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As we move into the Valentine’s Day season, we’ve highlighted the health and immunity benefits of social connection and love (both platonic and romantic!). One thing you’ll often see around this season is an emphasis on aphrodisiacs — foods, herbs and supplements that are thought to increase your feelings of love. But there’s far more to these foods, including surprising health benefits for your cardiovascular system, immunity, and general wellness. These three recipes will deliver those benefits to you immediately (while also being incredibly tasty).

What Are Aphrodisiacs?

Aphrodisiacs are substances believed to enhance desire or love. Many of these ideas trace back to ancient times, with Getty noting that:

In the ancient world, human fertility was directly linked with the prosperity of the land. […] Since food was not as readily available as it is today and undernourishment created a loss of libido – and thus reduced fertility rates – certain foods were sought after to help maintain the body in working order.

Despite being rooted in thousands of years of tradition, modern science also backs up some of these foods’ health benefits. Many of the foods and herbs that have been traditionally considered aphrodisiacs by both holistic practitioners and today’s scientists have a lot of potential impact on numerous aspects of your health. Most aphrodisiacs may help with:

  • Improved Blood Circulation: Some aphrodisiacs, such as ginger and ginseng, may promote better blood circulation (which is where the love life benefits come from, too)
  • Hormonal Balance: Certain foods and herbs, such as maca root, have been suggested to have a positive impact on hormonal balance (potentially influencing libido and sexual function, but also general hormone wellness and hormone health!)
  • Stress Reduction: Stress is a common factor contributing to sexual dysfunction, and also has huge impacts on your immune system, chronic disease risks, and more. Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and holy basil may help reduce stress levels.
  • Increased Dopamine Levels: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Some aphrodisiacs, like chocolate, may stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain, contributing to a sense of well-being and potentially enhancing mood.
  • Nutrient Support: Some aphrodisiacs are rich in nutrients that are essential for overall health, such as zinc and vitamin E. These nutrients play a role in reproductive health and may indirectly support sexual function, but also positively influence your overall wellness.
  • Enhanced Energy Levels: Foods with high levels of certain nutrients, such as complex carbohydrates and iron, can contribute to increased energy levels, which may positively impact stamina and also general health.

The following recipes all incorporate common foods traditionally known as aphrodisiacs, and also shown by modern medicine to boost your immunity and general health.

BREAKFAST: Rich Chocolate Smoothie

This simple and delicious chocolate smoothie recipe nourishes your entire body, mind, and spirit. Chocolate has long been recognized as an aphrodisiac, in part because it contains compounds that may increase dopamine levels and contribute to a sense of pleasure. Feel free to customize the recipe based on your preferences. You can add a handful of spinach or kale for added nutrition without altering the chocolate flavor too much. Additionally, you can experiment with different toppings or add-ins like chia seeds or a scoop of protein powder for an extra boost.

1 ripe banana
1 cup milk (dairy or plant-based, such as almond or soy milk)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup (adjust to taste)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup ice cubes
Optional toppings: whipped cream, chocolate shavings, or sliced bananas

Peel the ripe banana and break it into chunks. Measure out the milk, cocoa powder, honey or maple syrup, and vanilla extract.

In a blender, combine the banana chunks, milk, cocoa powder, honey or maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Add the ice cubes to the blender.

Blend all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. If the smoothie is too thick, you can add more milk in small increments until you reach your desired consistency.

Pour the chocolate smoothie into a glass. If desired, top the smoothie with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, or sliced bananas. Grab a straw and enjoy your delicious chocolate smoothie!

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LUNCH: Avocado Salad

Avocado is rich in vitamin E, which is important for reproductive health. But it’s not just about vitamin E! Avocados are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, and several B-vitamins. These nutrients play essential roles in various bodily functions, such as bone health, immune function, and skin health.

Avocados are also high in monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid, which is associated with heart health. These fats may help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) levels while increasing good cholesterol (HDL) levels.

Feel free to customize the recipe by adding other ingredients like chopped bell peppers, black beans, or grilled chicken for added protein. This salad is not only tasty but also packed with healthy fats from the avocado and a variety of vitamins and minerals from the vegetables.

2 ripe avocados, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, diced
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Dice the avocados and cucumber into bite-sized pieces. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Finely chop the red onion. Chop the cilantro or parsley.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the diced avocados, cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, chopped red onion, and cilantro or parsley.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and extra-virgin olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients.

Gently toss the salad to ensure the ingredients are evenly coated with the dressing. Season the salad with salt and pepper to taste.

If you like, crumble feta cheese over the top of the salad. Feta adds a tangy flavor that complements the creamy avocado.

Transfer the avocado salad to a serving bowl or individual plates. Serve immediately and enjoy your delicious and refreshing avocado salad!

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DINNER: Fried Oysters

Oysters are a nutrient-rich shellfish that provide various health benefits due to their impressive nutritional profile. For example, oysters are a concentrated source of essential nutrients, including zinc, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients play crucial roles in immune function, energy metabolism, bone health, and cardiovascular health.

Oysters are also a good source of high-quality protein, containing all the essential amino acids needed by the body for various physiological functions. Adequate protein intake supports muscle maintenance, repair, and overall growth, and it’s the perfect way to cap off your day. These crispy fried oysters make for a delightful treat. Adjust the seasoning to your liking, and feel free to get creative with your choice of dipping sauces.

1 dozen fresh oysters, shucked
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
Vegetable oil for frying
Lemon wedges for serving
Tartar sauce or cocktail sauce for dipping

Rinse the shucked oysters under cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel.

In a shallow dish, combine the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, Old Bay seasoning (if using), salt, and black pepper. Mix the dry ingredients well.
In another shallow dish, whisk together the eggs and milk to create an egg wash.

Dip each oyster into the flour mixture, coating it evenly. Shake off any excess flour. Next, dip the floured oyster into the egg wash, making sure it’s well-coated. Finally, return the oyster to the flour mixture for a second coating. Ensure each oyster is thoroughly coated with the flour mixture.

In a large skillet, heat enough vegetable oil to cover the oysters over medium-high heat. The oil should be hot but not smoking. Carefully place the coated oysters into the hot oil, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to turn the oysters.

Once the oysters are golden brown and crispy, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels. This helps drain any excess oil. Allow them to rest for a minute.

Serve the fried oysters hot, garnished with lemon wedges on the side. Optionally, serve with tartar sauce or cocktail sauce for dipping.

Enjoy your homemade fried oysters as an appetizer or main course!

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