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Erectile Dysfunction: Can Superfoods Help? (Part 9 of My Superfoods Series)


October 17, 2022
Superfoods for Erectile Dysfunction

As many as one in three men experience problems with erectile dysfunction (ED) at some point in their life. This condition leads to problems with getting an erection when you want to, or trouble maintaining the erection long enough to have sex.

There are several effective ED treatments that you can access by talking to your doctor. However, some men may want to explore alternative options. ED is sometimes caused or worsened by lifestyle factors such as diet and levels of physical activity.

Some scientific studies have found that certain superfoods can support healthy sexual function and minimize or reverse ED symptoms. Following a specific diet plan may be a good option for some men.

What Are Superfoods?

There’s no exact definition of superfoods that all experts agree on. However, the “superfood” label is generally given to food items that contain a lot of nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants. Many superfoods can help boost health or prevent disease.

Superfoods That Help With ED

Some studies have found that men who eat higher levels of certain nutrients are less likely to have ED. Although much of this research is in the early stages, it can help provide clues about which nutrient-rich foods you can choose to support better sexual health.

Spinach for Nitrates and Folate

Spinach and other leafy greens like kale and collard greens are superfoods that may work on multiple levels to help fight ED.

Leafy greens contain high levels of nitrates. When you eat nitrates, your body transforms these molecules into nitric oxide, a compound that plays an important role in ED. Nitric oxide relaxes the muscles and increases blood flow in the penis, making it easier to get erections. Oral ED medications work by enhancing nitric oxide’s effects. Eating more nitrate-containing foods could help boost sexual function.

Additionally, some research has found that men with moderate or severe ED are more likely to have low levels of folate, also known as vitamin B9. Find folate in superfoods like spinach, black-eyed peas, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts. Folate is also typically included in multivitamins, or available as a dietary supplement.

Fish and Soy for More Arginine

Arginine is an amino acid — one of the building blocks of protein. When it comes to ED, arginine has a similar role as nitrates. Your body converts some of its arginine stores into nitric oxide.

Arginine is available as a dietary supplement, also called L-arginine. Scientific studies have found that these supplements can improve ED symptoms and cause men to report being more satisfied with sex.

Experts recommend that men take between 2.5 and 5 grams of arginine per day for better sexual function. When men take these supplements along with ED medications like Viagra (sildenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil), they may see even better results.

Arginine is also found in some superfoods. Put healthier protein choices on your plate, such as fish and soy products, to get more arginine. This amino acid can also be found in beans and whole grains.

Fish, Flaxseed, and Nuts for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Superfoods for Erectile Dysfunction

Omega-3s are a type of healthy fat that can reduce inflammation, support heart and brain health, and lower your chances of getting some chronic illnesses. They may also lead to better erections by improving blood flow and boosting levels of nitric oxide.

Some companies make omega-3 supplements to make it easy to hit your desired daily levels. Omega-3 fatty acids are also present at high levels in superfoods like:

Berries, Tea and Chocolate for More Flavonoids

Flavonoids are antioxidant (damage-fighting) molecules found in plants. They give fruits and vegetables their color. Flavonoids are thought to affect processes within cells that help determine which genes are turned on or off. These molecules are often found in superfoods, and diets high in flavonoids have been linked to a reduced risk of many chronic illnesses.

In one study of more than 25,000 men, researchers determined that those who ate certain types of flavonoids — specifically, flavones, flavanones, and anthocyanins — were about 10% less likely to have ED. In particular, men who ate more flavonoid-containing fruit were the least likely to experience erection problems.

Flavonoids can be found in foods like:

  • Deep red, blue, or purple berries such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries
  • Red grapes
  • Red wine
  • Tea
  • Citrus fruits and juices like oranges and grapefruits
  • Herbs like parsley and thyme
  • Celery
  • Hot peppers
  • Dark chocolate

Pistachios for Healthy Proteins, Fats, and Fiber

The pistachio nut contains a lot of healthy nutrients, including fiber and antioxidants. Some studies have found that eating more pistachios can help support healthy blood vessels. Additionally, pistachios have high levels of arginine, known to help improve blood flow and sexual health.

In one study, researchers told 17 men with ED to eat 100 grams of pistachios every day for three weeks. This was a lot of pistachios — the nuts made up 20% of the men’s calories. However, at the end of the study, the men had better blood flow and fewer ED symptoms. Eating a lot of pistachios might also help other men dealing with this health condition.

Coffee for Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Molecules

Superfoods for Erectile Dysfunction

Coffee can have several health benefits, including possibly boosting sexual health. Some research has shown that men who drink more coffee — about two to three cups per day, or 170-375 mg of caffeine — have lower rates of ED compared to men who drink little to no coffee.

Researchers aren’t entirely sure why this is, although they theorize that coffee may help relax smooth muscle in the penis, allowing more blood to flow in. It’s also important to note that a couple of studies have not found a link between coffee and ED, and further research is needed in order to better understand whether consuming more caffeine can help.

Oysters and Nuts for Zinc

One possible cause of ED is low levels of testosterone. Testosterone levels often drop as you get older, and some medical conditions may also lead to low levels of this sex hormone.

Another possible cause of low testosterone levels is a zinc deficiency. When your body doesn’t have enough of this mineral, your testosterone levels decline, which could possibly affect your ability to get an erection.

Fit more zinc into your diet by eating more oysters, seafood, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Additionally, multivitamins usually contain zinc.

Nuts and Seeds for Niacin

Niacin, also called vitamin B3, was linked to ED in a study of 60 men who were experiencing problems getting erections. Those who had moderate to severe ED experienced improved symptoms after taking supplements containing niacin.

For superfood sources of niacin, look to nuts, seeds, beans, brown rice, and bananas. Some breakfast cereals and breads may also have added niacin.

Fatty Fish for Vitamin D

Some research has shown that men with vitamin D deficiencies are 30% more likely to have ED. Researchers believe that vitamin D may be able to protect the cells that make up blood vessels and heal them when they become damaged. This vitamin could also help the body make more nitric oxide.

Most of your body’s vitamin D comes from being exposed to the sun. There are also vitamin D supplements that can boost levels. To elevate levels though superfoods, try eating fatty fish like salmon, trout, and tuna. You can also eat foods that have vitamin D added in during the manufacturing process, including cow’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, and breakfast cereals.

Diets for Erectile Dysfunction

Eating more superfoods can be good for sexual health. Following a consistent healthy eating pattern can be even better.

The Mediterranean diet may help prevent or treat ED. In one study of more than 21,000 men, researchers found that men who followed the diet more closely were about 20% less likely to experience this condition.

The Mediterranean diet is based on a few guiding principles:

  • Eat more plant-based foods and fewer meats.
  • Replace red meat with healthier protein options like fish or beans.
  • Choose whole grains like whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and popcorn, and fewer refined grains such as white bread, white rice, and foods with added sugar.
  • Eat several servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Get more healthy fats (found in foods like fish, avocado, nuts, and olive oil) and less saturated and trans fats (found in meat, dairy products, fast food, and processed food).

This diet also lowers your risk of several chronic health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.

It may help to keep in mind that you don’t have to follow this eating plan perfectly to see results. The more meals you have that align with Mediterranean diet guidelines, the more benefit to your health you’re likely to see.

Other Lifestyle Changes to Help With ED

Superfoods for Erectile Dysfunction

Physical activity also plays a big role in having a healthy sex life. Men who don’t get as much exercise have a higher risk of ED. Several studies have found that getting at least 40 minutes of moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise four times per week can improve ED symptoms.

There are a few reasons why physical activity may help with erectile dysfunction, such as:

  • Helping the body make more nitric oxide
  • Boosting the health of blood vessels
  • Increasing levels of testosterone
  • Lowering levels of stress and anxiety

Tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs can also lead to ED. Stepping away from these substances may help. If you smoke, drink, or use drugs and find it hard to quit, your doctor may be able to prescribe medications or refer you to a treatment program or support group.

Other Erectile Dysfunction Treatments

Eating the right mix of superfoods won’t always work for every man with ED. For example, any underlying health conditions that are causing the ED may need to be addressed. Additionally, sometimes the only effective solution for ED is seeking counseling or therapy to address psychological factors that may be getting in the way of a healthy sex life.

There are also several other treatment options for ED that can be effective when lifestyle changes don’t cut it. These include:

  • Prescription medications that make it easier to have an erection
  • Testosterone replacement therapy for men with low testosterone levels
  • A vacuum device that can help create an erection
  • Surgery to implant a device or repair blocked blood vessels in the penis

To further explore these treatment options, talk to your doctor. Although it can be very difficult to discuss ED, sometimes broaching the subject with a healthcare professional is the most effective way forward. These treatments work to treat ED in more than 95% of men.

Superfoods: Part of a Super ED Treatment Plan

Superfoods aren’t generally a cure for ED, but they may help improve it, especially if the condition is caused or worsened by a vitamin or mineral deficiency. If you’re dealing with ED, try incorporating some of these foods into your diet, and work with your doctor to try other effective ED treatments such as medication.

Articles authored by Dr. Connor are intended to facilitate awareness about health and wellness matters generally and are not a substitute for professional medical attention or advice from your own healthcare practitioner, which is dependent on your detailed personal medical condition and history. You should always speak with your own qualified healthcare practitioner about any information in any articles you may read here before choosing to act or not act upon such information.
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