Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when a man has difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection. Although it can be embarrassing and discouraging, ED affects a large number of men and is more common than you might think.
Below, we will show you foods that will help you improve your sex life, along with a few that won’t, and other steps you can take to help treat — or avoid — ED.
ED affects one-third of the male population — in many cases, the causes are usually due to complex issues such as vascular diseases, endocrine or hormonal problems, or nerve signaling deficits.
However, many other cases are simply because of an unhealthy lifestyle — excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of exercise, or poor diet . Recent studies show that adopting a healthy lifestyle, like working out and eating a balanced diet —mainly vegetables, fruits, and whole grains— can prevent ED .
Here are ten foods you can incorporate into your diet today:
Research in rats shows that L-citrulline —one of the amino acids in watermelon — stimulates blood flow and helps decrease ED .
Moreover, this food is also high in lycopene, a pigment beneficial to heart health . If you suffer from ED due to cardiovascular problems, try incorporating watermelon into your diet.
Dark chocolate and blackberries have a significant amount of flavonoids, which reduce the incidence of ED, according to some research . Other foods with flavanoids include blueberries, plums, apples, strawberries, or oranges — although to a lesser extent.
One study showed that men with low folic acid levels experience ED . Spinach and some other leafy greens have a high content of this vitamin. In addition, spinach contains high levels of flavonoids, making it an excellent ED food.
A 2021 study showed that folic acid can positively affect ED . In another study, a handful of men with ED were given pistachios — a great source of folic acid — for a prolonged period. After three weeks, the participants showed improvements in erectile function.
Furthermore, pistachios are high in arginine, an amino acid that improves blood flow .
Oats are also excellent for increasing blood flow due to their high l-arginine content. A systematic review has shown that ingesting this non-essential amino acid can help decrease ED .
Most fish have large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids — which are ideal for helping increase blood flow. Studies show that these oils can help improve ED .
Moreover, salmon, in addition to being high in omega-3s, is also high in vitamin D. This vitamin, which you can also get by sunbathing, can help you have an erection, making salmon an excellent food for dealing with ED .
Avocado comes from a Nahuatl word — ahuacatl — which means testicle. For the Aztecs, this fruit represented love and fertility.
Today, we know avocados are high in zinc, a mineral that helps increase testosterone levels and may prove helpful against ED .
Caffeine relaxes the smooth muscles of the penis, allowing better blood circulation. Some research shows that men who take approximately three cups of coffee a day have lower rates of ED .
Hot peppers are also excellent for increasing blood flow, as they affect the blood vessels. In fact, a study conducted in Uganda found that spicy foods can help treat ED .
A California State University study found that 25 of 42 participants had improvements in ED when drinking pomegranate juice . The high amount of antioxidants in the juice increased nitric oxide levels, effectively combatting ED.
Unfortunately, some foods can harm your sexual performance. A study by Experimental Gerontology of Massachusetts found an association between dietary cholesterol and unsaturated fat intake and the incidence of ED .
Here are three foods that may actually promote ED. However, keep in mind that it’s not necessary to outright eliminate them from your diet. Simply moderating your intake may help.
Several studies show that soy-based products can cause ED. For example, one report examined the case of a person who consumed large amounts of this food and found that he had problems maintaining an erection.
Furthermore, another study showed that healthy men who ate soy protein powder experienced decreased testosterone levels .
Although many people claim to experience aphrodisiac effects after a couple of drinks, alcohol can also produce the opposite. This drug decreases blood flow throughout the body, which is detrimental to testosterone production and the central nervous system .
According to some studies, licorice can significantly decrease testosterone levels [19, 20]. However, other studies found no relevant effect on testosterone levels. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be careful.
If you combine a good diet with other healthy habits, you’ll likely feel more sexually active. Moreover, ED is sometimes caused by mental disorders and may be a sign of serious pre-existing conditions.
Below are some other ways to treat ED.
One of the most common causes of ED is stress and depression . Therefore, it can be helpful to treat emotional problems with a psychologist, either individually or as a couple.
Anxiety is also the culprit of multiple cases where a male can’t achieve or keep an erection during a sexual encounter.
By simply giving up vices such as tobacco and alcohol, you can put an end to ED. Research shows that moderating the intake of these substances can improve your sex life .
Frequent physical activity can also improve erectile function by significantly reducing cholesterol levels, and improving heart health . In addition, it can also help reduce stress, so it can be mentally helpful.
Furthermore, a study showed that specific Kegel exercises could improve erectile function as well.
As we saw above, vitamins such as B9 —folic acid— and D  can significantly improve erectile function. However, it is sometimes difficult to eat enough of the right foods to get the necessary amount. Consider taking vitamin supplements in order to help.
Conclusion: Foods for Erectile Dysfunction
Fortunately, several foods can help you reduce ED. Also, if you combine them with a healthy lifestyle, you may experience significant improvements in erectile function.
Finally, remember to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other substances that cause male impotence. Also, do not hesitate to consult your doctor, as ED may signify other, more serious pre-existing conditions.
- Gerbild, H., Larsen, C. M., Graugaard, C., & Josefsson, K. A. (2018). Physical activity to improve erectile function: a systematic review of intervention studies. Sexual medicine, 6(2), 75-89.
- Esposito, K., Giugliano, F., Di Palo, C., Giugliano, G., Marfella, R., D’Andrea, F., … & Giugliano, D. (2004). Effect of lifestyle changes on erectile dysfunction in obese men: a randomized controlled trial. Jama, 291(24), 2978-2984.
- Hotta, Y., Shiota, A., Kataoka, T., Motonari, M., Maeda, Y., Morita, M., & Kimura, K. (2014). Oral l‐citrulline supplementation improves erectile function and penile structure in castrated rats. International Journal of Urology, 21(6), 608-612.
- Cheng, H. M., Koutsidis, G., Lodge, J. K., Ashor, A. W., Siervo, M., & Lara, J. (2019). Lycopene and tomato and risk of cardiovascular diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological evidence. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 59(1), 141-158.
- Cassidy, A., Franz, M., & Rimm, E. B. (2016). Dietary flavonoid intake and incidence of erectile dysfunction. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103(2), 534-541.
- Karabakan, M., Erkmen, A. E., Guzel, O., Aktas, B. K., Bozkurt, A., & Akdemir, S. (2016). Association between serum folic acid level and erectile dysfunction. Andrologia, 48(5), 532-535.
- Zhang, Y., Zhang, W., Dai, Y., Jiang, H., & Zhang, X. (2021). Serum folic acid and erectile dysfunction: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sexual Medicine, 9(3), 100356.
- Fogacci, F., Cicero, A. F., Derosa, G., Rizzo, M., Veronesi, M., & Borghi, C. (2019). Effect of pistachio on brachial artery diameter and flow-mediated dilatation: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled-feeding clinical studies. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 59(2), 328-335.
- Rhim, H. C., Kim, M. S., Park, Y. J., Choi, W. S., Park, H. K., Kim, H. G., … & Paick, S. H. (2019). The potential role of arginine supplements on erectile dysfunction: a systemic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 16(2), 223-234.
- Shim, J. S., Kim, D. H., Bae, J. H., & Moon, D. G. (2016). Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on erectile dysfunction in a rat model of atherosclerosis-induced chronic pelvic ischemia. Journal of Korean medical science, 31(4), 585-589.
- Sorenson, M. B., & Grant, W. B. (2012). Does vitamin D deficiency contribute to erectile dysfunction?. Dermato-endocrinology, 4(2), 128-136.
- Prasad, A. S., Mantzoros, C. S., Beck, F. W., Hess, J. W., & Brewer, G. J. (1996). Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition, 12(5), 344-348.
- Lopez, D. S., Wang, R., Tsilidis, K. K., Zhu, H., Daniel, C. R., Sinha, A., & Canfield, S. (2015). Role of caffeine intake on erectile dysfunction in US men: results from NHANES 2001-2004. PloS one, 10(4), e0123547.
- Kamatenesi-Mugisha, M., & Oryem-Origa, H. (2005). Traditional herbal remedies used in the management of sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction in western Uganda. African Health Sciences, 5(1), 40-49.
- Forest, C. P., Padma-Nathan, H., & Liker, H. R. (2007). Efficacy and safety of pomegranate juice on improvement of erectile dysfunction in male patients with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study. International journal of impotence research, 19(6), 564-567.
- O’Donnell, A. B., Araujo, A. B., & McKinlay, J. B. (2004). The health of normally aging men: the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (1987–2004). Experimental Gerontology, 39(7), 975-984.
- Goodin, S., Shen, F., Shih, W. J., Dave, N., Kane, M. P., Medina, P., … & DiPaola, R. S. (2007). Clinical and biological activity of soy protein powder supplementation in healthy male volunteers. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 16(4), 829-833.
- Li, S., Song, J. M., Zhang, K., & Zhang, C. L. (2021). A Meta-Analysis of Erectile Dysfunction and Alcohol Consumption. Urologia Internationalis, 105(11-12), 969-985.
- Armanini, D., Bonanni, G., Mattarello, M. J., Fiore, C., Sartorato, P., & Palermo, M. (2003). Licorice consumption and serum testosterone in healthy man. Experimental and clinical endocrinology & diabetes, 111(06), 341-343.
- Noshahi, U. F., Nawaz, M. A., & Hussain, M. (2019). A review of the medicinal values and health effects of plant Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice). Zeitschrift für Arznei-& Gewürzpflanzen, 24(3), 121-127.
- Rosen, R. C. (2001). Psychogenic erectile dysfunction: classification and management. Urologic Clinics of North America, 28(2), 269-278.
- Maiorino, M. I., Bellastella, G., & Esposito, K. (2015). Lifestyle modifications and erectile dysfunction: what can be expected?. Asian Journal of Andrology, 17(1), 5.
- Gerbild, H., Larsen, C. M., Graugaard, C., & Areskoug Josefsson, K. (2018). Physical activity to improve erectile function: a systematic review of intervention studies. Sexual medicine, 6(2), 75-89.
- Barassi, A., Pezzilli, R., Colpi, G. M., Corsi Romanelli, M. M., & Melzi d’Eril, G. V. (2014). Vitamin D and erectile dysfunction. The journal of sexual medicine, 11(11), 2792-2800.