GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (ABC 4)- February is the month of all-things-love, inspiring visions of flowers, chocolate, lingerie and soft music. Sumptuous dining at an upscale restaurant with your sweetheart also comes to mind — where you’ll likely be surrounded by other couples, within earshot of your intimate conversation. Instead, why not fete love by preparing a romantic meal together in the privacy of your home, incorporating these ingredients widely known to be aphrodisiacs.
Turn on the soft music and let’s fire things up, shall we? Nutritionist and sensory science specialist Sarah Bond of Live Eat Learn identifies chili peppers as a great ingredient to use for your romantic celebration. “[They] contain capsaicin, the food chemical responsible for spiciness. When you take a bite of capsaicin, your body releases endorphins, the ‘happy’ compound, to make you feel better,” she says. Note: She cautions to be sure to wash your hands well after handling peppers — or things might get a little too spicy.
Jean Marie Brownson, author of the award-winning cookbook Dinner at Home and owner of JMB Culinary Consulting, tells The Girlfriend about the libido-boosting powers of oysters, quoting the poetic Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher:
“The love-life of an oyster is a curious one, dependent on the vagaries of temperature and the tides. If its world is warm, if the water around it is about seventy degrees, it is able to send out a little potent flood of milt and thus excite a female to her monstrous spawning, now five million eggs, now fifty. And if the tide is right, the milt will meet the eggs and spats will result.”
Brownson read Fisher’s lyrical prose as a young chef and sampled her first oyster in the early 1980s at the Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York as a newlywed. “The aphrodisiac qualities of an oyster coincide, I am sure, with where they are consumed. I seek out fresh, local oysters at fine dining restaurants as well as darkened oyster bars. Something sparkling — wine or beer — further sets the mood,” she says.
Executive chef William Ryan of the Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys recommends chocolate and champagne for invigorating romance. Add pistachios, he says, and you have a perfect storm. “The first two might be a little cliché, but it’s because they are synonymous with romance for a reason. These ingredients contain potassium, zinc and magnesium, which increase hormone production in both men and women.”
The award-winning veteran chef, who oversees all dining outlets at the extensive resort, promises that when the three ingredients are combined, it’s said the aroma mimics the scent of a female.
Not only is the hibiscus beautiful to look at, but the flower is a storied aphrodisiac, says Ashlin Wilhelm, director of food and beverage at the newly unveiled Bishop’s Lodge, an Auberge Resorts Collection property in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “The benefits of hibiscus in some of the native cultures such as Ayurvedic traditions include reducing fever and stabilizing hormonal body temperature, which is significant when it comes to your sex life.” Brownson, meanwhile, fondly recalls bringing home a bottle of Damiana on a past trip to Mexico, explaining that the locals tell tales of its purported aphrodisiac qualities. The beloved liqueur, made from the leaves of the damiana shrub native to Central America and the West Indies, is smooth, delicious and slightly anise-flavored. “My husband likes it when I use it in our special margaritas,” she admits.
Bond turns our attention to the Mediterranean, a place that exudes sultry romance and beauty. Take a page from their playbook to get the heart pumping by following a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. And at the center of the Mediterranean diet?
Olive oil! She says to use extra virgin olive oil as a bread dip or in pasta. It’ll be good for your heart and, of course, the matters-of-the-heart. Wilhelm, who oversees the resort restaurant SkyFire, points out that walnuts provide a wonderful boost to your libido due to their nutrient-rich makeup of healthy fats and B vitamins, which energize and positively impact the production of sex hormones. Look for black walnuts in particular: They contain high levels of L-arginine, which convert to nitric oxide and improve blood flow — important for getting oxygen to the sex organs, he says.
Ginseng, native to Eastern Asia and Eastern North America, has long held a reputation as a curative and an enhancer of libido and sexual performance for men, says Brownson. She references Stephen Orr, author of The New American Herbal, who says: “[I]n the principles of Chinese medicine, the ginseng root, known as Ren Shen, strengthens kidney function, cools fever, moderates digestion and sustains respiration and circulation.”