Erectile dysfunction (ED) is one of the most common sexual dysfunctions in the world. The risk increases with age, but you don’t have to be old to experience problems with weak erections.
Various factors can impair the quality of your erections, including some diseases, being overweight or obese, stress, alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle, and others. Inability to achieve or maintain an erection decreases a man’s confidence.
In most cases, erectile problems are manageable. A healthy lifestyle plays a vital role in the treatment of ED. An integral part of a healthy lifestyle is nutrition. Can diet aid the management of this sexual dysfunction? Or you shouldn’t expect benefits from food? Read on to learn more.
Diet and erectile dysfunction
Nutrition is a source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, fats, and other nutrients our body needs to function correctly. Failing to consume a healthy diet creates a wide range of problems with our health and wellbeing. Erectile dysfunction is one of them.
An unhealthy diet depletes energy levels but also does more than that. It is a significant source of unhealthy fats, sugar, and sodium, which can clog arteries and increase diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk. All these problems are risk factors for erectile dysfunction. Why? They act on blood circulation and decrease blood flow.
Erectile health is straightforward. Everything bad for your heart is also bad for your penis. Vascular disease and problems affect the heart and, thereby, your penis.
You see, erectile function in sexual intercourse is a simple process. During sexual arousal, nerve messages start stimulating the penis. Impulses from the brain and local nerves allow corpora cavernosa to relax. This enables blood flow to reach penile chambers and fill them. As a result, blood creates pressure in corpora cavernosa and enable a penis to expand and achieve an erection.
Anything that obstructs blood flow can also lead to ED. Diet is one of the biggest obstacles here. An unhealthy diet fails to supply the body with much-needed nutrients. Instead, it delivers too much unhealthy fat and other compounds that harm blood flow. It’s also important to mention that an unhealthy diet can lower testosterone levels.
Studies show that diet has a major impact on men’s sexual health. Western diet can impair semen quality and negatively impact your sexual performance. After all, the major characteristics of a Western diet include high-fat and high-sugar consumption.
On the other hand, certain foods can help with ED. A healthy diet leads to increased blood flow throughout the body, including the penis.
The best diet for erectile dysfunction
In men with erectile dysfunction, the levels of nitric oxide (NO) are low. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator (dilates blood vessels) and the blood genital flow’s driving force. Lifestyle and nutrition are central factors influencing both vascular NO production and erectile function.
Dietary patterns with a high intake of whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables and with limited consumption of red meat, full-fat dairy products, and high sugar are associated with a lower risk of ED. The study pattern that meets these criteria is the Mediterranean diet.
Mediterranean diet is not a fad diet or program you can follow for a few days. Instead, it is an eating pattern of people who live in the Mediterranean area. The main characteristics of the Mediterranean diet include:
- High intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, spices, extra virgin olive oil, fish, and seafood. Remember, fatty fish is a wonderful source of Omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats support heart health, blood circulation and alleviate inflammation.
- Moderate intake of eggs, poultry, cheese, and yogurt
- Low intake of red meat due to saturated fat
- Avoidance of sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, refined grains, processed meats, highly processed foods, and refined oils
Mediterranean diet enriches the body with healthy nutrients and thereby benefits people with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, but also those who want to slim down healthily. Folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, various minerals are some of the many nutrients present in this diet. The Mediterranean diet is also a good source of vitamin B6 and other B-complex vitamins.
The claims regarding the beneficial effect of the Mediterranean diet on ED are not unfounded. Studies confirm that the Mediterranean diet is more effective than the control diet in ameliorating ED. In men with type 2 diabetes, those with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet had the lowest prevalence of ED and were more likely to be sexually active.
The Mediterranean diet’s benefits on erection function stem from its potential to improve lipid and glucose metabolism. Additionally, this diet increases antioxidant defenses. Fruits and vegetables are abounding in flavonoid compounds, which act like antioxidants and neutralize free radicals.
For example, citrus fruits are also abundant in vitamin C, which works as an antioxidant. That way, they prevent or manage oxidative stress, which can also contribute to ED. The Mediterranean diet also increases arginine levels, thus raising nitric oxide and improving erectile function.
The positive impact of the Mediterranean diet also extends to improving ED in men with metabolic syndrome. Men with metabolic syndrome have a higher prevalence of ED. Regular intake of fruits, vegetables, and other foods from the Mediterranean diet can improve endothelial function score and inflammatory markers. This eating pattern supports weight loss, yet another mechanism through which men manage metabolic syndrome.
Foods to eat for stronger erections
Erectile dysfunction doesn’t have to be the end of your sex life. Various options can help you overcome this problem. A dietary pattern like the Mediterranean diet can help you out. But below, we’re going to mention some useful foods that help ED. They include:
- Cocoa – foods high in flavonoids can lower the risk and prevalence of ED. Dark chocolate is an excellent source of flavonoids, just like red wine (but drinking too much is not a good idea)
- Pistachios – contain plant proteins, antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats, all of which are beneficial for heart health and erectile function.
- Watermelon – a good source of lycopene, which can improve ED. Other sources of lycopene include grapefruit, tomatoes, red peppers, papaya.
- Coffee – moderate intake of coffee can also lower the prevalence of ED (but don’t go overboard)
- Spinach – leafy green vegetables may help boost testosterone levels.
- Apple – apple peel contains ursolic acid, which slows prostate cancer growth and supports penile health.
- Avocado – abundant in vitamins and minerals such as zinc. Zinc is important for testosterone production, sperm quality, and overall sexual and reproductive health.
- Chili peppers -contain powerful antioxidant capsaicin, which can support testosterone levels and release feel-good chemicals in the brain. We can easily describe them as an aphrodisiac.
Foods to avoid
Diet can be your loyal ally in the war against erectile dysfunction. Some foods promote blood flow that reaches the genital area and produces engorgement. Other foods can only impair your erectile function. Along with including certain foods in your diet, there are some things you need to avoid consuming.
Soy is a fundamental component of plant-based foods. Vegans and vegetarians rely on soy-based meals for their protein content and versatility. However, soy is probably not the ideal choice for a healthy male who wants to maintain or improve the quality of his erections. At least not in excessive amounts! This is especially the case with soy protein.
A study from the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention recruited healthy male volunteers to inspect soy protein powder’s clinical and biological activity. Subjects, with an average age of 32, consumed two scoops (56g) of soy protein every day for four weeks.
Consumption of soy protein decreased serum testosterone levels by 19%. The luteinizing hormone levels also lowered. Remember, luteinizing hormone encourages the production of testosterone – a hormone you need for erectile function. Fortunately, testosterone and luteinizing hormone concentrations improved two weeks after subjects stopped taking soy protein.
Research from the Nutrition journal reported a man who consumed large quantities of soy powder experienced negative effects. He had a sudden onset of loss of libido and erectile dysfunction. Testosterone levels were low, as well. One year after cessation of the vegan diet, the hormone parameters normalized.
Normalization of testosterone levels was parallel with improvement of sexual function. Scientists explained that soy product consumption could contribute to hypogonadism and erectile dysfunction. Why? Soy is abundant in isoflavones that function as phytoestrogens, i.e., plant versions of the hormone estrogen.
Technically not food, but it’s essential to mention alcohol since the consumption is high. While men love their drinks, it’s not the best thing for their sexual and reproductive health. Evidence confirms that heavy alcohol consumption reduces testosterone levels. Moreover, alcohol impairs the function of the testicular Sertoli cells that play an important role in sperm maturation. Low testosterone makes you more likely to experience erectile difficulties.
Additionally, alcohol impairs blood flow and nerve sensitivity. Both factors are crucial for sexual arousal, erection, and overall performance. The more you drink, the higher the risk of sexual problems. In one study, out of 100 subjects with alcohol dependence, 75% of them had at least one sexual dysfunction. The most common sexual problems in this study were premature ejaculation, low sexual desire, and erectile dysfunction.
While a drink or two won’t do much harm to your testosterone and erectile function, high intake increases the risk. To improve erectile function, try to limit (or avoid) alcohol intake.
Processed meats may seem delicious, but they’re not suitable for your erectile function. Like other processed foods, processed meats are abundant in fat and sodium. Both harm blood flow. Since the quality of erections depends on the blood flow, it’s easy to understand why you should slow down with processed meat intake. One study found that processed meat intake led to a lower sperm count. This means the effects of these meats are more serious than we thought.
The same applies to non-grass-fed red meat. Non-grass-fed red meat is loaded with artificial hormones and antibiotics which disrupt testosterone levels. When testosterone isn’t in balance, then your erections become weak.
To sum up, men who want to improve the strength and hardness of their erections should lower or avoid processed meat consumption. It would help if you also made wise choices when eating red meat. Always go for grass-fed kinds. Strive not to eat meat every day, but only once or twice a week.
Soup has a wonderful way of making our day better. It’s good for our stomach and probably the only thing we can eat when we’re sick. But, if you prefer canned or ready-made soup mixes, you could be jeopardizing erectile function. You see, these soups contain high amounts of sodium. As you’re already aware, sodium increases blood pressure, which may make it difficult for you to get a firm erection. This happens due to poor blood supply to penile chambers. Making a soup in your kitchen is a far better option than buying a canned alternative or a ready-made mix.
While soft drinks, or carbonated beverages, are popular, they also come with various health risks. Studies show that men don’t limit the volume of soft drinks in their diet. They tend to consume soft drinks more often than women. Soft drinks are a major source of superfluous calories due to low satiety.
The low satiety results from fluid consistency and high carbohydrate content. Regular consumption of these beverages correlates with excessive weight gain. These drinks also contain high-fructose corn syrup, which is one of the main dietary’s villains.
These unhealthy ingredients in soft drinks could disturb the physiological foundations of proper erections. Regular intake of soft drinks could lead to slow and asymptomatic progression of erectile dysfunction, finally resulting in full claimed manifestation of ED. That happens because the high-fructose corn syrup raises cholesterol levels and damages arteries in the penis. High cholesterol paves the way to atherosclerosis, which clogs blood vessels.
Instead of soft drinks, you’ll benefit more from water intake, green tea, and homemade juices such as beet juice.
Other foods to avoid
Besides those mentioned above, you should also strive to limit or avoid the following:
- Farmed fish
- Microwaveable popcorn
- Full-fat dairy
- Refined carbs
In this post, we covered the role of food and diet in erectile dysfunction treatment. Nutrition plays an important role in erectile function. It also happens to be among the best approaches for men with ED. A healthy food supports proper erectile function at all times as opposed to quick fixes. Therefore, enrich your menu with foods that help blood flow and benefit your erections.
On the other hand, strive to limit or avoid foods that may harm your erectile function. Remember, moderation is crucial here. Combine a well-balanced diet with regular exercise and other healthy lifestyle choices.