Meals leave memories, some to treasure, some best forgotten. For a special occasion several years back, I decided along with a few friends to dine at a restaurant that had such a wonderful reputation, it was difficult to get a reservation. The restaurant ticked all the boxes: friendly staff, beautiful ambiance and a menu to get my mouth watering. I had even fasted for the day so I could savor every morsel. I essentially wanted to order everything on the menu but, with some careful decision-making, managed to narrow it down.
When the food came, it looked divine. I started to eat and was shocked to find myself struggling to swallow my food! I looked at my friend, also a big foodie, and saw that she was having the same problem. With the main course, we experienced the same thing. It wasn't that the flavor was bad; I simply had difficulty eating it.
When I took a trip to the restroom, I decided to take a peek into the kitchen—it was one of those aha! moments. There were two chefs in there, and both looked like they could murder someone! Perhaps they were just having a bad day, but it was obvious that they were not happy. It was clear to me in that moment that the reason I was having difficulty eating the food was that it was lacking in that magical quality. I call it love .
The connection between love and food
I had quite a different experience a few months later, when the chef in the restaurant where I was dining personally came to my table to explain what was in the dishes. It was clear that he took great pride in his creations. Even though the food may not have ticked all my "healthy" boxes, eating it was the most divine experience, and I could literally feel my body and soul absorb it. It was love on a plate!
I think we can all agree: Food and love are synonymous. I just don't see the possibility of one without the other. My favorite movie of all time is Like Water for Chocolate , where we witness a love affair consummated through food. Everyone who partook of that food was affected by the love and passion that went into creating it. It truly is the spirit and the love that goes into preparing food that gives it a "wow" factor and elevates it from being merely fuel for our bodies to an experience that excites all of our senses.
Many foods are noted aphrodisiacs, either for their nutritional properties, their suggestive shapes and textures or their delightful colors and flavors. Any food, however, when prepared with those magical qualities of love and intention, can stimulate and satisfy the sensual appetite and render it a substance straight from Aphrodite's table.
It's that time of year—love is in the air and whether you want to spice up your sex life or simply bring more love and pleasure into your life, I have a few tips that may help get your fires burning and your juices flowing.
The factors influencing sexual vitality are variable, and there's no "one pill cures all" fix, so it's important to look at the overall picture of your own personal health—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—to really target the areas where you need to create balance.
Remember, what may be medicine to one person could have the opposite effect on the next, so whether you're choosing to implement a new dietary regimen or get the support of tonic herbs, it's always a good idea to consult with an expert who can recommend a program that will work for you.
Oysters have gained their reputation as an aphrodisiac mainly because of their high zinc content. Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for sexual drive or libido, particularly for men, as it's necessary for the production of the male sex hormone, testosterone. It also plays an important role in metabolism and maintenance of healthy immune function in both men and women.
If you're not an oyster lover, you can get your zinc from other food sources such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds, chia seeds, garlic, spinach, legumes, herrings and clams.
Zinc and copper must be kept in balance in order for the body to properly assimilate these minerals, so make sure your diet also contains copper-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts and peas.
Black Magic: Chocolate
When we think of foods for love, chocolate-dipped strawberries spring to mind. Images are conjured up of seductively dipping the heart-shaped strawberry into a gooey bowl of melted dark chocolate and feeding your lover. Chocolate these days is taking its rightful place in the realm of foods to promote health and longevity.
The cocoa bean is a rich source of magnesium, which promotes a feeling of relaxation, leaving you more receptive and open to amorous feelings. It also contains phenethylamine, derived from an amino acid, which boosts endorphins and increases brain levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin, which can add a little sparkle to any romantic occasion.
I am a lover of fine wines, and I believe that a discerningly chosen wine or cocktail can add some special effects to a romantic evening. However, alcohol in excess can put a big damper on the fires of passion, so keep it moderate!
If you're choosing to forgo the alcohol, you can toast to your love with a delightful glass of pomegranate juice mixed with sparkling water. Pomegranates have long been associated with love, not only for their lovely red color, but also because they're packed with vitamin C and antioxidants that promote healthy metabolism and increase circulation throughout the body and sexual organs.
Certain herbs and spices are known for their tonic effect on the sexual organs and their ability to boost libido.
Ginseng is said to boost the production of the male sex hormone, testosterone, which influences sex drive in both males and females. (The ovaries produce small amount of testosterone, but in significantly smaller amounts than in males.)
The Chinese herb dong quai is like the female ginseng and is said to have a balancing effect on the female hormonal system and promote sexual vitality.
Ginkgo biloba, a remedy most commonly used to enhance memory and concentration, improves circulation throughout the body. It can also boost libido by bringing more circulation to the sexual organs.
Fenugreek seeds and damiana are two well-known herbs for stimulating sexual vitality. Fenugreek is a spice commonly used in Indian cooking and is an ingredient in many curries. It can be simmered in some hot water to make a tea, as can damiana.
Warming spices like cumin and chili powder can boost libido by warming up the body, including the sexual organs and increasing desire.
Many factors can influence your sexual health and libido, and hormonal health is a vital component of a healthy and active sex life.
The kidneys, adrenals and thyroid gland have a major influence on hormonal balance and sexual health and vitality. That's why it's important to include in your diet foods and supplements that support the health of these organs.
For healthy kidneys and adrenals, it's important to keep the body warm, especially the lower back area. Also, avoid stimulants like caffeine, overly spiced foods and excessive activity. Instead, choose nourishing foods like whole grains (particularly millet and barley), wheat germ, black and red beans such as black turtle and black soybeans, adzuki beans and red kidney beans. Trout, salmon, seaweeds, watermelon, blackberries and blueberries are also nourishing for the kidneys and adrenals, while seaweed is a great tonic for the thyroid gland.
Essential fatty acids found in fish, particularly salmon and mackerel, seeds, nuts and unrefined vegetable oils are vital for efficient functioning of every cell in the body and for hormonal health and balance.
I have talked before about the dynamic of yin and yang energies in relation to food. In the realm of sexuality, the feminine, or yin, aspect governs blood and fluids, while the masculine, or yang, element governs strength and vitality. Both of these elements must be healthy and in balance for a harmonious and vital sex life.
Life is about a dynamic interplay of these two opposite and complementary energies, with either one dominating at any given time. In general, men are more influenced by yang energy and women by yin energy, but neither one is completely yin or yang.
For a healthy relationship, it's good to have an understanding of how energy works, for each partner to practice being in dominant or submissive roles and to realize it's not about strength or weakness. This takes good communication, consideration for each other and a willingness to step outside stereotypical roles.
Foods that support and nourish yang energy include fish, seafood and animal foods. Root vegetables, in particular burdock root, which is an excellent blood tonic and all-around strengthening food. Cooking methods such as baking, pressure-cooking and long, slow cooking also promote a more yang quality.
Yin energy, on the other hand, is supported by lighter foods and cooking methods. Vegetables, (particularly leafy green vegetables), fruits and lighter, sweeter grains such as corn nourish the yin element. Salads and raw foods are also more yin in nature, and steaming, stir-frying and broiling are more yin cooking methods.
Work toward creating a healthy balance of yin/yang energies in your own life, and you're sure to enjoy healthy and more vital relationships.
Words possess the power to excite and ignite the passions. Dim the lights, and in your most seductive voice, recite a poem, sing a love song or simply express your deepest feelings to your loved one.
Poet Julie Seager, author of Erotic Poetry for Vegans and Vegetarians , wrote the following words especially for my readers:
Lychee lie she, lie he, lie thee, Lie down, my fair chocolate maiden An entrée to a restaurant heart beats She asks for a Dom Perignon starter But my vegetable heart beats harder And heartier THE MENU Asparagus green, memories unseen I want the red of the beetroot The green of the bean shoot The life that did not take root I WANT Grate, sieve, dice, give Mix, sift, gift, rift Without the food processor I want to HEAL Asparagus love Your aroma lives on Valentine's Day 14th February heart beet Vegetable puree, green pulse, romantic's fury Love, sense, chocolate and coriander We will meet in the pure BLUE yonder
And when words fail you? Turn to my Kiss-Me-Quick Risotto , which is sure to add an element of sensuality and fun to your dining experience. The risotto is made with beets, which give it its lovely rosy color and you can serve with a side dish of lightly steamed asparagus, which has long been known as an aphrodisiac because of its suggestive shape and nutritional benefits.
I'm wishing each of you a sexy and fun Valentine's Day, and whether you're single or in a relationship, make sure that you spice up your day with some delicious food cooked with the intention of bringing love, passion and vitality into your life!
With love, Aine
Printed from Oprah.com on Thursday, December 12, 2013