The Impact Of Diet On Erectile Dysfunction
Make sure to add these foods to your diet for improved sexual functioning.
Published: Thursday 16 March 2023
Those experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED) have a tough time achieving and maintaining an erection for long enough during sex. Although sometimes caused by psychological factors such as stress or anxiety, physical factors are responsible for the majority of ED cases, especially as we get older.
Improvements to your overall health can lead to a reduction of risk for experiencing ED symptoms. It’s recommended to exercise regularly, eat a nutritious diet and limit alcohol and tobacco consumption in order to minimise the risk of ED (and to improve other aspects of physical health).
To improve erectile function, modifying dietary choices to include foods that improve your cardiovascular health, increase blood flow and support the production of sex-related hormones is advised.
It’s worth considering the severity of each individual case of erectile dysfunction when implementing dietary changes. If the ED being experienced is mild to moderate, making lifestyle and dietary changes have been shown to improve the ability to get lasting erections. If the ED is severe or persistent, it is unlikely that making dietary changes alone will significantly improve sexual functioning. For that reason, it’s key to think of diet as just one part of the greater improvement process.
Which Foods May Contribute To Erectile Dysfunction?
A diet high in saturated and trans fats can increase the risk of developing ED. These fats can clog arteries and impede blood flow: two necessary components for achieving and maintaining an erection. Additionally, high-fat diets can lead to obesity, which is a known risk factor for ED . Therefore, it's essential to limit the intake of processed and fried foods, fatty meats, and other high-fat foods.
A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates have been shown to lead to insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes, which are major risk factors for ED . High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, leading to reduced blood flow to the penis and consequently ED . It's important to limit the intake of sugary drinks (e.g. carbonated and energy drinks), processed foods (e.g. crisps, processed meats and ready meals), and refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread, pasta, and rice).
Excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to ED. Alcohol can impair the nervous system and reduce blood flow, leading to difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection . It's important to limit alcohol consumption or avoid it altogether to reduce the risk of developing ED.
Which Foods Can Help Erectile Dysfunction?
Spinach is rich in nitrates which have a vasodilating effect, promoting sufficient blood flow including to the penis . Spinach also contains an abundance of folate (folic acid), the natural form of vitamin B9, that is known to also boost blood flow. Studies have shown a link between low folic acid levels in the blood and erectile dysfunction, although more research is needed to confirm if consuming more folic acid improves erectile dysfunction .
Blackberries contain all 6 types of flavonoids - a plant chemical that’s been found to improve endothelial function and blood pressure, as well as reducing risk of diabetes and heart disease. In turn, these effects can promote improved erectile function. As well as blackberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries are also known to share these properties, making them beneficial to health also .
Watermelon and Tomatoes
These are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that is associated with improved vascular function. Some animal studies have even shown that lycopene can restore erectile function, but further studies are required to make this applicable to humans .
Watermelon also contains the amino acid L-citrulline, the supplementation of which has been found to reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow, especially when combined with PDE5-inhibitors like sildenafil or tadalafil .
Oats contain L-arginine, a nonessential amino acid that can relax the muscle lining of blood vessels leading to better blood flow, as well as possibly boosting testosterone levels and libido . Soluble fibre in oats and porridge also help reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, a known contributor to erectile dysfunction .
Oysters and other shellfish are rich in the essential mineral zinc which is linked to higher testosterone levels. Supplementing your diet with zinc may increase your testosterone levels, and oysters contain by far the highest levels of zinc in widely-accessible foods .
The dietary fibre found in avocados can contribute to better cardiovascular health, reducing blood flow-related ED. They also contain some zinc which is associated with testosterone production. Additionally, vitamin E and Selenium found in avocados are linked to improved sperm motility, quality and fertility .
The capsaicin found in chilli peppers may have temporary metabolism-boosting effects and neuropeptide activating agents that may stimulate the nerves in the penis. Chilli also expands the blood vessels, allowing for greater blood flow .
As well as being rich in flavonoids, the high potassium content of bananas contributes to normal heart health and circulation . Getting enough potassium in your diet helps regulate sodium levels, reducing your blood pressure and the risk of heart problems.
While diet is not the only risk factor for ED, making healthy dietary choices can reduce the risk of developing ED and improve overall sexual health and well-being. It's important to limit the intake of processed foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol and choose a diet rich in whole foods and healthy fats. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, and managing other health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, can also help reduce the risk of ED. By taking care of your overall health, you can reduce the risk of developing ED and improve your quality of life.
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