By Mindy Athas, RD, CSO, LDN
Outpatient Dietitian, Nutritionist & Certified Oncology Specialist
Greenebaum Cancer Center
University of Maryland Medical Center
Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared in The Baltimore Sun 02/08/12, in the Taste section.
Ah, L’Amour. It’s that time of year when love is in the air and the kitchen. Whether you add gusto to a greeting card or bake a bevy of bites for your better half, here’s the lowdown on which romantic foods may actually rev you up and add some nutrition too. Aphrodisiacs are foods used historically to get blood flowing, stimulate hormones or affections, promote fertility, raise body temperature or just be psychologically suggestive. Whether they actually work is subjective, but you can bet your libido on this list of healthy picks. Multiple foods are considered aphrodisiacs but those noted here (in italics) are rich in nutrients, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and antioxidants: now that’s seductive!
Life is short: eat dessert first. Pick up some chocolate and do it in the dark. Dark chocolate is higher in cocoa and lower in sugar: try it melted or as a fondue with fresh pineapple and watermelon.
Here’s a chocolate fondue recipe with espresso.
Rally some raspberries with slivers of fresh aromatic mint leaves. Get your endorphins going with honey: try drizzling it on fresh fruit, like grapes or bananas, which can also be baked into bran muffins or sliced into whole wheat pancakes: don’t forget to add the vanilla bean. Fit fancy figs into your festivities or pop pomegranate seeds for pleasure.
And consider champagne, which in moderation can be enjoyed with some strawberries. End the meal with a stimulating demitasse of coffee stirred with cinnamon.
Savory & Sensual
Looking to zap some zest in your zucchini or liven up your linguine? See red with spices and capsaicin-rich hot chilies. An asparagus appetizer, like revenge, can best be served cold with a sexy citrus dipping sauce. Or try arousing avocado mixed with olive oil, tomatoes, onion and garlic as guacamole, served with carrots, celery, radish and red peppers. Herbs like basil, rosemary and sage add bright color and flavor with minimal effort. Increase excitement with ginger, nutmeg, saffron and mustard.
Up the satisfaction of salad with arugula, and increase virility with bites of broccoli rabe and other bitter mustard greens.
Steam up attraction with artichokes: try roasted garlic and artichokes.
Ruby-red wine can be stirred in stews or used as a marinade (the alcohol burns off as the food cooks).
Looking for love? Try oysters, but cook before eating as a food safety precaution. Nuts seduce in so many ways, so sprinkle pine nuts into a white bean chili or top off a meal with fragrant almonds, pistachios or licorice-flavored fennel, coriander and anise seeds. Toss your salad with walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed. Get big flavor in a small package with musky truffles (the mushroom, not the candy): found in specialty stores. Get euphoric with eggs: consider a frittata built with black beans to offer a high-fiber expression of desire. Seductive salmon should be Coho, Pacific or wild Alaskan (but not farmed): top it with a small dollop of lusty caviar, or try almond-crusted salmon.
Master Your Meal
Whether planning a quickie feast or an all-day affair, adding aphrodisiac foods can be fun and nutritious. Gustatory stimulation starts in the nose and the eye, so allow aromas to waft in the air and serve passionate colors on a beautifully prepared plate to tempt all the senses. When in doubt, use heart-shaped cookie cutters, and set the table with a bouquet of roses. For more tips and tidbits, see Inter Courses: an Aphrodisiac Cookbook by Hopkins and Lockridge.