Forget oysters and champagne, horny Europeans are more likely to tuck into tomatoes and bananas before getting their end away. Health app Lifesum looked at the foods logged by users across Europe before and after sex and came up with a list of which munchies are most likely to get us in the mood, and which snacks we reach for to refuel after a steamy sesh. No surprises that wine and chocolate make both lists but when did potatoes get sexy?
Personally, I'm more of a tapas and wine girl. I like that you get to try different things and sharing food feels intimate (or as my husband puts it: "You're probably eating flecks of each other's saliva so you're already sharing bodily fluids." You can see why I married him, can't you?). And small portions are ideal because no one likes to go to bed with a bloat on, as I discovered when I asked people about their go-to sex snacks.
"I will double check if sex is on the cards before ordering a curry or pizza takeaway because they leave me like a beached whale," says my friend Harry. Sam points out: "I've had sex with guys who have starved themselves all day and then ordered a fuck-tonne of Deliveroo immediately after. Because, you know, bum sex."
Other no-nos included gas-inducing beans and pulses, heavy carbs, and garlic, onions and, if you're home-cooking, chilli. (True story: I have been known to wear gloves while chopping chilli to avoid the dreaded "chilli fingers".)
“Sex is about being surrendered and vulnerable in your body and it’s hard to do that with a belly full of cabbage!" says pleasure expert and somatic sex educator Pamela Madsen. But it's not just the heavy stomach that can kill the mood.
“Sex and food is a very, very complicated erotic equation,” she explains. “Food satisfies our pleasure centres so when we eat well, we get satisfied. If you want to have good sex, don’t overeat! Sure have a bite to eat – a bit of chocolate, a sip of wine, an amuse-bouche. But save the feast for afterwards.”
I can’t help but recall the story of a friend who, as a former sex columnist for a magazine, was once required to attend a swingers party in Blackpool. “When I arrived they were sitting around having bowls of leek and potato soup because they didn't want anything too heavy,” she told me. “Halfway through the night the hostess put on a beige finger buffet of mini cocktail sausages and scotch eggs.”
While the phrase “beige finger buffet” may sound like the very antithesis of sexiness, Lifesum’s nutritionist Frida Harju says that if we think about sex in terms of its physical impact, it makes sense that people should choose lighter foods. Bread, which is number three on the list, can leave us lethargic. But it turns out potatoes might be a good choice, after all.
“They contain plenty of magnesium, vitamin C and iron, resulting in a slow release of energy,” she says. She also rates tomatoes, which came in at number two (after chocolate), and fruit, which made up three of the top 10.
“Bananas and apples are rich in vitamin C which provides the body with an energy boost. Fruit is rich in antioxidants, reducing the number of free radicals in our bodies, thus improving blood flow and increasing the libido,” she explains.
Harju also recommends avocados, which provide long-lasting energy, while monounsaturated fats increase hormone production. And she says you can’t go wrong with known aphrodisiacs like oysters and figs. “Oysters contain zinc which increases testosterone levels while figs are full of nutrients like zinc, iron, potassium and calcium and keep us full without bloating.”
Cheese, meanwhile, is a no-no. “It affects both testosterone and oestrogen levels due to the synthetic hormones and lowers the libido in both men and women,” says Harju. “It is also a good idea to stay away from fried foods, as trans fats increase abnormal sperm production in men and interfere with gestation in women. Lastly and most unusually, I would advise against mint for men. It contains menthol which can lower testosterone and sex drive.”
Afterwards she suggests protein-rich yoghurt, eggs, or salmon to replenish muscles and boost Omega-3 levels. And she is pleased to see that water makes the post-coital list. “Water is something we naturally reach for after exercise – it’s essential for replacing the lost fluid.”
While eggs and salmon for a morning-after breakfast sound fantastic, I must admit that when it comes to post-coital treats at night, I’m more likely to reach for the ice cream and wine. Madsen also errs on the side of decadence.
“People used to indulge in a cigarette after sex but these days it could be the delicious, gourmet food,” she says. “If we pay attention, we can become sommeliers, matching food and sex the way we match wine and sex.”
Just be careful about eating in bed. “On my birthday I tried to eat a brownie while getting eaten out and it was excellent until I choked on the brownie while moaning,” says Sarah.
Rachel confesses: “I once rolled over a kebab wrapper during sex. My boyfriend and I were smashed and had brought kebabs home and eaten them in bed like Wayne and Waynetta Slob.”
Both Madsen and Harju acknowledge that people are not usually conscious of what they’re eating before and after sex so the results may simply reflect the European diet. But that doesn’t mean we should discount them.
“They might not have been consumed with the intention of stimulating sexual desire, but we are often unaware of the effect food has,” says Harju. “Dark chocolate can cause an increase in dopamine, which induces feelings of pleasure, while bananas contain an enzyme believed to trigger testosterone production.”
Madsen agrees and adds that paying attention to what we eat can help us improve our sex lives. “It gives us the opportunity to look at what we’re putting in our bodies and what the quality of our sex is like. I think we need to become more conscious about the desire for sex and about the intention to have sex. That way we make better food choices.”