Like every part of the body, the male repro system needs the right nutrients for optimal health, from function to fertility. Studies have isolated several nutrients that are particularly beneficial. You can get them through these best foods for your penis, or these best proteins for your penis, but we’ve broken them down here by nutrient in case you want to ensure you’re getting enough. (And if you do decide to go the supplement route, as always, talk to your doctor and never exceed recommended dosages.)
Here are the best supplements, and while you’re doing all you can to stay healthy, stock up on The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
US RDA: 11 mg
There’s a reason why Casanova developed his reputation: He was alleged to scarf two dozen oysters a day, which is the food highest in zinc. In the modern era, people with higher levels of zinc in their system have been shown to have a higher sex drive than those with lower levels. That’s because the mineral is essential for testosterone production. In one Nutrition study, zinc-deficient men who supplemented with zinc for six months doubled their T levels. And another eight-week trial published results in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that college football players who took a nightly zinc supplement showed increased testosterone levels as well.
US RDA: 2.4 µg
This is one B team you want to get on pronto: A recent report from Harvard University highlighted a study that has linked low levels of B12 to erectile dysfunction. A causal link hasn’t been nailed down, but the B vitamin is used by every system in the body, particularly in cell metabolism and the production of blood—two essential factors in getting and keeping a quality erection.
Call this the Marvin Gaye of amino acids: L-arginine converts to nitric oxide (NO), a naturally occuring gas that causes blood vessels to relax and facilitate blood flow, helping you get and stay hard. You can find plenty of the nutrient in oysters, but in supplement form, the Mayo Clinic says that 400-6,000 milligrams is the maximum dose. And these are the best foods for arginine!
US RDA: 600 IU
The sunshine vitamin will brighten things up in the bedroom. In a recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Italian researchers found that of 143 men with erectile dysfunction, 80% had less-than-optimal levels of D, and the men with severe ED had, on average, a 24% lower level of D than with a milder condition. They theorize that low levels of D damage blood vessels and lead to a shortage of nitric oxide.
Vitamin C has been associated with higher sperm counts. You can get it naturally from strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, which are anthocyanins, colorful plant chemicals that keep your arteries unclogged, boosting circulation and erection quality. In supplement stores, you’ll find all manner of megadoses—steer clear of those; they might do more harm than good.
You may know horny goat weed from its omnipresence behind the counter at your local convenience store, but this traditional Chinese formula is less sketchy than it sounds. Used for centuries to treat low libido and erectile dysfunction, the herb’s potential efficacy was show in a 2010 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Researchers who fed the supplement to rats found they had improved erectile function; another study showed that the supplement can block a natural chemical that wilts erections. (Just be warned: Viagra was found to be 80 times more powerful.)
This humble oil, long overshadowed by olive and coconut, deserves a place in your rotation. Greek researchers found that middle-aged men who consumed flaxseed oil saw significantly lowered blood pressure readings. High blood pressure can lead to erectile dysfunction because it damages arteries and makes blood pressure go haywire.
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Eggs a supplement? Yup. Testosterone is derived from cholesterol, and eggs are the healthiest way to ensure you’re getting enough of the good kind (LDL cholesterol). Plus, eggs are rich in choline, a powerful natural chemical that not only burns fat but can help set your pants afire. Choline triggers the production of nitric oxide (NO), which relaxes arteries in the penis and enables blood flow to do its thing. Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which controls sexual behavior through its activity in the brain; having a higher level of AcH has been associated with more frequent sex and more intense, longer orgasms. And that’s not all: Check out these things that happen to your body when you eat eggs!
US RDA: 400 mg
A mineral involved in muscle development, muscle is essential for reproductive function in men of every age and activity level. One study that compared athletes to non-active individuals found that supplementing with 22 mg magnesium per pound of body weight of the course of four weeks raised testosterone levels in both groups. And two separate studies, one on a group of men over the age of 65 and a second on a younger 18-30-year-old cohort, present the same conclusion: levels of testosterone (and muscle strength) are directly correlated to the levels of magnesium in the body. And just so you know, here are are the best foods for magnesium.
US RDA: 400 µg
Keep your swimmers in fighting shape with folic acid (otherwise known as folate). A deficiency can cause an increase in sperm with chromosomal abnormalities. And one study showed that subfertile men who supplemented with folic acid and zinc experienced a 74% increase in sperm count.
This amino acid can trigger blood vessels to relax, much like Viagra does. Once ingested, it’s converted into an amino acid called arginine, which has been shown to widen the blood vessels and improve circulation. You can get L-citrulline naturally via watermelon; a standard dosage in supplement form has not been set.
The natural compound quercetin blocks an enzyme that causes the body to excrete testosterone through the kidneys, thereby increasing the amount of T circulating in the blood. That’s good because more testosterone equals … well, do we really have to tell you this? Cherries are only one of the best foods for quercetin!
This Amazonian aphrodisiac comes from a tree native to Brazil, where tribes traditionally use it to remedy a lagging libido, impotence and nervousness (a well-known mojo killer). The plant’s active compounds, catuabine A and B, appear to act on sex centers in the brain, says Kilham, so you may experience erotic dreams while taking catuaba.
US RDA: 75 µg
Selenium, found in Brazil nuts, liver, and oysters, is a trace mineral that plays an important role in hormone health. You only need a tiny bit for healthy sperm, but a tiny deficiency can be catastrophic for reproductive health. In one study, men who had lower testosterone and were infertile also had significantly lower selenium levels than the fertile group. Supplementing with the mineral improved chances of successful conception by 56 percent. And a second British Journal of Urology study that included 69 infertile men with low levels of the mineral, found selenium supplementation could significantly improve sub-par sperm motility associated with testosterone deficiency. Check out these 7 Testosterone-Boosting Foods!
US RDA: 900 μg
A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility that analyzed the effect of various fruit and vegetables on sperm quality discovered carrots had the best all-around results on sperm count and motility—a term used to describe the ability of sperm to swim towards an egg. Men who ate the most carrots saw improved sperm performance by 6.5 to 8 percent. The Harvard researchers attribute the boost to carotenoids, powerful antioxidative compounds in carrots that help the body make vitamin A.
A 2000 study conducted at the Institute of Sexology in Paris found that muira puama, a Brazilian shrub traditionally used in South African folk medicine as an aphrodisiac, increased libido and erection strength in a majority of men who complained of impotence and a lack of sexual desire. Other studies show this happy-making herb also counteracts chronic stress, depression and nervous exhaustion.
Amino acids are basically like superheroes, and D-Aspartic acid, found in fish and some powdered proteins, is no different. It has been shown to temporarily boost low testosterone levels—which can dampen libido and limpen erections—and improve sperm quality in infertile men.
Because it reduces anxiety and inhibitions, this nervous system tonic helps you become more relaxed and amenable to arousal, says registered herbalist Roy Upton, R.H, executive director of the American Herbal Pharmacopeia.
Energy-boosting goji berries have been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine to help increase energy and enhance the release of hormones.”Goji is also beneficial for increasing blood flow, which helps to oxygenate all of the cells and tissues of the body, including the sex organs,” says celebrity nutritionist Dr. Lindsey Duncan. “Which increases libido—that’s why they call goji the ‘Viagra of China.'”
This African tree bark extract sends blood flow to the genitals, said herbalist Ed Smith, a founding member of the American Herbalists Guild, who adds a warning that Yohimbe can cause nervousness and raise already-existing high blood pressure (so avoid taking it if you have heart or kidney disease), and can also negatively interact with antidepressants.
US RDA: 16 mg
When it comes to maintaining your libido, the B vitamins, found in beef, liver, and fish, are all your wingmen, but niacin (a.k.a. Vitamin B3) is especially helpful. In a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, men suffering from impotence who took a niacin supplement reported a significant improvement in their bedroom performance than men who took a placebo. Stock up on these best foods to eat for niacin!
US RDA: 15 mg
Vitamin E has been found to improve circulation, boost testosterone, and has been associated with increased libido in animal studies. You can find it at high levels naturally in spinach, almonds, avocado, and fish.
The substance that gives hot peppers their kick can also give you some kick in the pants: Studies have associated the natural chemical with increased testosterone levels. In animal studies, capsaicin has also shown to increase the size of sex organs, while simultaneously decreasing belly fat. A 2014 study from France also found that men who ate more spicy food had higher testosterone levels than those who ate less. You can consume capsaicin via peppers, chili powder or a cayenne supplement.
Ancient Incans consumed this energizing Peruvian plant before battle or a bout of sex, Chris Kilham, an ethnobotanist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told Outside Online. Maca increases sexual appetite, stamina, endurance, and fertility. One 2008 study conducted at the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found that maca helped people with antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction to regain their libidos.