Eating inflammatory foods is one of the worst things a man can do for his sex drive. Read our guide on inflammatory foods that decrease libido to discover what to avoid and what to eat for better sex.
Last Updated: 02/03/2023
Avoiding foods that cause inflammation can go a long way in supporting a healthy sex drive, not to mention keeping your body healthy overall. This is why staying away from inflammatory foods is the topic for part five of our 90-Day Challenge.
Every week of the 90-Day Challenge, we’re asking guys to change one aspect of their lifestyle in order to improve their sexual health and have better sex. This week your goal is to kick to the curb any inflammatory foods that also decrease libido.
Sexual decline is associated with increased levels of proinflammatory proteins called cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interleukin-8 (IL- 8).1 Scientists believe these inflammatory markers are involved in the development of sexual decline.1
Some inflammation is healthy for you. For example, it helps heal wounds and is important in the immune response against viruses and bacteria. The problem is when inflammation goes into overdrive. A lot of foods can send inflammation past the healthful point and into the range where it negatively impacts many areas of health, including sexual function.
The most important inflammatory foods to avoid are those that contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, such as foods made with vegetable oils. Nuts and seeds also contain omega-6s, so eating these in large amounts may cause problems. Eating too many of these foods can throw off your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.2
Scientists believe the perfect omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 2:1, similar to what our early ancestors ate. In people eating a typical American diet, the ratio is more like 16:1.\
Having a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is linked to a number of conditions also associated with sexual decline such as cardiovascular disease.3
Your best bet? Load up on foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, herring, oysters, sardines, anchovies, caviar, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Oysters are an especially good choice for enhancing libido, since they’re rich in zinc, a mineral that plays a role in male sexual function and may act as a natural aphrodisiac thanks to promoting healthy levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in sexual arousal.
Red meat, especially conventional, grain-fed beef, can raise inflammatory markers in the bloodstream. Your best bet is to avoid red meat when possible. When you do eat it occasionally, choose grass-fed beef, which has a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids on a gram/gram basis compared to grain-fed beef.
In addition, compared to grain-fed, grass-fed beef can ramp up levels of precursors for Vitamin A and E, as well as antioxidants such as glutathione.4
Pork can promote obesity, which in turn causes inflammation.5 Animals fed cooked pork fat as part of their diet gained weight.5 The pork fat also changed the abundance of the bacteria in the intestinal tract in a way that promotes obesity.5
Other animal research found that pork meat proteins not only cause the animals to pack on the pounds, but also caused low-grade inflammation.6
With our regrets to all bacon lovers, pork definitely falls under the category of inflammatory foods to avoid. Men won’t be doing their sexual health any favors by eating it.
The answer is: it depends on what type of dairy. Unsweetened yogurt is one of a number of anti-inflammatory foods, at least in part due to its ability to replenish levels of the beneficial bacteria that live in your colon. Research found that eating more yogurt reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.7
However, milk and other dairy foods may promote inflammation. One study of 271 participants published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2016 found that drinking milk and eating other dairy products leads to low-grade inflammation.8
In another study of 38,924 people with osteoarthritis, men who drank the most dairy were more likely to have to undergo hip replacement surgery, suggesting that eating dairy caused more inflammation and damage to joints.9
A study of dietary and lifestyle habits of men with good sexual function compared to the eating patterns of men with sexual decline found that the men who were on the top of their game sexually ate less dairy compared to the men with lower sex drive.10 There were other factors involved, too, like eating more fruit and vegetables, drinking less alcohol, and avoiding smoking, but eating less dairy was an important part of the overall dietary pattern.
Dairy contains saturated fat, which may be one of the reasons it’s linked to inflammation in some studies. For example, there’s some evidence that eating more cheese—a food that usually contains saturated fat—leads to a moderately higher risk of type 2 diabetes, a condition associated with inflammation and sexual decline.7
Even so, there’s evidence milk does not cause inflammation and might even reduce it in people who are not allergic to cow’s milk. This is the conclusion scientists reached after reviewing 52 published clinical studies.11
Your best bet? Go easy on dairy. With the exception of unsweetened yogurt, it could cause trouble in some men.
In a previous 90-Day Challenge blog post, we went into a lot of detail about how sugar-sweetened carbs, sodas, and fruit juices are beverages and foods that decrease libido in men. Not surprisingly, each of these items also increases inflammation in your body.
For example, fructose found in fruit juices and high-fructose corn syrup triggers inflammation in all cells that metabolize it rapidly.12 This is also true in fat cells, which become inflamed when exposed to fructose, causing the body to boost production of the stress hormone cortisol.12 Churning out too much cortisol over the long run causes weight gain, which in turn causes low sex drive.12
Foods that boost libido are the same foods that are anti-inflammatory. The best anti-inflammatory diet is one that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and omega-3-rich foods like wild-caught salmon.
Eating this type of diet will not only benefit your overall health, but also give your sex life a boost, too, by promoting weight loss and defending against diseases linked to sexual decline such as heart disease and diabetes.
Here are a few pointers for eating more anti-inflammatory foods:
Eat more whole foods and lean proteins. Try out some new recipes incorporating these types of foods to entice you to want to eat them.
Limit your red meat, pork, and dairy intake. When you do eat red meat, choose grass-fed.
Introduce a “plant-based day” once a week. After a while, increase it to twice a week.
Good rule of thumb: If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, more than likely your body can’t digest it.
Of all inflammatory foods, some of the worst offenders are those with a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. A health-promoting, anti-inflammatory omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 2:1, but people eating a typical American diet have a ratio more like 16:1.
To balance your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, avoid foods made with vegetable oils, which are really high in omega-6s and are key players in promoting inflammation.
Instead, load up on foods with a high omega-3 content like salmon, mackerel, herring, oysters, sardines, anchovies, caviar, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Other inflammatory foods include grain-fed beef, pork, and possibly dairy. Avoiding these types of foods can boost libido since inflammation is linked to a low sex drive.
Anti-inflammatory foods are the best choice for men who want to increase their sex drive. Inflammation is linked to sexual decline and men with low sex drive often have increased levels of inflammatory markers in their blood.
Eating lots of anti-inflammatory foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids like wild-caught salmon and flaxseeds can support a healthy inflammatory response while at the same time boosting libido. Other foods that contain a lot of omega-3s include mackerel, herring, oysters, sardines, anchovies, caviar, and walnuts.
Unfortunately, pork is an inflammatory food and therefore it reduces libido. Eating it regularly promotes obesity, which in turn causes inflammation. The bad news? You’ll have to give up your barbecue pork sandwich. But the good news is you’ll have a more rewarding sex life because of it.
Week 1: Does Intermittent Fasting Work to Improve Men’s Sexual Performance?
Week 2: Sugar and Sodas: Two Important Causes of Low Libido in Men
Week 3: Is Late-Night Eating Bad for Sexual Health?
Week 4: How To Stop Drinking Coffee and Alcohol to Boost Your Sex Drive