Foods to boost your libido

Foods to boost your libido

With sex a near-ubiquitous feature in today’s society, it’s easy to worry there’s something wrong with us if our desire should ever take a dip. But the truth is, there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ libido and everything from relationship problems to anxiety and even alcohol consumption can cause them to change.

While addressing any mental or physical health concerns should always be your first port of call, experts say a healthy diet and lifestyle can also play a role in boosting your sex life[1]. Alongside promoting body confidence and stamina, taking exercise and eating nutritious whole foods can increase testosterone and libido levels in both men and women, resulting in a greater sex drive. Losing weight and eating well will improve heart health, which can also help increase blood flow to the penis, preventing erectile dysfunction. 

Research shows that people with satisfying sex lives have stronger immune systems, improved cardiovascular health, higher self esteem and lower incidents of anxiety and depression[2]. So by eating well and exercising you’ll improve your sex life which in turn improves your health overall - it’s a virtuous circle of wellness all-round!

What is libido?

Libido is the term used to describe a person’s sexual appetite or sex drive. Influenced by hormones, brain function, stress, emotional states and learned behaviours, libido varies from one person to the next, there is no right or wrong level and it’s normal for a person’s libido to fluctuate throughout their lives. 

Low libido and diet

Both men and women have cycles of libido intensity that are largely driven by hormonal activity. Although everyone is different, some women do report a dip in their sex drives in their 40s and 50s caused by fluctuating levels of hormones during the menopause transition. Levels of testosterone in men can also decline over the years, albeit at a more gradual rate.

With causes of low libido so wide-ranging, where does diet fit into the picture? There are several well-established links between nutrition and a lack of interest in sex. 

For example, stress can contribute to the rapid depletion of magnesium, a mineral that can contribute to a good libido[3][4]. In women, eating a diet high in sugar can promote increased fat storage which in turn prompts the endocrine system to produce more oestriol from fat stores. This increases levels of the sex hormone-binding globulin, which mops up the androgens that drive libido[5]. A high-sugar diet has also been shown to lower the amount of testosterone produced by men[6].

Foods that increase sex drive

Before we take a closer look at what foods increase libido it’s worth pointing out that if you’ve had a low sex drive for a long period of time and find it distressing, your first stop should always be your GP. It’s important to rule out any health conditions or medication side effects, and your GP is a good first port of call if you feel like anxiety or hormonal fluctuations are part of the problem.

But if you just feel like your bedroom vitality could do with a little nudge in the right direction, here are some foods that increase libido which could help fan the flames of desire...


Top of the libido-increasing foods chart? Chocolate. Well, we always knew it was the food of love! One study found that women who ate more chocolate had higher Female Sexual Function Index scores than women who did not eat it at all[6].

The cacao pod/bean (the seed from which chocolate is made) is very nutritionally rich. The main active alkaloid of cacao is theobromine, which has a stimulatory effect on the nervous and cardiac systems. 

Cacao also contains phenylethylamine, an organic compound that has positive effects on mood[7]. Some scientists say it is responsible for the brain chemicals involved with love and romance. It is these two chemicals combined that seem to have that magical aphrodisiac effect.

And, as an added bonus, the polyphenols in cacao also act as an antioxidant, protecting against free radical damage[8].

Tip: Choose chocolate with a minimum of 85% cacao content. The darker the chocolate, the richer the cacao meaning higher levels of libido-boosting nutrients like theobromine and polyphenols.


They’re easy to eat on the go and taste terrific, but did you know apples are a natural food for libido? Apples are rich in antioxidants, most notably a flavonoid called quercetin which can enhance and regulate nitric oxide. So what does nitric oxide have to do with sexual desire?

Nitric oxide is a compound in the body that relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow. When you become sexually aroused, a neurotransmitter sends a message to the lining of the genitals to release nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to expand. Without an adequate amount of it, men can’t get erections and women can’t become lubricated[9]. In fact Viagra works by increasing both the levels and activity of nitric oxide, causing an enhanced blood flow that has a potent effect on the genitals during sexual arousal. 

Of course, no one is saying that crunching an apple is as powerful as popping a Viagra. But quercetin is one of the most common and well-researched flavonoids with robust science to back up its libido-boosting benefits. For example, it’s known to reduce the risk of heart disease[10] and lower blood pressure. That’s important when you consider that both of these conditions can lead to sexual dysfunction should blood vessel damage impair blood flow to the genitals.


When thinking about foods to increase libido, oily fish should definitely be on the menu. A 100g portion of salmon typically contains 2.3g of omega-3 fatty acids. Alongside benefits for your cardiovascular health, omega 3 can lower triglycerides, may increase dopamine production and reduce the risk of depression - all of which are known to keep your sex life healthy. But there’s another, less-talked about, libido-boosting benefit to eating oily fish - it may reduce vaginal dryness. 

Vaginal dryness is a common and painful problem that affects women of all ages. Stress, anxiety and dehydration can all decrease vaginal lubrication, as can hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle (most commonly during and after the menopause transition). 

Loss of lubrication can affect sexual desire as even the gentlest friction can cause pain and discomfort. However, omega-3 fatty acids appear to help. Research by Ohio University revealed omega 3 reduced vaginal dryness for six months among postmenopausal breast cancer survivors with thinness and drying of the vaginal walls[11].

Tip: Don’t like the taste of oily fish or are worried about contaminants like heavy metals? Try a fresh, pure and potent supplement such as Inessa Advanced Omega 3. Rigorously third-party tested for oxidation and toxins, you get all of the libido-boosting benefits, and none of the nasties.


If you feel your libido has seen better days, put oysters on the menu. Although an acquired taste, the famous food of love has more zinc than any other food source, with two oysters (about 100g) providing you with 673% of your daily recommended amount (RDA) of zinc if you’re a man, and 845% of your RDA if you’re a woman[12].

Zinc deficiencies can impact your body's production of testosterone, making you feel decidedly lacklustre. One study found that zinc supplementation increased testosterone production, a hormone that is critical to sex drive[13].

And not only are oysters naturally high in zinc, they also contain specific amino acids and increase serotonin, which are integral in the neural pathway of the pleasure response[14]. If you’re not a fan of molluscs, try lobster or crab instead. Both types of shellfish can be considered libido enhancing foods because they’re also loaded with zinc.

Tip: If you’re allergic to oysters or not a fan of shellfish a good multivitamin can help. Inessa’s Advanced Multivitamin contains 200% of your zinc RDA, without the fishy aftertaste.


If beetroot conjures images of the little red, vinegary cubes found in a 1980s salad bar, it might be hard to believe the humble root vegetable is actually a potent libido booster. But beetroot has a long history as an aphrodisiac. Ancient Romans believed it promoted amorous feelings while in Greek mythology, Aphrodite ate beetroot to enhance her sex appeal.

So could there be truth behind the folklore that says beetroot is an important food to increase libido? Beetroot is naturally rich in nitrates which the stomach converts to nitric oxide. This dilates the blood vessels and improves circulation, increasing blood flow to those sensitive areas. Beetroot is rich in iron, potassium, manganese and vitamin C so therefore supports stamina and energy. Beets also contain high amounts of boron, a trace mineral that increases the level of sex hormones in the human body[16].

Beetroot also contains powerful antioxidants (which gives it that rich, gorgeous colour) and can support detoxification and metabolism of hormones, promoting better hormone harmony.


The Buddhist bible, the Shurangama Sutra forbids the eating of garlic, saying it stimulates unwanted sexual desire. This could be down to an enzyme in garlic called allinase, that is released when garlic is chopped or crushed. The resulting compound is called allicin, which is known to improve blood flow in the sexual organs of both men and women[17].

In addition to increasing blood flow, some studies have found that garlic may help promote male fertility. One review of 18 studies concluded that garlic helped boost sperm production and increase levels of testosterone, which may be due to its antioxidant properties[18].

In a recent animal study, S-allyl cysteine, a compound found in garlic, increased testosterone production in mice[19]. Another animal study also showed that aged garlic extract could protect against changes in sperm production and testosterone levels caused by chemotherapy[19].


Maca is a plant in the cruciferous vegetable family known for its adaptogenic properties or ability to help your body adapt to and cope with stress. But there is also lots of promising research looking into its positive health benefits, including maca’s influence on libido.

In a double-blind 2002 study, researchers gave 57 men either maca or a placebo for 12 weeks. After 8 weeks, men in the two maca groups reported heightened sexual desire[20].

Another study looked at 20 men who suffered from depression and were on SSRIs – antidepressants that often decrease sex drive. Results found that 3g of maca daily significantly increased self-reported libido[21]. A similar study looking at 45 women on antidepressants found maca had the same effect[22].

A fourth study of eight endurance athletes found that maca extract increased self-reported sexual desire (though it did not improve endurance training)[23].

These studies were small and they relied on self-reporting. That said, they were also all double-blind, placebo-controlled, and randomised, and each one showed the same pattern of results: maca increased libido.

Add in a 2001 study showing that both 1.5g and 3g of daily maca increased sperm count and sperm motility, plus another one showing that it improved erectile dysfunction[3].[24] and it seems like there may be something to the claim that maca is an aphrodisiac.

Tip: Maca is easy to incorporate into your diet. Try a maca root powder and mix it into smoothies or even in porridge.

Boosting your libido: the bottom line

You should always talk to your GP if lack of sexual desire, pain during intercourse, depression, stress or erectile dysfunction is holding you back from an intimate relationship with your partner. But medical conditions aside, one of the best ways to increase a flagging libido (and improve your overall health) is through a healthy lifestyle - plenty of sleep, a wholefood diet and regular exercise. All will help you re-energise, reduce stress and make you feel better. 

Regularly consuming foods to increase sex drive can also help to enhance blood flow, balance your hormones and reduce any deficiencies that can stand in the way of your production of testosterone. If a restricted diet means you’re struggling to get all the nutrients you need, taking good-quality supplements can help. Inessa Advanced Multivitamin contains 25 ingredients (including clinical doses of zinc and antioxidants), while Inessa Advanced Omega 3 gives you all the libido-boosting benefits of the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Clinician-made, at Inessa we only make products that we believe to be of real benefit to your health. Made of all-premium ingredients at clinical doses, they’re free of fillers or additives and based on sound science. Click here to find out more.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might like Why Eating More Berries Is the Sweetest Thing You Can Do For Your Health.













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    Inessa Team

    Our team pull together science-backed information to bring you up to date health and wellness insights.

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