The Kitchen Think: Getting “In the Mood”… in the Grocery Store?


Want to get your lover in the mood? Then forget the bedroom and head for the supermarket.

Don’t worry — you won’t be hunting for powdered rhino horn or Spanish fly extract. A casual stroll through the aisles will turn up all kinds of things designed to arouse feelings of love or lust or both. Aphrodisiacs abound … right next to the canned tuna!

Named for the Greek love goddess Aphrodite, aphrodisiacs have been around as long as man has wanted to ensure his potency and virility. Scientists have tried to ruin the party by telling us that no plant, potion or pill will enhance our sexual prowess or increase our ardor. And while science proves that certain foods may contain mood-altering substances, these are usually present in such small quantities as to negate any benefit.

And yet there is something extremely sensual and erotic about slowly hand feeding your lover a strawberry dipped in chocolate. Think about it: the large, luscious, red, slightly tart strawberry dripping with dark smoky chocolate, slowly moving towards a wet, open mouth, the lips parted slightly in eager anticipation. It is almost pornographic, but this is how aphrodisiacs titillate the mind and the senses: through taste, smell, touch, sight and sound.

Chocolate has been considered an aphrodisiac for centuries. Aztec Emperor Moctezuma was said to have consumed large quantities of chile-laced “xocalatl,” later dubbed chocolate by the Spanish, to maintain his stamina and keep his wives and mistresses happy. Chocolate contains tryptophan, one of the building blocks of the brain chemical serotonin, which generates sexual arousal. It also has a stimulant called phenylethylamine, the chemical released by the brain when people fall in love. And of course, caffeine is a major component of chocolate … which accelerates the heart rate and increases blood pressure.

While nature may make it appear that something is an aphrodisiac because of its shape or the way it grows, in reality, it’s likely the vitamins and minerals that do the trick. For example, bananas are suggestively shaped, but they are also high in potassium, which is crucial to heart function. A cob of corn is packed with Vitamin B5, which is critical for the body to manufacture the sex hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Another reputed aphrodisiac, the avocado, got its name from the Aztec word for testicle because of the way it hangs in pairs when it grows on trees. This fruit has a smooth, sensuous texture that contains 14 vitamins and minerals, including iron and copper, which are great for your blood.

Sometimes, it’s what a food looks like on the inside that counts. An open fig resembles female genitalia, some say, and eating figs is considered a sexual stimulant.

Durian, a spiky Southeast Asian fruit, is incredibly odiferous and is banned from many hotels and airplanes. But those who get past the smell say the creamy custard-like inside is intoxicatingly erotic, especially while sucking the fruit off the large seeds.

Image by alBerto Trevino

Seafood is another well-known reputed performance booster. In fact, all the hoopla over whether eating raw oysters can really enhance your sex life may, in fact, be true. In 2005 a group of Italian scientists working with the National Institutes of Health found two of the amino acids found in oysters actually do stimulate the production of sex hormones. It may also be because oysters are high in zinc, and studies have shown that a zinc deficiency can lead to a low libido.

Caviar is another food thought to have aphrodisiac qualities because it, too, is high in zinc. But in this case, the expense and glamour associated with consuming caviar may be part of the reason it is passion-inducing. Pufferfish, considered a delicacy in sushi-mad Japan, contains a neurotoxin which can kill you if eaten. For some, flirting with death can also be deemed a sexual turn-on ? but you’d better be awfully careful.

For centuries, herbs have been used to enhance sexual pleasure, increase stamina and promote arousal. The Internet abounds with capsules, oils and tonics offering sexual salvation made from various herbs. Damiana, a shrub native to Central America, causes tingling in the groin when ingested. That’s probably why it is considered a sexual stimulant even though there is no scientific proof that it works. Fennel contains natural plant estrogen, while ginger, ginseng and garlic stimulate the circulatory system.

While some herbs may be effective, not all are necessarily safe. The bark from the West African yohimbe tree purportedly can help a man sustain an erection and reignite a menopausal woman’s interest in sex. There is an enzyme in the bark that increases blood circulation to the groin. But it also greatly increases blood pressure and can cause kidney failure or death.

While science says there is no such thing as a true aphrodisiac, if you look at foods long thought to provide sexual healing, you’ll see that most are low in fat, high in vitamins and minerals with very little saturated fat or bad cholesterol. In other words, they’re good for you! A diet rich in healthy foods can only mean a healthy body, which in turn means energy for peak performance in the bedroom.

So the next time your lover hands you the grocery list and asks you to do the shopping, bring home a little something extra just for the two of you to share. It’ll make unpacking the groceries at home a whole lot more fun!


Some people will try anything. Here are some of the world’s more unusual reputed mood enhancers:

  • Blister beetles: The emerald green beetle, also known as “Spanish fly,” secrets a poisonous chemical compound that, when ingested, causes a burning and swelling in the urinary tract. Those who partake mistake this for sexual stimulation when, in fact, it often causes kidney failure and death.
  • Tarantula: In Cambodia, these hairy black spiders are pulled from their burrows and quickly deep-fried until they are gooey on the inside and extra crispy on the outside. The venom from these arachnids is thought to work as an aphrodisiac.
  • Crocodile: Those eating crocodile meat, especially the penis, are said to gain the power and aggressiveness of these aquatic reptiles. This delicacy is especially popular in China.
  • Snake: East Asians are the main connoisseurs of the blood and meat of the cobra, which they believe helps sustain erections by increasing one’s “yang” or active hot energy. You can even buy cobra wine or liquor, with the cobra actually in the bottle!
  • Shark’s fin: Soup made from the shark’s fin is said to increase stamina in the bedroom as well as boost the libido. In reality, the shark’s fin is cartilage which is packed with glucosamine, and is good for the immune system and the joints. Shark’s fin is also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to improve focus and energy, all of which are necessary if you’re looking to keep the party going all night.

This article first appeared in Café Magazine.

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I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: