Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

How Veggies Can Help Put You in the Mood

Written by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
Illustration by Michael Morrissey Morini

The body is a complex organism, but in many ways its needs are simple. Whittling it down, a healthy body is all about blood flow—blood flowing through our arteries to get to all the places it needs to go, easily and without hindrance.

Each time we eat, we have the choice to consume substances that hinder this blood flow or help it, and we know for certain that animal products (meat, dairy, and eggs) hinder blood flow by constricting blood vessels, while plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, mushrooms, herbs, and spices) increase blood flow.

And because a healthy libido is all about blood flow, it is safe to say that all plant foods are aphrodisiacal foods.

For thousands of years, various plant foods have been eaten for their “aphrodisiac qualities,” inspired by their internal effects or by their sensory characteristics—how they look, taste, sound, feel, and smell. If you’re feeling in the mood, you can create a romantic meal to bewitch and beguile your beloved by focusing on the sensual aspects of food.

Some of the effects are strictly visual. The color red, for instance, has always been associated with passion, heat, and love and can be found on Valentine’s Day menus in the form of beets, cherries, cranberries, or strawberries. The sensual pomegranate has long symbolized fertility, and the asparagus has been enjoyed as an aphrodisiac food because of its (ahem!) shape; in fact, in nineteenth-century France, bridegrooms were required to eat several courses of asparagus because of its reputed powers to arouse.

Some aphrodisiacs are considered such because of their taste and texture. For instance, agave nectar, derived from a cactus-like plant native to Mexico, oozes a thick, sweet syrup; the romantic effect of champagne seems to have more to do with the feel of the bubbles in our mouth than with the alcohol (and so sparkling juices and sodas are options too); and the juiciness of apricots, mangoes, peaches, and tomatoes (aka “love-apples”) have earned them a place on the list of sensual foods. Think succulence.

Certain aromas have a definite arousing effect, and depending on your preference, you might choose floral (hot water infused with rose oil), sweet (cinnamon sticks immersed in cocoa), or earthy (cloves or bergamot) with which to entice your loved one. And don’t underestimate the allure of sounds; the crackling of a fire, the babbling of a brook, or certainly the sound of your beloved’s voice could be enough to enhance the romantic mood.

Aside from these external attributes, many foods really do cause physical changes in the body, both positive and negative, making them either ideal for a romantic meal or destined to crush the amore.

Though we tend to indulge in rich, decadent foods when we dine with our beloveds on special occasions, we would be better off focusing on heart-healthy plant foods that encourage blood flow. Our heart, the symbol of romance, is the organ most likely to suffer from our indulgent food choices, affecting our intimate relationships in very real, tangible ways. Decades of research indicates that diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and decreased libido are strongly linked to an animal-based diet; after all, animal products constrict the blood vessels, whereas plant foods do not. More than that, compromising our health and risking disease doesn’t seem to be the best way to honor our commitment to those we love.

Delicious, sensual recipes abound that satisfy our spirits, nurture our bodies, and delight our palates. I truly can’t think of a better gift to give to our loved one than to prepare food that heals rather than harms, food that is life giving rather than life threatening. When our daily choices reflect our deepest values, our hearts—quite literally—expand.  How’s that for an aphrodisiac? 

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