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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner—the lovey dovey holiday when you show your honey just how much you care. Forget an overpriced steak dinner or drugstore chocolate box, though. This year, instead of eating the same old thing, why not use the romantic occasion to serve up a meal that will have you and your better half feeling extra amorous?

“Your brain is your biggest sex organ, so your sex drive is affected by what you put into it,” says certified culinary nutritionist Trudy Stone. “This makes aphrodisiac foods more fact than myth. In fact, your sex life can be negatively impacted if you have a vitamin or nutrient deficiency.” 

Want to make sure what’s on your plate clears the way for fireworks in the bedroom? Here’s what to serve up.

Arginine

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Arginine might not have the most familiar name, but you’ve definitely come across this amino acid in popular foods like chickpeas, lentils, turkey, chicken, and spirulina. Arginine helps to promote circulation throughout the body and to extremities, says Stone. “This one is especially important for men with erectile dysfunction,” she says. “[Arginine, also known as L-arginine,] is like Viagra. It increases the action of nitric oxide—but without the potential side effects.” Try our Basic Whole Roasted Chicken recipe, and our Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta Cheese recipe on the side.

Seafood

oysters with prosecco mignonette

Chowhound

Oysters are probably the first food that comes to mind when you think “aphrodisiac.” But it’s not just mollusks that can have a positive effect on your evening; fish or shellfish are just as beneficial due to their high levels of zinc, according to Stone. “Experts believe the nutrient is linked to increased levels of the sex hormone testosterone, which drives libido,” she says. Zinc can also be found in pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, cashews, eggs, and dark chocolate. Why not try an oyster appetizer and dark chocolate confection for dessert for a double dose? Get our Oysters with Prosecco Mignonette recipe (or if you like things cooked, our Baked Oysters Chowder recipe), and follow it up with our Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart recipe.

Healthy Fats

Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Coconut Cream

Jeanine Donofrio

It’s pretty tough to make a delicious dish without fat. And it might also be pretty difficult to feel fully satisfied in other ways if you’re not getting enough of the stuff. “[Healthy fats] help with blood flow and regulate the sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen—both needed for a healthy sex drive,” Stone says. So serve up some guacamole (our Toasted Almond and Apricot Guacamole recipe, perhaps), cook up some fish (like our Basic Fish Baked in Parchment recipe), or add in coconut oil to your meal—all three are good sources of fat. Try this Vegan Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Coconut Cream recipe too.

Saffron

Mon Petit Four

Sometimes splurging can be a good idea. That’s especially true when it comes to saffron, which is one of the most expensive spices in the world, and can do more than just liven up everything from stew to ice cream. Initial research has shown saffron can improve sexual dysfunction in some women, including helping with problems like arousal, lubrication, and pain. Sounds like it’s worth the price! Try this Saffron Pear Cake recipe.

Fenugreek

chicken tikka masala over basmati rice

Chowhound

Fenugreek, an herb which can be used to make curries or whose seeds can be sprinkled in salads, can have a major effect on feel-good hormones, says weight loss and food management doctor Michael Jay Nusbaum, M.D., chief of bariatric surgery at Morristown Medical Center. “Its seeds are often used in South Asian dishes, but it’s also popular in Ayurvedic medicine as an anti-inflammatory, libido-boosting treatment,” Nusbaum says. “The reason is that this herb contains compounds that stimulate the body to make the sex hormones—estrogen and testosterone.” Try our Chicken Tikka Masala recipe.

Arugula

lemon seared scallops with farro salad

Chowhound

Just like your go-to salad can perk up your lunchtime, arugula can pave the way for more afternoon delight in your future. “Environmental toxins are believed to negatively impact libido, which is why arugula should be part of your salad,” Stone says. “It contains minerals and antioxidants that block absorption of environmental contaminants.” Sounds like a good excuse to pack some greens in your lunchbag more often. For Valentine’s Day, try our Seared Scallops with Lemony Farro and Arugula Salad recipe.

Wine

best wine subscription boxes and best wine clubs

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Grab your corkscrew! Vino ends up on lots of V-Day menus for one major reason: it helps to make you feel romantic. “Wine is a classic aphrodisiac and without question a mood setter,” says Nusbaum, also surgical director of the Metabolic Medicine and Weight Control Center. “Both red and white wine can lower inhibitions, but red wine can also boost your libido. So, if you need to take that edge off to help you get in the mood, what better than sharing a bottle of red wine?” Pour it up!

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Ginseng

VegNews

Candlelight. Frank Sinatra tunes. Ginseng? OK, the herb isn’t typically on your February 14th mood-setting checklist, but maybe it should be. Ginseng, an herb often found in Chinese medicine, has shown indications that it could lead to a better love life, according to Nusbaum.  “In particular, red ginseng is commonly used to treat both men and women for not only low libido but also sexual function,” he says. Red ginseng has also been thought to boost sexual arousal in menopausal women, initial research has indicated. Try this Vegan Blood Orange Ginseng Margarita recipe.

Check out our Valentine’s Day giveaway on Instagram (three lucky winners will get lots of goodies from Hotel Chocolat)! And get more romantic recipes, tips, and tricks at our Valentine’s Day headquarters, including great Valentine’s Day gift ideas.

Related Video: How to Make a Valentine’s Day Cocktail with Kombucha

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Kelsey Butler is a reporter and editor based in New Jersey. She has written for a number of health and lifestyle publications, including Women's Health, Brides, and NBC News Better. Hot sauce, black coffee, and bacon make up 50% of her diet.
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