If there's ever a time to test out aphrodisiacs, aka foods that claim to enhance your sexual desire, it's Valentine's Day. The best aphrodisiac desserts aren't always comprised of intuitive ingredients. Some foods, like chocolate, are intrinsically sexy. Chocolate is bold and sweet and melts in your hands if you wait too long to enjoy it — creating a sense of immediacy and desire, so it's naturally associated with sex. But other supposed libido-boosting foods like asparagus are far less obvious.
"Aphrodisiacs are distinct from substances that address fertility issues such as impotence or sexual dysfunction," board-certified internist Dr. Niket Sonpal tells Bustle. Instead, these foods possess chemical properties that may indirectly increase hormones associated with sex drive in both men and women. While the FDA does not yet support these claims, there's no harm in enjoying any of these ingredients recreationally.
Conceptually, Sonpal tells Bustle that some aphrodisiacs work merely by arousing your senses, which can trigger pleasure hormones to be released from your brain and distributed through your body. Aka, that happy dance you do in your seat when you taste something delicious can actually be a great start to attaining a sexy mood. For example, according to Sonpal, "chili peppers can have side effects similar to those experienced during sex, [such as] sweating, increased [blood] circulation, and rapid heart rate."
So whether there's any truth to these foods contributing directly to arousal, or the mere activity of enjoying these sensuous foods with the intention of having a sexy night ahead does the trick to turn you on, you may want to give them a try. For a fool-proof romantic Valentine's Day celebration, here's your ultimate list of desserts that are thought to be libido-boosting, but that are pretty much proven to be delicious.
Bananas are phallic due to their shape, but that has nothing to do with why they're considered aphrodisiacs. According to Sonpal, it's actually an enzyme they contain called bromelain, that evokes testosterone production. Plus, with a good dose of sugar, potassium and vitamin B, bananas kick off a spike in energy levels which can help you get a second wind.
Chocolate Banana Cake With Coconut
This cake features chocolate and bananas — each bringing their own aphrodisiac qualities to the table. It's prep time is about an hour, so it's not for beginner bakers, or impatient bakers. You'll need to spend a lot of time measuring out ingredients and splitting the batter into different pans. If you're up for the challenge you can find the complete recipe here.
Banana pudding is absolutely fool-proof, so if you want to incorporate an aphrodisiac into your dessert, but don't have a lot of game or time in the kitchen, this will be a great option. You can find the complete recipe here.
Spicy Banana Fritters
If you're up for a culinary challenge, these spicy banana fritters incorporate spice, banana, and even ale for an all-around warming and sensual dessert experience. You can find the complete recipe here.
Honey is one of those ingredients that's sensual in its nature. It's sweet, it's sticky, it's fun to lick off your fingers, and melts completely into warm dishes. Additionally, "it has several vitamins and it also contains boron, which helps regulate estrogen and testosterone levels, and the ... sweetness provides a natural energy boost," accoring to Sonpal.
Infused with citrus and coffee, this honey cake is sweet and moist but not overpowering. Though there are a lot of ingredients and though you'll need to patiently measure them all out precisely, this recipe is great for bakers of all levels. You can find the complete recipe here.
Chocolate Honey Almond Tart
Smooth and buttery, this chocolate cake looks like it took a really long time for a pastry chef to temper perfectly. In reality, it only calls for about 12 minutes in the oven. You can find the complete recipe here.
Honey Almond Ricotta Dessert Pizza
Easy to customize, top this pizza with figs and honey to double the aphrodisiac quality, then add dark chocolate chunks or drizzle melted chocolate for even more decadence. You can find the complete recipe here.
Figs have biblical references to sexuality, so it's not that surprising they made the list. Sonpal points out that they were even enjoyed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. "The fig has forever paradoxically symbolized both sexuality — the ripe fruit with seeds representing fertility — and modesty [with] the fig leaf," Sonpal says.
Figs with Ricotta Cheese, Drizzled in Honey
If you don't have much time to devote to your Valentine's Day dessert, this recipe is straightforward. While ricotta balances out the sweetness, this dessert features two aphrodisiacs: figs and honey. You can find the complete recipe here.
Date, Fig and Almond Cake with Sea Salt
If your Valentine doesn't have a sweet tooth, this recipe's got a mix of figs, dates, and other natural sweeteners, but sea salt, cognac, and almonds balance it all out. You can find the complete recipe here.
"Cheesecake" Fig Slice
Fresh fig slices on top of cheesecake is the perfect combination of natural sweetness and richness — plus, it's vegan. Yes, that smooth and rich layer of cheese is made with vegan cream cheese and the dish is 100 percent dairy-free. You can find the complete recipe here.
According to Sonpal, pomegranates don't just look like natures's Valentine's Day sprinkles, they actually are. "These bright gems enclosed in a thick rose-colored husk are filled with tangy sweet antioxidants, which support blood flow and clear thought," Sonpal says.
Pomegranate Cream Tart
This fresh take on a classic cream tart is bursting with Valentine's Day thematic color. This simple tart only takes 15 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to bake, so it's perfect for a last minute dessert. You can find the complete recipe here.
Olive Oil Tangerine Cake with Pomegranate Glaze
Decorated in fresh pomegranates, this cake is red and pink and screams Valentine's Day. You'll need about an hour to prep and bake this cake, so starting it the night before might be a good option if you're crunched for time. You can find the complete recipe here.
Tahini & Pomegranate Almond Cookies
Bake your sweetheart a batch of cookies that say "I love you" and also "Let's get it on." Decorated with fresh, sweet pomegranates, these naturally festive cookies are perfect for Valentine's Day. You can find the complete recipe here.
Whether you buy into the potential benefits of aphrodisiacs or not, there's no denying that these beautiful and tasty desserts will provide you with a festive way to enjoy the holiday. If baking doesn't actually fit into your Valentine's Day schedule, opt for some chocolates and take your time eating them together.
Nick Sonpal, MD, faculty member at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine