Improve your hormonal health and boost your sex drive too with these easy food choices!
It’s normal for sexual desire to fluctuate depending on what’s going on in your life – but the good news is you can boost passionate feelings by simply tweaking your diet. And even if you don’t want to increase your libido, you can benefit from our plan by getting your hormones in a better balance.
If you’re feeling stressed, worried about finances, had a quarrel with your partner, or are simply exhausted from working too hard, then it’s hardly surprising if your sex drive takes a nose-dive. But for some of us, low libido can set in over a period of time and feel like an ongoing issue.
Why is my sex drive so low?
‘If you’ve also got other symptoms, for example, you’re always tired and suffer from menstrual irregularities, bloating or PMT, your hormones may be out of balance,’ says nutritional therapist Angelique Panagos.
‘There are many hormones at work in your body, but there are six key players – oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, thyroid and insulin. No hormone works in isolation, they’re all interlinked. When everything is working in synergy, you feel energetic and vibrant, you cope with stress better, it becomes easier to lose weight and, you’ll feel more sexual too. A healthy libido is a sign of vitality and good health and to stay healthy, you need to keep your hormones in balance.
Can diet affect your libido?
‘For your hormones to function well, you need to eat a healthy, varied diet to ensure you get all the essential nutrients,’ says Angelique. ‘This means healthy fats (eg: avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil), carbohydrates (eg: vegetables and whole grains) and proteins (eg: organic meat, fish, lentils, chickpeas).
You also need a whole lot of co-factors in the form of vitamins and minerals to actually synthesise hormones and metabolise them to different areas of the body. Good gut health is also crucial as if your gut isn’t working, you won’t absorb nutrients properly.’ Just as eating a nutritious diet will help to support hormones, the reverse is also true.
‘Dietary stresses are a major contributor to female hormonal imbalance,’ says Angelique. ‘This can be consuming the wrong foods, over-eating or skipping meals – things we all do occasionally without realising the effect on hormones. Not getting enough healthy fats, for example, reduces your ability to make sex hormones and also deprives you of essential, fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K.’
Weight loss can boost your sex drive
The latest research shows that even modest weight loss can help to improve libido. A study by researchers at Penn State College of Medicine (2012) found that women who lost weight experienced improved sexual desire and arousal. Meanwhile, in a study at Duke’s University Diet and Fitness Centre, US, it was found that losing 10lbs can help to rebalance and stimulate sex hormones.
It’s not entirely understood why extra body fat increases levels of oestrogen and other hormones, but it is clear that reducing excess fat can help hormones come back down to a healthier level.
Boost your body image
Feeling flabby, tired and irritable with a low libido can also have a dramatic effect on your sense of confidence and body image. ‘Female sexuality is a complex subject,’ says Angelique.
‘It’s dependent on so many factors, including hormonal health. But if you’re not feeling confident about your body, then you’re also not going to feel very sexy. If you’ve put on weight, you may feel also feel uncomfortable about getting naked, and this plays a big role in getting yourself in the mood. A healthy, fulfilling sex life increases oxytocin, making you feel more connected to your partner. This hormone also has a calming effect and can help you to cope better with life’s stresses.
‘I find that when women start to experience positive improvements in their hormonal balance, they have more energy, the weight and bloating goes, menstrual and skin problems resolve, and as a result they start to feel more confident in themselves. I’ve seen so many women totally change as their hormone issues start to resolve. They’re more animated, they stand and hold themselves with more confidence. Some come in wearing a new lipstick. That’s often a sign their libido is back on track!’
What to eat to balance your hormones, lose weight and boost your sex drive
Expect to lose 2-5 lbs (some of it will be excess fluid), reduce water retention and bloating, feel calmer emotionally, yet more energised physically, mentally and sexually. Here’s what to do…
- Eat whole food, not processed food.
- Dump the junk. Processed foods are devoid of nutrients.
- Eat the right carbs… not no carbs. Go for fibrous wholegrains and vegetables. These are high in nutrients and fibre, essential for healthy waste elimination.
- Avoid refined white carbs (eg: bread, pasta, white rice) and say no to added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
- Eat good fats daily. Go for olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. Fat does not make you fat, sugar does. Eating the right fats builds hormones and keeps your cells
and skin supple. Healthy fats also have a beneficial anti-inflammatory effect on your body.
- Eat regularly and include some protein in every meal.This will help to keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
- Eat a rainbow of vegetables. The wider the variety of colours in your meals, the more vitamins and minerals you’ll pack in.
- Go organic where possible. This reduces the toxic burden on your body and helps with your hormonal balance. Exposure to xenoestrogens, antibiotics and hormones in animal products, chemicals and pesticides are hormone disruptors.
- Take a 30-minute break to eat in peace. This will allow you to eat consciously and slowly. If you eat while stressed, blood is diverted away from the digestive system, leading to bloating. Eating mindlessly also makes you eat more than you need.
- Manage stress. The stress hormone cortisol raises blood sugar levels and this disrupts your hormone balance.
- Avoid stimulants. These include alcohol and caffeine, which stimulate the adrenal glands and raise cortisol levels. Your hormones and energy levels will benefit. Drink water and herbal teas instead, such as ginger, peppermint, fennel, dandelion or licorice.
- Get moving. Exercise improves your energy, metabolism and insulin balance.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Disrupted sleep and circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycles) lead to elevated blood sugar and insulin levels and will throw hormones out of balance.
Aphrodisiac foods to boost your libido!
- Seafood (eg: oysters, mussels, fish) are high in zinc, phosphorus and iodine, all vital for sexual health.
- Vanilla scent has been shown in studies to have an aphrodisiac effect.
- Chillies contain capsaicin, which stimulates circulation and improves sexual desire.
- Sweet potato, pumpkin and avocado support hormonal health.
- Walnuts are packed with essential fatty acids that help to regulate hormone levels.
- Brazil nuts are high in selenium, essential for a healthy thyroid.
- Asparagus contains asparagocide, a plant hormone, reputed to increase libido. It is also packed with selenium, and vitamins A and C, all important nutrients for healthy sexual function.
- Figs contain beneficial vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, E and B6, manganese, calcium and potassium.
- Dates are rich in amino acids, known to increase sexual stamina.
- Pomegranate helps to increase testosterone levels (one of the hormones that boosts libido) in women and men.
- Chocolate contains phenylethlamine, an amphetamine-like substance that heightens desire.
- Licorice root is used in Chinese medicine to boost libido in women.