Diet and nutrition play a significant role in supporting our overall wellness, to the point that some healthcare providers actively recommend specific dietary changes to their patients as part of a holistic treatment plan. The food we eat can affect all aspects of our health including our cardiovascular health, gut health, and overall wellbeing – it can even potentially have an impact on our sexual health.
This may be good news for menopausal women, since fluctuating hormone levels — along with a myriad of physical and emotional changes experienced during this transitional period — can have a negative impact on sex drive. By tweaking your diet and focusing on certain foods that can enhance your libido, you may be able to more naturally support your sexual health and wellness through menopause and beyond.
Best Foods to Support Sex Drive in Women
There are certain nutrients that, when absorbed through the foods we eat, can act in various ways in the body to potentially enhance our libido. Some of the best libido-boosting foods for women to consider, include:
In addition to flavoring food, this vibrantly hued spice may also work toward increasing sex drive in women – more specifically in those struggling with depression or who are currently taking antidepressants. In one study, women on antidepressants and struggling with sexual dysfunction as a side effect were given saffron and experienced greater levels of sexual arousal as well as noted an increase in vaginal lubrication, compared to women in the placebo group.1 Additionally, saffron may also help to improve mood through increasing dopamine levels in the brain.2 This could be especially helpful for women in menopause who may be experiencing more intense mood swings or irritability, which can detract from the desire to engage in sexual activity.
Hoping to spice things up in the bedroom? Try chili peppers! The active ingredient that gives chili peppers their heat, capsaicin, may work to improve sexual function by helping to increase blood flow and enhancing overall vascular health.3 This may indirectly have a positive effect on blood flow to specific areas of the body, including to the genitals, but additional studies need to be done in order to determine capsaicin’s exact measurable effect(s) on sex drive.
Wild salmon is one of a handful of dietary sources of vitamin D4, a nutrient that is essential for supporting overall health — including sexual function. Research suggests there’s a link between low levels of vitamin D in women and reduced libido and sexual satisfaction, as well as less satisfying orgasms.5 If you’re not a fish fan, try incorporating more fortified dairy products into your diet, such as milk, in addition to certain cereals or orange juice that contain additional vitamin D.
This thirst-quenching fruit contains the phytonutrient citrulline, which can have a relaxing effect on blood vessels. More specifically, the body converts citrulline into arginine, an amino acid that increases nitric oxide levels in the body, which contributes to a relaxation of blood vessels (similar to how Viagra works in men).6 This effect can support better blood flow throughout the body, which may, in-turn boost sexual function,7 including libido.
Chocolate has a long history as an aphrodisiac food, and research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests why: Dark chocolate contains a compound called phenylethylamine that releases the same endorphins triggered by sex. This may work to heighten feelings of attraction between two people, increasing the desire to have sex as well as improving sexual satisfaction.8
Foods to Avoid for Libido
Sometimes, what we don’t put into our bodies makes just as much of a difference as what we do. This is true when it comes to foods that negatively affect female libido. Some of the main offenders include:9
- Refined sugar and foods made with white flour, which can cause blood sugar levels to spike and energy levels to plummet
- Processed foods high in sodium, which can raise blood pressure and limit blood flow
Meeting Your Physical and Emotional Needs
If you’re concerned that gaps in your diet may be affecting your overall health, including your sexual health and wellness during menopause, consider incorporating a quality multivitamin into your diet that can help to provide your body with the nutrients it needs.
If issues with your libido or sexual satisfaction are interfering with your quality of life, don’t be afraid to talk with your healthcare provider about it. If they’re unsure of how to help you, they can likely refer you to an expert who can.
Sex isn’t always an easy subject to bring up, but it’s an important one; just because you’re approaching or in menopause doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to a fulfilling sex life.
**Disclaimer: As with any nutritional advice, we recommend taking the information provided above with a grain of salt. While the foods we’ve mentioned may anecdotally help to support libido and sexual function in women, more extensive research needs to be done in order to quantify their exact effects, if any, on these specific areas of health and wellness.