If you're experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED), you're not alone. Millions of men worldwide have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. Fortunately, there are many ways to treat ED, including adjusting your lifestyle and diet. But can eating certain foods and avoiding others actually help with erectile dysfunction? Here's what you need to know:
Can food help treat erectile dysfunction?
One of the first lines of defense in treating ED naturally is to change your diet. That’s because the ability to gain and maintain an erection is closely tied to the foods you eat or - more specifically - the nutrients you get from that food. The adage is true – we are what we eat. Changing your diet, in combination with ED treatment options can effectively manage and maintain erectile function and health.
10 best foods for erectile dysfunction
To help manage erectile dysfunction, there are many types of foods and nutrients you can add to your diet. Here are 10 foods we recommend.
1. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are rich in nitrates, which can help improve blood flow and reduce inflammation. According to a 2016 study, men who consumed foods high in flavonoids – a compound found in vegetables and leafy greens – showed improvement in erectile function.
Berries such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries contain antioxidants, which are vital to maintaining a healthy blood flow in the cardiovascular system. A 2020 study found that men who consumed higher amounts of flavonoid-rich foods, including berries, had a far lower risk of developing erectile dysfunction due to increased blood flow.
3. Fatty Fish
Fish such as salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been closely tied to combating erectile dysfunction. In a 2017 study on male rats with a disease that narrows blood vessels, resulting in erectile dysfunction, the rats were given high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and the results showed an improvement in the blood vessels and erectile function. While more studies on humans are necessary, these findings are promising. Regardless, omega-3 has a myriad of health benefits, including reducing inflammation and even helping with depression.
Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are rich in L-arginine, an amino acid that has been shown to reduce the effects of erectile dysfunction. A 2019 review of multiple studies found that men who consumed higher amounts of arginine had improved erectile function compared to those who had not. Interestingly, the study also found that a large number of men experienced higher libidos and a greater level of sexual satisfaction.
5. Dark Chocolate
A 2019 study found that the flavonoids found in dark chocolate help improve blood flow by promoting the production of nitric oxide - a key element in gaining and maintaining erections. However, it’s important to remember that dark chocolate is the source of many of these benefits due to the higher presence of cocoa.
Watermelon contains citrulline, a key amino acid that is converted into arginine and then further into nitric oxide, a molecule that can dramatically improve blood flow and reduce inflammation in the areas associated with erectile dysfunction.
One of the leading causes of erectile dysfunction is a hardening of the arteries, leading to difficulties with blood flow and maintaining erections. Garlic contains allicin, a compound that can help reduce the hardening of arteries and improve blood flow, aiding in healthy erectile function. A 2014 study on aging men who took natural herbs, including garlic, saw an increase in erectile health.
Lovers of coffee, rejoice! Caffeine has been clinically proven to help improve blood flow throughout the body, helping men maintain erections. A 2015 study found that men who consumed 170-375 mg (around 2-3 cups) of caffeine daily had slightly improved erectile function compared to those who did not.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that 400mg, approximately four cups of coffee, is a safe amount for a healthy adult to consume on a daily basis. However, some people have caffeine sensitivity, and caffeine can interact with certain medications, so be sure to speak to your doctor before adding caffeine to your diet.
9. Red Wine
Even better than coffee; a glass of red wine a day can be surprisingly effective in helping combat erectile dysfunction. A 2016 study found that men who drank a daily glass of red, along with other flavonoid-rich foods like berries and citrus fruits, were 9-11% less likely to develop ED. This effect is due to the many antioxidants and flavonoid content found in wine, which can help reduce inflammation in the body.
10. Olive Oil
A 2020 study found that men who adhered to a Mediterranean diet had increased erectile function, of which olive oil is a staple. Olive oil contains many of the winning properties we’ve seen above (antioxidants and nitric oxide), and it also contains polyphenols - another key ingredient in blood flow and erectile functions. For these reasons, we crown olive oil as our favorite ingredient in cooking a healthy sex life!
5 foods to avoid when fighting erectile dysfunction
We’ve explained the foods that can help combat erectile dysfunction, but it’s also important to remember that many foods can contribute to or worsen erectile dysfunction. These foods tend to reduce blood flow to the penis as well as affect hormone levels and damage blood vessels.
1. Fried foods
Fried foods, such as french fries, fried chicken, and onion rings, can be high in trans fats, which can contribute to clogged arteries and poor blood flow, making it more difficult to achieve and maintain an erection. A 2020 study found that men who adhered to a plant-based diet and avoided processed foods had a lower risk of developing ED.
High sugar intake can lead to type-2 diabetes and obesity, which are risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing erectile dysfunction. Eating a diet high in sugar can also contribute to inflammation and damage to blood vessels, which can impede blood flow to the penis. This is one of many ways that sugar affects your sex life.
3. Processed foods
A 2022 study found that many processed foods high in refined carbohydrates can spike blood sugar levels and contribute to insulin resistance. This can increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, and other conditions that can lead to erectile dysfunction.
4. Red meat
Red meat is high in saturated fat, which can contribute to clogged arteries and reduced blood flow. Additionally, processed meats like sausage and bacon can contain high levels of sodium. Studies have confirmed that both of these forms of meat can lead to increased blood pressure and, consequently, erectile dysfunction.
While moderate alcohol consumption is generally considered safe, excessive drinking can lead to a range of health problems, including erectile dysfunction. A 2007 study found that nearly 72% of men with alcohol dependency experienced erectile dysfunction. Alcohol can interfere with the body's ability to produce nitric oxide, a key component in achieving and maintaining an erection.
3 herbs and supplements for erectile dysfunction
While there are several pharmaceutical options available to treat ED, some people prefer to use natural and home remedies such as herbs and supplements. While these natural remedies may be effective, it's important to use them with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
1. Panax ginseng
This herb has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to improve erectile dysfunction. Studies have found that Panax ginseng may improve sexual function by increasing nitric oxide production, which helps to relax blood vessels in the penis and promote blood flow.
This amino acid is converted into nitric oxide in the body, which helps to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow to the penis. A 2017 study found that L-arginine may be effective in treating erectile dysfunction.
3. Horny goat weed
We promise we aren’t making up the name of this particular supplement. Honest! This herb has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine as an aphrodisiac and to treat erectile dysfunction. A 2014 study found that it may help improve sexual function by increasing blood flow and reducing oxidative stress in the body.
Other natural ways to help combat ED
While there are a variety of treatments available, making healthy lifestyle changes can be an effective way to combat ED, such as maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet, limiting alcohol consumption, and stress management.
These lifestyle changes can not only improve sexual function (and, in some cases, sexual performance) but also overall health and well-being. If you’re experiencing ED and diet isn’t helping, try these other ways to treat erectile dysfunction without the need for medication.