While rich, sweet, decadent chocolate makes a popular gift for one’s sweetheart, did you know that honey, bananas, garlic (yes – garlic!), chili peppers, mackerel and salmon, oats, and even lavender can also inspire feelings of love, romance, and well-being among those who consume them?
Throughout history, men and women sought out foods, plants, and spices that purportedly ignited their ardor, with items like nettles, mandrake, mustard, pine nuts, and anise topping a long list of culinary candidates. Even common vegetables like asparagus and carrots were at one time thought to contribute to the healthy love lives of those who ate them, according to Roman physician Galen, who reported that “warm, moist, and windy” (i.e. gaseous) foods would point one’s emotional compass in the direction of affection.
Because chocolate is chock full of elements like “feel good” chemical anandamide, also known as AEA, as well as phenylethylamine, or PEA, which releases dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain, many attest that it brings out strong feelings of amore–especially when presented in a bright red, heart-shaped box with a bow! In pure form, its primary ingredient, Cacao, contains tryptophan which helps promote a sense of contentment, as well as theobromine, which is a known stimulant much like caffeine. While many would consider chocolate a can’t miss entry in the foods of love category, especially on Valentine’s Day, let’s see what the experts have to say about other, less popular alimentary purveyors of passion:
Honey: A good source of B vitamins and boron, honey accordingly helps the body use and metabolize estrogen. It may also enhance testosterone levels in the blood.
Bananas: Known for essential potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins, bananas also contain chelating materials and are a member of the plant family Bromeliaceae, as is the pineapple, whose effects are reported to enhance male libido.
Garlic: This food, famous for keeping away vampires, and rued on a first date, nevertheless is full of allicin, known to increase blood circulation.
Chili peppers: Known as catalysts for releasing endorphins, which make us feel good, chili peppers’ properties have also been cited for their anesthetic results. The great Montezuma is said to have added chili to his chocolate drink before a romantic rendezvous, and fans of fiery foods sometimes note a lip-swelling or plumping effect from eating chili peppers that can appear attractive to the opposite sex.
Mackerel/Salmon: Rich sources of Omega 3 fatty acid, minerals, and vitamins that power our nervous systems, these also act as healthy blood stimulants.
Oats: Rich in B vitamins and high in fiber, according to new studies oats may be among the most potent of libido enhancers, underscoring the old adage “sow your wild oats.”
Lavender: Highly aromatic, fresh lavender and/or its oil has been used in baths and fragrances for many hundreds of years. The plant is increasingly used in its fresh, dried, or infused state in cooking and to flavor beverages. Some studies rate lavender as the most appealing scent to men.
In the end, many concur that, when presented with an open heart, almost any food can be used to inspire feelings of love and affection. Who doesn’t remember the famous refrigerator scene between Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks, when even a spoonful of cough medicine went down almost as smoothly as the strawberry jam that preceded it. To paraphrase a famous quote, food is in the eye of the beholder.