Sexual Wellness

Best Foods for Erectile Dysfunction

Fact Checked

There are foods that help improve sexual performance and that may help with erectile dysfunction. Let's take a look at which foods are best for erectile dysfunction!

Last Updated: 03/31/2022

Written by

Warren Dutton

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Paul Thompson

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is more common than you think, and though more prevalent amongst older men, it can affect men of all ages.

According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 1/3 of men are affected by erectile dysfunction. That's roughly 30 million men in the United States.

So if you're struggling with ED, you're not alone.

Can diet affect erectile dysfunction?

There are foods that help improve sexual performance and that may help with erectile dysfunction.

Findings by the European Society of Cardiology recently discovered that following a Mediterranean diet showed higher testosterone levels, better exercise endurance, and improved erectile performance.

The Mediterranean diet is packed with vegetables, fruits, lean meats such as poultry and seafood, whole grains, and olive oil. Red meat and sweets are encouraged to be consumed sparingly. The Mediterranean diet has also been medically reviewed and recommended, making it a great place to start if you're looking to improve your diet.

This 'ED diet' encourages optimal heart health, especially for middle-aged men. A heart fueled by the right foods helps with blood flow and cardiovascular disease.

What you eat affects the entire ecosystem of your body. A nutrient-dense diet provides health benefits such as vascular health, a healthy weight, and may reduce blood pressure.

While a healthier diet can improve erectile function, it also depends on the severity of the case.

Mild to moderate cases may be able to use food to help with erectile dysfunction. More severe cases may need prescribed ED medications to improve sexual health.

If your case is more severe, talk to a health professional or an integrative medicine specialist for personalized guidance.

What causes erectile dysfunction?

The inability to get an erection or to keep one during sex is very common and there are various causes. There are psychological and physical reasons that could cause sexual dysfunction.

Common causes of erectile dysfunction:

  • Anxiety

  • Cardio Vascular Disease

  • Depression

  • Diabetes

  • Digestive and Kidney Diseases

  • Emotional Issues

  • High Blood Pressure

  • Heart Disease

  • Hypertension

  • Low Testosterone

  • Metabolic Syndrome

  • Obesity

  • Stress

  • Smoking

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, men who have diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop ED in comparison to men who do not.

Diabetes may also cause endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial dysfunction is a type of coronary artery disease where there are no heart artery blockages, however, the large blood vessels on the heart’s surface constrict instead of dilating. This condition may cause chronic chest pain.

Whether you're developing ED, currently struggling with the disorder, or are looking to prevent it as you age, this article will help you learn more about ED and disease control.

What helps with blood flow to the blood vessels? 

Flavonoids

Flavonoid-rich foods are often described as superfoods due to their amazing health benefits.  Flavonoids are also linked to anti-aging as well as trapping and scavenging free radicals. Ensure that your dietary flavonoid intake is optimized. Flavonoids are a powerhouse when it comes to improving blood flow.

Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide is necessary for the penis muscles and blood vessels to relax. This process allows the penis to become engorged with blood and reach a full erection. Dietary supplements that naturally boost the production of nitric oxide in the body are very popular. There are also plenty of foods that boost nitric oxide naturally as well.

L-Arginine

L-Arginine is an amino acid found in protein-rich foods such as poultry, fish, red meat, and dairy. L-arginine converts into nitric oxide, which is music to your blood vessels.

Below is a round-up of foods that may help with erectile dysfunction.

The Best foods for Erectile Dysfunction

Blueberries and Oranges

Oranges (also high in vitamin c) and blueberries are both flavonoid-rich foods that improve blood circulation and lower ED risk.

A study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that a habitual intake of foods high in flavonoids reduced erectile dysfunction incidences.

Incorporate blueberries and oranges into your diet as freely as you'd like since they're both super healthy and low in calories.

Watermelon

A refreshing summer treat that tastes delicious and improves your sexual health.

Watermelon is packed with lycopene and L-citrulline. Lycopene is an antioxidant that is good for your heart health, blood flow, and prostate.

L-citrulline is an amino acid that your kidneys transform into amino acid L-arginine and nitric oxide. Evidence suggests that L-citrulline can also lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.

Nitric oxide production is important for your blood vessels and allows your arteries to relax and boost blood flow throughout your body.

Bananas

Bananas are loaded with potassium and flavonoids.

Potassium boosts the production of testosterone and improves libido.

Tryptophan is also an ingredient in bananas (and turkey) that increases serotonin, a hormone that improves your mood and increases sexual performance.

Magnesium, also found in bananas promotes healthy prostate and reproductive organs. Also found in bananas, Bromelin and B6 regulate testosterone and increase your sex drive.

The key takeaway here is that bananas are very good for you.

Coffee

A morning cup of joe not only has the power to wake you up but also stimulates flow to the penis.

Black coffee is low in calories and research suggests that caffeine promotes blood flow.

A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that men who drank 2-3 cups of coffee per day (170-375 mg per day) experienced less prevalent erectile dysfunction.

85% of adults consume caffeine regularly.

Not a fan of coffee? Try drinking green tea, chai, or black tea. Tea is a  great coffee alternative that can increase blood flow. Sports drinks also have caffeine but it's best to drink those more sparingly as some brands are loaded with sugars and unhealthy ingredients. 

Juice

Juices high in antioxidants can also help with a penile erection.

Pomegranate, blackberry, and grape juice are packed with flavonoids that increase nitric oxide levels in your body.

If you're not a fan of juice, consuming these fruits in their raw form is an option too.

Avocados

Did you know that the word avocado originates from a word that means testicle? It's true.

When the Aztecs discovered avocados they named it 'āhuacatl.' The Spanish later modified the word to 'aguacate' to remove its original meaning.

Avocados may boost your libido and increase testosterone levels. They're high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (the good fats!).

In moderation, these fats can improve your heart health.

Spinach, Kale, Arugula

Leafy greens such as arugula, kale, spinach bok choy, cabbage, and mustard greens are high in nitrates. Nitrates are converted into nitric oxide in the body.

Nitric oxide allows the blood vessels to dilate and increase healthy blood flow to the blood vessels.

Enjoy dark leafy greens in soups, salads, and smoothies.

Almonds, Pistachios, Walnuts, and other nuts

Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are also a great source of arginine, folic acid, vitamin E, and fiber.

Folic acid helps your body make healthy red blood cells.

When ingested, vitamin E may prevent heart disease and support immune function.

Nuts are also loaded with 'good cholesterol.' Good cholesterol helps your body get rid of bad cholesterol by sending it to the liver to be discarded.

When bad cholesterol builds up in the body it may clog the arteries and restrict blood circulation. This is bad news for your penis.

A small handful of nuts a day is sufficient. Nuts are high in calories so they should be enjoyed in moderation.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal also contains L-arginine, a nonessential amino acid that (you guessed it!) promotes healthy blood circulation. It allows the smooth muscle lining of the blood vessels to relax for better movement of the blood.

Oatmeal is not just a breakfast food. Try enjoying versions of oatmeal that are sweet or savory.

Oysters, Salmon, and other fish

Other foods that are great for ED are fish and shellfish. Oysters are a well-known aphrodisiac that can rev up your testosterone levels, improve sexual function, and increase blood flow.

Fish are also foods that help with ED. Fresh albacore tuna, salmon, mackerel, and similar types of fish are packed with healthy fats and omega-3s.

Salmon is also high in vitamin D. Vitamin D can be sought from the sun, supplements, and certain foods and is essential to a healthy immune system and evading seasonal depression in cloudy climates.

Spicy foods

Spice up a healthy diet with chili peppers. Jalapeños, habaneros, cayenne, and a variety of other peppers relax the arteries.

Hot peppers facilitate blood circulation to the heart and the blood vessels in the penis.

Spicy chiles may also prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol.

Explore cuisines that serve spicy dishes such as Thai, Indian, or Mexican food.

Garlic

Can garlic improve blood flow? Garlic is high in antioxidants and has been linked to helping with male fertility and testosterone production

A study showed that supplements and medicines with garlic could lead to significant improvement for older men struggling with erectile dysfunction.

Garlic is also another food that boosts nitric oxide levels.

If you find the smell or taste of garlic unpleasant, taking it as an oral supplement is a great alternative.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a decadent treat loaded with antioxidants. Not only is it tasty, but it can also relax the blood arteries and improve blood circulation.

The flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate the production of nitric oxide.

A few controlled studies have shown that dark chocolate may even lower your blood pressure.

Dark chocolate should be enjoyed in light moderation since it is generally high in calories and sugar.

Olive Oil

Olive oil, very commonly used in the Mediterranean diet, can also boost testosterone levels.

Extra virgin olive oil is especially packed with antioxidants since the process for pressing it preserves its natural flavor and health benefits.

The best way to consume olive oil is to drizzle it over fresh or roasted veggies, or enjoy it in salads, dressings, or soups.

FAQs

What are the worst foods for erectile dysfunction?

There are several risk factors when it comes to a poor diet.

A poor diet and bad habits can lead to sperm oxidative stress, cause premature ejaculation, raise blood sugar levels, and affect sperm quality. The old adage 'you are what you eat' rings true for a reason.

Eating unhealthy foods or overindulging in bad habits can have consequences on your sexual performance.

Alcohol

Too much alcohol may cause erectile dysfunction. A few too many drinks on a date night that is supposed to be romantic may have the opposite effect. Alcohol reduces blood circulation and depresses the nervous system.

Habitual usage of alcohol can lower testosterone and may lead to depression.

Sugar

Consuming sugary foods can quickly lead to excessive weight gain, diabetes, and other health conditions. Obesity and certain health conditions can lead to erectile dysfunction.

Sugary foods also put a lot of stress on your health since your body has to work hard to regulate sugar spikes.

Processed foods

Ultra-processed foods put you at risk for high cholesterol and heart disease and many other health conditions. Mass-produced foods such as packaged sweets, salty snacks, fast foods, and ready-made meals are no good for your health.

“Evidence is accumulating for an association between ultra-processed foods and increased risks of several chronic diseases. Our study suggests that the detrimental relationship with cardiovascular disease is even stronger in those with a generally unhealthy diet.

Dr. Matina Kouvari of Harokopio University of Athens, Greece

Are there additional ways to treat ED? 

Exercise

According to a Harvard study, walking just 30 minutes a day was linked to a 41% decrease in risk for erectile dysfunction. Staying trim and maintaining a healthy weight matters. Exercising regularly can help you fight ED and improve sexual performance.

Vitamins + supplements

There are several herbs, vitamins, or supplements you can consider taking to treat ED. DHEA, L-arginine, oral vitamin E, Ginsing, and testosterone supplements. Talking to a naturopath or an integrative medicine specialist can help you discover the right holistic remedies for you.

Therapy

Emotional issues such as childhood trauma or relationship conflicts may be affecting you more deeply than you realize. Stress, anxiety, depression, and low self esteem are psychological issues that can cause sexual failure in the bedroom.

Talking to a psychologist either alone or with your partner can help you 'get out of your head' and address any mental health issues that may be holding you back.

Can sleep deprivation cause erectile dysfunction?

Sleep deprivation may not only have you feeling tired, it can affect your sex hormones as well. Getting less than 8 hours of sleep can lead to lower testosterone levels and less firm erections. 

Try making your room more sleep optimized by getting blackout curtains and avoid stressful calls or emails before bed. If you suspect you may have a health issue, a sleep study can help determine why you're feeling restless.

What are the most common ED medications?

If you've tried holistic remedies, modifying your diet, and you've made drastic lifestyle changes but are still struggling with ED, it may be time to seek professional medical advice.

A healthcare professional can determine what treatment or medication is best for you.

Common ED drugs are:

  • Viagra

  • Stendra

  • Cialis

  • Levitra

It may feel awkward or shameful to have ED, but remember it's super common and may be a signal of more going on with your health.

A nutritious diet can help you manage erectile dysfunction, avoid heart disease, prevent digestive and kidney diseases, reduce your risk of a heart attack, and maintain a healthy body weight. It doesn't hurt to start with eating healthier foods and going from there.