Sure they have a reputation as an aphrodisiac, though no evidence proves that these bivalves have any real effect on sex drive, Dr. Turek says. What they can do, however, is keep his hard-on strong. Oysters “are rich in zinc, which supports erections,” he explains. “Zinc is also a necessary building block for testosterone, so in this way, it supports libido and sperm production.”
Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, says Washington State-based nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, RD. But if you can’t spring for them on the reg, or the slimy consistency yucks you out, “beef, other shellfish such as lobster and crab, and pumpkin seeds are other good dietary sources of zinc,” she advises.
This pink fish is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and it’s particularly rich in good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids. One recent study found that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent corporal veno-occlusive dysfunction (CVOD). What’s that? It’s a condition that is a leading cause of erectile dysfunction, says Koskinen.
Salmon pack mega doses of mega-3 fatty acids, as do other fatty fish such as mackerel and sardines. If your partner is not a fan of the fish counter, other sources include dark leafy greens, walnuts, and hemp seeds, adds Koskinen.
Tomatoes get their rich red color from an antioxidant called lycopene. Antioxidants are a major weapon your body uses to fight free radicals, which cause cell damage.
Lycopene “is one of, if not the most powerful of nature’s antioxidants,” says Dr. Turek. “It’s thought that oxidants underlie much of male infertility and prostate cancer, and we know that antioxidants are good for blood vessels in both in the heart and the penis. But their exact mechanisms of action aren’t well defined.” Even so, encourage your guy to consume more tomatoes as well as tomato-based foods, from spaghetti sauce to gazpacho.
“Spicy foods can improve vasodilation,” says Koskinen, which means they help blood vessels widen, allowing blood to flow more easily. And since an erection is all about blood flow to the penis, more vasodilation can certainly help a guy get it up more easily. (Some erectile dysfunction medications are actually vasodilators.) “Try some cayenne pepper mixed into sauces as part of a blend to season fish and meats, or stirred into soups or stews,” she suggests. “Or spicy peppers, such as jalapeños, can be added to tacos, eggs, and even salads.”
And here are the foods he shouldn’t indulge in…
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats are good for his penis, and the ones that pack saturated or trans fats make the bad list. A few examples: anything deep fried, many types of cold cuts, and bacon, among others, says Dr. Turek. Also in the unhealthy category are foods high in sodium which can cause high blood pressure and compromise cardio health.
Obesity has been linked to erectile dysfunction, which is an excellent reason for guys to avoid foods that can lead to weight gain, such as soda, sugar-sweetened items, and packaged products. (Yep, as usual, all the gooey guilty pleasure foods are the ones experts advise avoiding.) One easy rule for guys to go by is this: For an in-shape penis, eat heart-healthy.