Can Food Help in Erectile Dysfunction?
Compiled by Mrs Suneetha Rao., RD. Chief Dietitian, NU Hospitals.
Reviewed by Dr Pramod Krishnappa, Consultant Andrologist, AndroNeo, NU Hospitals, Bangalore.
There are reasons to believe that diet may help in erectile dysfunction. Since good blood circulation to the penis is important to achieve and maintain penile erection, the food that help in improving blood flow should also help improve Erectile Dysfunction.
Healthy lifestyle along with good food also reduces the risk factors like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease which otherwise can lead to Erectile Dysfunction.
There is data (review conducted in 2017) that shows that Erectile Dysfunction is less common in communities that follow diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, low fat dairy and healthy fats which is generally termed as the Mediterranean Diet. And, according to ‘The Massachusetts Male Aging Study, Erectile Dysfunction is more prevalent in population that consume more saturated fat and refined cereal.
Let’s look at the specific food that could help.
Food that contain nitrates, flavonoids and antioxidants seem to top the list because of the benefits they provide for vascular health.
Food rich in nitrates help vasodilation (make blood vessels accommodate extra blood) and hence can increase blood flow to the Penis.
Beetroot and spinach are loaded with nitrates. Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, drumstick leaves and mustard leaves are not only loaded with nitrates, but also a rich source of zinc and folate.
Flavonoids, a group of plant nutrients, present in apples, bananas, pears, orange, sweet lime, pommelo/grapefruit* (chokottha hannu – Kannada, Papanus-Hindi), berries and red grapes help our body make nitric oxide and increase blood flow to all the organs. It also helps lower blood pressure. However, make sure you eat the fruit, to get complete nutrition and not drink juices loaded with sugar or sugar substitutes which increase inflammation.
Pomegranate, a fruit cherished for its health benefits, is an excellent source of flavonoid and boosts both heart health and erectile function.
Cocoa/dark chocolate is also a good source of flavonoid. Select the variety that is low in sugar and has minimum food additives to avoid the unhealthy side effects of processed chocolates.
A study done in 2016 showed a 9 – 11% reduction in Erectile Dysfunction among men who chose flavonoid-rich food regularly over fast food with high saturated fat content.
Watermelon, tomatoes, pink grapefruit, papaya, red capsicum, carrots and yellow pumpkin have antioxidants called lycopene and caratenoids that boost blood flow. Watermelon is also a significant source of L- Citrulline (a non-essential amino acid) that detoxifies, increases blood flow and also acts as an antioxidant. Chickpeas (channa), bitter gourd, pumpkin, cucumber, walnuts and groundnuts are other sources of L-Citrulline.
In addition to antioxidants, nuts like walnuts, peanuts, pistachio and oatmeal have L-Arginine (an amino acid) which is a precursor of nitric oxide. Nuts are also good sources of Vitamin E and folic acid which together aid in boosting the blood circulation. An uncontrolled experiment did show that consumption of pistachio nuts had significant improvement in erectile function.
Avocado or butter fruit, which naturally grow in pairs was considered symbol of love and fertility by ancient Aztecs. In modern day, the zinc, omega 3 and vitamin E present in Avocado are all implicated in improving erectile function. Avocado is the only fruit that contains significant healthy fat which aids in vascular health.
Red chillies that we commonly use in Indian cooking may spice up the food, but capsaicin present in it relaxes the arteries and helps blood flow to all the organs including penis.
Garlic, fatty fish like mackerel (Bangda), Seer fish (Surmai) and olive oil are other common, potent food that keep the arteries from clogging, help in maintaining good blood flow and so help in erectile function. Use garlic on a regular basis in your cooking. Steam, boil or shallow fry the fish instead of deep frying. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on your salads, to get the best out of these foods.
Regular physical activity, a diet plan that promotes healthy body weight, inclusion of the above discussed foods, limiting alcohol and not smoking… all these factors can together help in erectile function.
- The health of normally aging men: the Massachusetts Male Ageing Study 2004.
- Mediterranean diet and erectile dysfunction: a current perspective. Cent European J Urol 2017.
- Dietary flavonoid intake and incidence of erectile dysfunction. Am J Clin Nutr 2016
- Oral L-citrulline supplementation improves erectile function and penile structure in castrated rats. Int J Urol 2014.
- Association between serum folic acid level and erectile dysfunction. Andrologia 2016.
- The Potential Role of Arginine Supplements on Erectile Dysfunction: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Sex Med 2019.
- Efficacy and safety of pomegranate juice on improvement of erectile dysfunction in male patients with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study. IJIR 2007.
Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Erectile Dysfunction in a Rat Model of Atherosclerosis-induced Chronic Pelvic Ischemia. Korean Med Sci 2016.