Eat These Foods To Ward Off ED
Adding these foods to your diet can help you get and sustain an erection.
- As many as 75 percent of men are affected by erectile dysfunction.
- Eating certain foods may help you prevent ED and improve your sexual health.
- The best foods for erectile dysfunction include watermelon, salmon, blueberries, and beets.
Having erection trouble from time to time shouldn’t necessarily raise alarm bells. But if you’re regularly struggling to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex, the problem might actually stem from your diet. The wrong foods can cause your erection to flag. On the bright side: the right foods for erectile dysfunction can help it stand tall.
ED—which affects as many as 75 percent of men (1)—can cause mounting stress, affect your self-confidence, and contribute to relationship problems. And while medication and lifestyle changes can give you a boost below the belt, so can the decisions you make in the supermarket and kitchen.
The causes of erectile dysfunction can be multifaceted and you should see a doctor if you regularly can’t get and keep an erection. But one unexpected way you can improve your sexual health is through diet. The foods you eat provide the building blocks you need to power your body, including your penis and other sexual organs.
The Best Foods For Erectile Dysfunction
Compared to conditions like heart disease and diabetes, research on diet and ED is lagging. But science suggests these dietary choices can help supercharge your erection and overcome erectile dysfunction.
Embracing the trend of plant-based eating could improve your sex life. Gleaning data from 2549 men aged 41 to 64 from the ongoing national health and nutrition examination survey (NHANES) database, a recent study (2) in the Journal of Neurology reported following a healthy plant-based diet that favors whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes over-packaged foods and refined grains lowers the risk for ED. A separate 2021 investigation conducted on men in China buttresses these findings by showing that a healthy plant-based diet can help alleviate ED (3). Other plant-forward diets including the Mediterranean Diet have also been linked to improvement in ED (4).
There are a handful of reasons why eating more plants can strengthen your erection. For starters, foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol (looking at you, triple patty melt) can narrow your arteries and make your heart work harder. The harder your ticker has to work to pump blood to your organs and elsewhere, the less makes it to your penis. Swapping out crappy foods for foods that are lower in saturated fat and higher in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants may improve artery health resulting in better blood flow. Research (5) suggests that plant-based diets can improve heart health.)
We still don’t know what percentage of your diet needs to be from the plant kingdom to help with ED. But there is no evidence you have to go plant-only to see some benefit. Just try to wedge in more healthy plant foods like legumes and colorful fruits and veggies into your daily routine.
When it comes to the best foods for erectile dysfunction, a handful of vegetables including beets, arugula, spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, and cilantro take center stage. These veggies are rich in naturally occurring nitrate which can be converted in the body (6) to nitric oxide that helps dilate blood vessels.
When your blood vessels become widened, more blood can flow to the genital area, resulting in better erections. This vasodilation of blood vessels is a reason why research shows that consuming beets and nitrate-rich beet juice (7) can improve blood pressure (8) for improved cardiovascular health as well as endurance performance (9) during exercise. And regularly noshing nitrate-rich leafy greens (10) can help maintain sufficient levels of nitric oxide in the blood and tissues.
Interestingly, bacteria in our mouths play a major role in converting nitrate into nitric oxide. Thoroughly chew nitrate-rich edibles like beets and arugula to give the bacteria present in your mouth more of a chance to work on nitrate.
Related: Foods That Boost Testosterone
Dietary choices can help supercharge your erection and overcome erectile dysfunction.
This sweet, refreshing fruit is one of the best sources of citrulline, an amino acid that’s converted in the kidneys to arginine and, ultimately, nitric oxide. Indeed, watermelon juice consumption has been shown to boost nitric oxide levels (11) in the body. As a reminder, nitric oxide helps your arteries relax, which improves blood flow throughout your body. This could help prevent or treat ED.
To date, there are no studies to link watermelon or citrulline consumption with erectile function. But research has linked watermelon consumption with improved exercise performance (12) and blood pressure numbers (13), both believed to stem from the powers of citrulline to improve blood flow.
Regardless, there are worse things you can do to your diet than include more watermelon, which is also full of hydrating water and lycopene, a potent antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning (14) and a lower risk for prostate cancer (15).
The spears may make your pee smell a bit foul, but all that folate in asparagus makes it one of the best foods for erectile dysfunction.
One study found that men with the lowest folate levels (16) were more likely to suffer from severe ED than were those with higher blood levels of this B vitamin. Another meta-analysis found evidence that folate plays a role (17) in the development of ED. So poor folate status appears to be an independent risk factor (18) for ED.
What remains to be determined is how folate impacts erectile functioning. In your body, there are several folate-dependent biochemical reactions and one or more of these may be involved in limiting the risk for ED.
Beyond asparagus, you can load up on folate by eating dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, Brussels sprouts, avocado, beans, broccoli, shellfish and beef liver.
They might be blue, but there is nothing sad about the way blueberries may help you below the belt.
Researchers reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that men who had the highest intake of certain antioxidants, mainly anthocyanins, flavones, flavanones, had a lower risk (19) for ED during a 10-year period. Total intake of fruit, a major source of these compounds, was associated with a 14 percent reduction in risk of erectile dysfunction.
Since the major origin of erectile dysfunction is vascular, these antioxidants may lower the risk for ED by lowering oxidative stress and inflammation thereby improving your circulatory system and, in turn, allowing more oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to flow to your penis.
Blueberries are packed with anthocyanins so toss them on your oatmeal, yogurt and salads, or blend them into smoothies. Other sources of anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones include blackberries, citrus fruits, parsley, red cabbage, red grapes, and cherries.
The omega-3 fats in fish like salmon help it rank among the top foods for erectile dysfunction. Preliminary research suggests that consuming more of the omega-3 fatty acids (20) found in certain fish including salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna can bolster nitric oxide levels by increasing the activity of nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme that is necessary to convert the amino acid arginine into nitric oxide. So indirectly omega-3s may play a role in improving blood flow which is a major part of combating erectile dysfunction.
The fats can also help combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body which also helps fight off vascular conditions including ED. It’s worth noting that fish is a source of arginine, offering a direct building block for nitric oxide. And if you are trading in proteins like beef that can be high in saturated fat for seafood that is going to be a win for your heart health and, in turn, how things are operating down below.
- Kessler, A., Sollie, S., Challacombe, B., Briggs, K. and Van Hemelrijck, M. (2019), The global prevalence of erectile dysfunction: a review. BJU Int, 124: 587-599. https://doi.org/10.1111/bju.14813
- Eliyahu Kresch, Ruben Blachman-Braun, Sirpi Nackeeran, Manish Kuchakulla, and Ranjith Ramasamy (2021). Plant Based Diets Are Associated With Decreased Risk of Erectile Dysfunction. Journal of Urology, 206: 368-369. https://doi.org/10.1097/JU.0000000000002009.05
- Lu, Yi et al. “The association between plant-based diet and erectile dysfunction in Chinese men.” Basic and clinical andrology vol. 31,1 11. 13 May. 2021, doi:10.1186/s12610-021-00129-5
- Di Francesco, Simona, and Raffaele Lanfranco Tenaglia. “Mediterranean diet and erectile dysfunction: a current perspective.” Central European journal of urology vol. 70,2 (2017): 185-187. doi:10.5173/ceju.2017.1356
- Satija A, Bhupathiraju SN, Spiegelman D, Chiuve SE, Manson JE, Willett W, Rexrode KM, Rimm EB, Hu FB. Healthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Adults. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017 Jul 25;70(4):411-422. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.05.047. PMID: 28728684; PMCID: PMC5555375.
- Norman G Hord, Yaoping Tang, Nathan S Bryan, Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 90, Issue 1, July 2009, Pages 1–10, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.27131
- Baião Ddos S, Conte-Junior CA, Paschoalin VM, Alvares TS. Beetroot juice increase nitric oxide metabolites in both men and women regardless of body mass. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2016;67(1):40-6. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2015.1121469. Epub 2015 Dec 13. PMID: 26653541.
- Bahadoran Z, Mirmiran P, Kabir A, Azizi F, Ghasemi A. The Nitrate-Independent Blood Pressure-Lowering Effect of Beetroot Juice: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Adv Nutr. 2017 Nov 15;8(6):830-838. doi: 10.3945/an.117.016717. Erratum in: Adv Nutr. 2018 May 1;9(3):274. PMID: 29141968; PMCID: PMC5683004.
- McMahon NF, Leveritt MD, Pavey TG. The Effect of Dietary Nitrate Supplementation on Endurance Exercise Performance in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2017 Apr;47(4):735-756. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0617-7. PMID: 27600147.
- Milkowski A, Garg HK, Coughlin JR, Bryan NS. Nutritional epidemiology in the context of nitric oxide biology: a risk-benefit evaluation for dietary nitrite and nitrate. Nitric Oxide. 2010 Feb 15;22(2):110-9. doi: 10.1016/j.niox.2009.08.004. Epub 2009 Sep 11. PMID: 19748594.
- Bailey SJ, Blackwell JR, Williams E, Vanhatalo A, Wylie LJ, Winyard PG, Jones AM. Two weeks of watermelon juice supplementation improves nitric oxide bioavailability but not endurance exercise performance in humans. Nitric Oxide. 2016 Sep 30;59:10-20. doi: 10.1016/j.niox.2016.06.008. Epub 2016 Jul 1. PMID: 27378312.
- Figueroa A, Wong A, Jaime SJ, Gonzales JU. Influence of L-citrulline and watermelon supplementation on vascular function and exercise performance. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2017 Jan;20(1):92-98. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000340. PMID: 27749691.
- Figueroa A, Sanchez-Gonzalez MA, Wong A, Arjmandi BH. Watermelon extract supplementation reduces ankle blood pressure and carotid augmentation index in obese adults with prehypertension or hypertension. Am J Hypertens. 2012 Jun;25(6):640-3. doi: 10.1038/ajh.2012.20. Epub 2012 Mar 8. PMID: 22402472.
- Changzheng Yuan, Elinor Fondell, Alberto Ascherio, Olivia I Okereke, Francine Grodstein, Albert Hofman, Walter C Willett, Long-Term Intake of Dietary Carotenoids Is Positively Associated with Late-Life Subjective Cognitive Function in a Prospective Study in US Women, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 150, Issue 7, July 2020, Pages 1871–1879, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa087
- Chen P, Zhang W, Wang X, Zhao K, Negi DS, Zhuo L, Qi M, Wang X, Zhang X. Lycopene and Risk of Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 Aug;94(33):e1260. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000001260. PMID: 26287411; PMCID: PMC4616444.
- Karabakan M, Erkmen AE, Guzel O, Aktas BK, Bozkurt A, Akdemir S. Association between serum folic acid level and erectile dysfunction. Andrologia. 2016 Jun;48(5):532-5. doi: 10.1111/and.12474. Epub 2015 Aug 25. PMID: 26302884.
- Zhang Y, Zhang W, Dai Y, Jiang H, Zhang X. Serum Folic Acid and Erectile Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sex Med. 2021 Jun;9(3):100356. doi: 10.1016/j.esxm.2021.100356. Epub 2021 May 26. PMID: 34051538; PMCID: PMC8240352.
- Attia AAA, Amer MAEM, Hassan M, Din SFG. Low serum folic acid can be a potential independent risk factor for erectile dysfunction: a prospective case-control study. Int Urol Nephrol. 2019 Feb;51(2):223-229. doi: 10.1007/s11255-018-2055-y. Epub 2018 Dec 13. PMID: 30547361.
- Cassidy A, Franz M, Rimm EB. Dietary flavonoid intake and incidence of erectile dysfunction. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Feb;103(2):534-41. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.122010. Epub 2016 Jan 13. PMID: 26762373; PMCID: PMC4733263.
- Martins MA, Moss MB, Mendes IK, Águila MB, Mandarim-de-Lacerda CA, Brunini TM, Mendes-Ribeiro AC. Role of dietary fish oil on nitric oxide synthase activity and oxidative status in mice red blood cells. Food Funct. 2014 Dec;5(12):3208-15. doi: 10.1039/c4fo00055b. PMID: 25317541.