Abs, they say, are made in the kitchen, and guess what else is?
Science has identified a number of nutrients that are vital to the penis and all it can do. Four of those seem to be more helpful than others:
• Zinc boosts testosterone levels and helps enable erections and healthy sperm.
• A deficiency of Vitamin B12 has been linked to erectile dysfunction, Harvard researchers found. The vitamin is crucial to cell metabolism and the production of blood.
• Arginine is the Marvin Gaye of amino acids: It relaxes blood vessels and enables blood to flow, helping you get and keep an erection.
• Magnesium decreases inflammation in blood vessels, increasing blood flow, which speeds blood to extremities, increasing arousal, and … well, you get it.
Of course, protein not only builds the lean muscle that helps you end up in bed with company in the first place, it’s the most basic building block of tissue, dense in the amino acids that promote sexual health. (Men should be getting at least 56 grams daily; women, 46.)
So we consulted the USDA database to identify the top dietary protein sources of zinc, B12, magnesium and arginine. Some foods showed up near the top of multiple lists; we put them in the Hall of Fame. Read on to find out who nabbed the crown.
Vitamin B12 amount: 6.4 µg in 1/2 filet (198 g) (106% DV)
Aside from having a full day’s worth of B12 in a serving, salmon packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which spur the creation of nitric oxide, helping you stay hard. The fish is also incredibly high in protein at 40 grams a serving, and is rich in vitamin B-6, which aids healthy blood production—good for muscles above and below the belt. Plus, researchers have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in produce, fish, whole grains and healthy fats (like omega-3s) can improve erectile function in men with metabolic syndrome.
Vitamin B12 amount: 20 µg in in 3 oz serving (333% DV)
These chilly-sounding mollusks can help heat things up, with more than three times the recommended daily value of B12. A 3-ounce serving also has 20 grams of muscle-boosting protein, with only 4 grams of fat and 150 calories. Like clams, they’re rich in iron, which helps ensure that your blood flows everywhere it needs to. They’re also high in magnesium, a natural erection enhancer.
Vitamin B12 amount: 25 µg in 1 filet (417% DV)
This IKEA-cafeteria staple will help you put things together in the bedroom. In addition to packing four times your daily requirement of B12 in one average-sized filet, herring is also a good source of magnesium (59 mg in 1 filet), which boosts testosterone and keeps sperm healthy and viable. On top of that, oily fish like herring are sky-high in vitamin D, which can help you get and keep it up. In a recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Italian researchers examined 143 men with ED; 80% had suboptimal levels of the nutrient, and the men with severe ED had a 24% lower level of D than those with a mild form of the condition. The theory is that low levels of D promote dysfunctional blood vessels and a shortage of nitric oxide.
Vitamin B12 amount: 8 µg in one cup (333% DV)
The oily, protein-packed fish is good for weight loss, plus it’s one of the best sources of vitamin B12 and dairy-free calcium out there. Look for varieties canned with the bones, which are soft and completely edible. Though the idea of eating fish bones may be a bit hard to swallow, they’re the part of the fish that packs all the calcium. Downing them is non-negotiable if you want to reap the benefits. Bonus: Sardines are more hydrating than Gatorade. More than half of its body weight is water. In case you need to pause to hydrate or something.
Vitamin B12 amount: 15 µg in 3 oz serving (625% DV)
Oft-overlooked for more glamorous fish like salmon and tuna, mackerel has twice the amount of heart-healthy, inflammation-reducing, cancer-fighting omega-3 fatty acids as salmon, making it one of the healthiest fish at the restaurant. What’s good for your heart is good for your part.
Vitamin B12 amount: 84 µg in 3 oz serving (1,400% DV)
Sea pistachios are one of the richest food sources of B12 you can find. The boner-boosting bivalves are also high in L-arginine, which aids the formation of nitric oxide. (NO is so powerful it’s used medically to treat erectile dysfunction.) Additionally, clams are high in muscle-building protein and low in fat, which will help you look better naked.
Magnesium amount: 500 mg per cup (119% of DV)
Brazil nuts are one of the highest sources of magnesium out there per serving, and they also boasts a good amount of selenium, a mineral that’s important for healthy hormones. You only need a tiny bit for healthy sperm, but a tiny deficiency can be catastrophic for reproductive health. In one study, men who had lower testosterone and were infertile also had significantly lower selenium levels than the fertile group. Supplementing with the mineral improved chances of successful conception by 56 percent!
Magnesium amount: 479 mg per cup (114% of DV)
Quinoa isn’t the only ancient grain that comes loaded with health perks. Amaranth, a naturally gluten-free seed, is a good source of digestion-aiding fiber, as well as calcium and bicep-building iron and protein (it has 4.6 grams of the latter per cup). Sub it for quinoa or brown rice as a side dish before sexy times.
Magnesium amount: 355 mg per cup (85% of DV)
With 26 g of protein per cup (which counts as two servings), teff has is also loaded with fiber, essential amino acids, calcium and vitamin C — a nutrient not typically found in grains. Like amaranth, it makes a great pinch hitter for your usual favorite grains.
Magnesium amount: 356 mg per cup (85% of DV)
Cashews’ high magnesium content lends them a myriad of health benefits, helping your body relieve constipation, insomnia, headaches and muscle cramps, as well as regulating the immune system and supporting brain function — all net positives in bed.
(Note: The USDA does not assign a recommended daily value to arginine.)
Arginine amount: 4.1 g in one piece
The classic dietary staple’s health benefits continue to stack up. In addition to a hefty amount of arginine — only turkey has more — a 3-ounce cooked chicken breast contains only 142 calories and 3 grams of fat, but an impressive 26 grams of protein. That’s more than half of the day’s recommended allowance. Plus, it has less than half a gram of saturated fat in one serving and is rich B vitamins to rev your metabolism and energy levels. (And if you’re looking for harder erections, those B vitamins definitely don’t hurt.)
Lean Pork Loin
Arginine amount: 14.3 g in 100 g serving
Despite bacon-based criticism from the health world, pork can now proudly boast a healthy image. In fact, it’s earning a more frequent spot on dinner plates thanks to its waist-whittling ability. Scientists asked 144 overweight people to eat a diet rich in fresh lean pork in a study published in the journal Nutrients. After three months, the group saw a significant reduction in waist size, BMI and belly fat, with no reduction in muscle mass! The researchers believe the belly-trimming effect is due to pork’s amino acid profile—yep, including arginine—which may contribute to speedier fat burning.
Arginine amount: 4.5 g in 1 cup
Walnuts provide a one-two punch in the fight against heart disease: one is arginine, and the other is its anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid content. In fact, it’s one of the best dietary sources. One study showed that consuming 2 ounces daily significantly improved blood flow to and from the heart. Eating a 1-ounce portion of walnuts three or more times per week could slash the risk of heart disease by more than half, a separate study found. As if that weren’t enough reason to stock up, a third study found that a handful of walnuts contains almost twice as many body-repairing antioxidants as any other nuts.
Arginine amount: 4 g in 1 cup
Could the humble chickpea actually be nature’s Viagra? Not only do they have 39 g of protein per cup (78% of your RDA!) and 57% of your daily value of magnesium and 4 full grams of arginine. Order the hummus on your next date night.
Arginine amount: 3.7 g in 1 cup
Like other fat-fighting beans and legumes, lentils are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They’re a “slow carb” that digests gradually and triggers the release of acetate—a chemical in the belly that tells the brain when to stop eating. A review of studies on dietary pulses found that people who ate a ¾-cup serving of lentils each day felt, on average, 31 percent fuller that those who didn’t. And lentils contain another magic ingredient: genistein, a compound that acts directly on the genes for obesity, helping turn them down and reduce your body’s ability to store fat!
Arginine amount: 5 g per cup
Not only do peanuts contain a trove of arginine, they also help reduce cholesterol levels. The less cholesterol you have in your system, the easier it is for blood to circulate throughout your body and down to your penis, keeping you … well, yeah.
Zinc amount: 11 mg per piece (242 g) (100% DV)
With 60 g of protein per USDA-defined piece, along with a full day’s allowance of zinc, lamb is one of the most potent proteins. Bonus: It also offers a full day’s allowance of niacin, which supports erectile function.
Zinc amount: 8 mg per cup (80% DV)
These white legumes contain resistant starch, a type of fiber that both contributes to feeling full and controls blood sugar. (Translation: you won’t be as apt to reach for the snacks.) Resistant starch makes it through most of your system in tact and makes your body work harder to digest it. In fact, subjects who ate five grams of resistant starch in a single meal (equivalent to about one-half cup navy beans) versus various other amounts burned 23% more fat, a study at the University of Colorado found. Use them in just about any recipe that calls for beans.
Zinc amount: 10 mg per leg (91% DV) Vitamin B12 amount: 9 µg in 3 oz serving (375% DV)
What’s sexier than food that needs to be eaten with a bib and a super-sized nutcracker? To quote Veep, change the visual, and a seafood dinner might pay dividends in bed.
Zinc amount: 9 mg per cup (82% DV) Magnesium amount: 4 mg per cup (84% DV)
These underrated kernels are rich in zinc, and people with higher levels in their system have been shown to have a higher sex drive than those with lower levels. They’re also a good source of magnesium, which boosts testosterone and keeps sperm healthy and viable. Pine nuts are the primary ingredient in pesto, so go Italian on your next date night, or sprinkle them on a salad with libido-boosting avocado, tomatoes and salmon.
The boner-boosting ingredient in eggs is choline, a powerful natural chemical that not only burns fat but can help set your pants afire. Choline triggers the production of nitric oxide (NO), which relaxes arteries in the penis and enables blood flow to do its thing. Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which controls sexual behavior through its activity in the brain; having a higher level of AcH has been associated with more frequent sex and more intense, longer orgasms. Bonus: Eggs are high in vitamins B5 and B6, which help balance hormone levels and fight stress, two undoubtedly helpful factors in the bedroom.
Turns out that good ol’ P.B. is an aphrodisiac in disguise. It’s rich in niacin (with a quarter of your recommended daily value in two tablespoons), which may lead to good performance in the bedroom. In a study printed in the Journal of Sexual Health, men suffering from impotence who took a niacin supplement reported a significant improvement in their bedroom prowess compared to men who took a placebo. Peanut butter is also a good source of folate, which improves sperm quality.
Almonds are rich in arginine, so if you’re looking to heat things up in the bedroom, almond butter should be your smoothie add-in and sandwich spread of choice. Numerous studies have indicated that almonds can help you lose weight despite their high fat content. How is this possible? Almonds contain compounds that limit the amount of fat absorbed by the body, so some passes through undigested.
HALL OF FAME
Arginine amount: 5 g per cup Zinc amount: 11 mg per cup (100% DV) Magnesium amount: 443 mg per cup (105% DV)
The best whole-food pre-workout supplement (no matter what your workout may be) might be a sesame bagel. That’s because sesame seeds are rich in L-arginine, an essential amino acid shown to improve carbohydrate metabolism during exercise. The amino acid is also a precursor of nitric oxide — a compound that dilates the blood vessels and enhances the coveted bodybuilder “pump,” a rush of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the muscles that amplifies growth. The seeds also have a highly concentrated amount of zinc and magnesium.
Magnesium amount: 386 mg per cup (92% DV) Arginine amount: 3.6 g in one cup
Almonds’ rich stores of arginine can actually help you burn more fat and carbs during workouts, a study printed in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found. The type of workout is up to you. Shoot for (ahem) 30 minutes daily. Combine that with the fact that almonds are a dense source of magnesium, and you have one of the best snacks that can help you in the sack.
Zinc amount: 10 mg per cup (91% DV) Arginine amount: 6.9 g in 1 cup Magnesium amount: 764 mg in 1 cup (182%)
Pumpkin seeds may connote the inedible gloppy detritus of Halloween, but they’re nutritional superstars. Pumpkin seeds are one of the best dietary sources of zinc and magnesium—essential minerals shown to boost testosterone levels and growth factor hormone, especially when combined. In fact, college football players who took a nightly zinc-magnesium supplement showed a 30 percent increase in testosterone levels and a 13 to 16 percent increase in leg strength, one eight-week trial found. The seeds are also a rich source polyunsaturated fatty acids shown to boost prostaglandins — hormone-like substances that play a key role in libido. Seeds, generally, are an excellent source of arginine, and pumpkin seeds rank #1.
Zinc amount: 20 mg in one piece (182% DV) Vitamin B12 amount: 5 µg in 3 oz serving (83% DV)
In addition to being leaner and lower in calories than conventional cuts, grass-fed beef offers a host of benefits, from muscle-building to fat-burning to heart protection. You can add assistance in the bedroom to its list of good qualities; it’s an excellent source of Vitamin B12, and one of the highest food sources of zinc. So fire up the grill. If you’re a carnivore, you have no excuse not to: Beef is one of the healthy fats that actually makes you skinny.
Arginine amount: 16.2 g in one breast Zinc amount: 13 mg in one breast (118% DV) Magnesium amount: 242 mg in one breast (65% DV)
Ironically, the fowl most associated with belt-loosening feasts is lean, high in protein and the single best food source of arginine. Lean and protein-rich, turkey is no longer an automatic substitute for red meat–this bird deserves props on its own. A quarter-pound turkey burger patty contains 140 calories, 16 grams of protein and eight grams of fat. It’s also rich in DHA omega-3 acids, which have been shown to boost brain function, improve your mood and turn off fat genes.
Vitamin B12 amount: 71 µg in 3 oz serving (1,178% DV) Zinc amount: 9 mg per slice (82% DV)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a less sexy-sounding food, but liver is the richest food source of vitamin B12, a deficiency of which has been lined to erectile dysfunction. It’s also loaded with zinc, which is essential for keeping testosterone levels up and prevents your body from converting T into estrogen.
Vitamin B12 amount: 21 µg in 3 oz serving (875% DV) Zinc amount: 77 mg in 3 oz serving (700% DV)
According to legend, Casanova regularly ate a breakfast of 50 oysters. Turns out he could’ve doubled as a nutritionist if he’d been able to get out of the sack. In addition to being high in B12, oysters contain more zinc than any other food source. This nutrient is essential for testosterone production, and when your T levels droop, so does your business. Like other bivalves, oysters are high in D-aspartic acid, an amino acid that has been shown to temporarily boost low testosterone levels and improve sperm quality in infertile men. On a purely aesthetic level, zinc also helps the body synthesize protein into muscles, which will pump you up in more ways than one.