Cleopatra indulged in them, Casanova devoured them, and they're named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. I refer, of course, to the foods of love: aphrodisiacs. As far back as records have been recorded, both royalty and commoners alike have enjoyed these foods, these nectars of the gods believed to hold the power to directly impact your sex life.
Not all myth and legend, there is actually scientific validity to the claims of these bedroom-boosting edibles. Some aphrodisiacs contain chemicals that affect our sex hormone levels, while others increase our production of feel-good chemicals in the brain. Some raise our body temperature or increase circulation, while others provide an extra boost of energy or lower our stress levels. Still other aphrodisiacs arouse us because they are psychologically suggestive in shape, smell or sensation.
So, want to know what to cook for dinner to heat things up? These are twenty must add items to your shopping list:
1. Chocolate - Once banned from monasteries, chocolate is the feel good chemical king. It contains a host of them, including PEA (phenylethylamine), the "love chemical," dopamine (that peaks during orgasm), and tryptophan.
2. Oysters - Our food most associated with aphrodisiacs, oysters are very high in zinc, which increases testosterone, and in turn both libido and sperm production.
3. Caviar - Maybe not too common in most kitchens, caviar is also high in zinc.
4. Pine nuts - Another zinc containing food, pine nuts have been used by men since the Middle Ages for the sexual stamina they were believed to provide.
5. Honey - Testosterone, sex drive and orgasm are all elevated thanks to the chemical boron, found in honey.
6. Alcohol - Probably the most commonly used aphrodisiac, alcohol both lowers the inhibitions and increases confidence. In particular, Champagne has been called the "drink of love," and red wine increases the blood flow. Be careful not to overindulge, however, as too much alcohol has a sedative effect.
7. Garlic - Be sure you both eat this one. Garlic contains blood flow increasing allicin.
8. Ginger - This circulation and body temperature raising plant was used by the French courtesan Madame du Barry who, apparently, gave ginger to all of her lovers.
9. Chillies - The capsaicin in chillies not only causes a sweat, but it also increases the circulation and stimulates nerve endings. The result? You feel more turned on.
10. Figs - One of the oldest recorded fruits, Cleopatra's favourite, and associated by the Greeks with love and fertility, figs are psychologically suggestive, emulating female sex organs.
11. Avocados - Hanging in pairs on trees, the Aztecs named the avocado "the testicle tree." The fruit that Catholic priests in Spain forbade contains many immune fighting vitamins and minerals keeping us strong and healthy.
12. Asparagus - In France in the nineteenth century, bridegrooms were served this aphrodisiac at every course of their prenuptial dinners. The folic acid contained in asparagus increases the production of orgasm inducing histamine.
13. Celery - This may come as a surprise but celery, once ingested, acts as a sexual attractant due to two of its components: androsterone and adrostenol.
14. Bananas - Not only are bananas quite obviously suggestive, but they also contain minerals and enzymes said to enhance the male libido. Additionally, bananas generally uplift the mood when consumed regularly.
15. Almonds - Long regarded as a fertility symbol, almonds contain vitamins, minerals and fibre, and are good for the brain and our overall well being.
16. Basil - The stimulating aroma of basil is said to have aphrodisiac qualities.
17. Cardamom - This aphrodisiac was written about in Arabian Nights and is famous for increasing blood flow.
18. Vanilla - This mild nerve stimulant not only smells and tastes good, but it also increases our nerve sensitivity.
19. Cinnamon - Another spice that pleases the senses, cinnamon heats up the body.
20. Nutmeg - The warming properties of nutmeg have been believed to stimulate sexual appetites as far back as early Hindu cultures.
So, with Valentine's Day around the corner, what better way to spice things up a bit by preparing some food to get you both in the mood. Better yet, a homemade meal (made with sexy ingredients, and a generous dash of love) served in the ambient comfort of your home, is the surest way to set the mood, show how you feel, and get the results you desire - tried and tested!