Al Mancini

So you’ve booked a prime table at the best restaurant in town. You’re wearing your best suit (or whatever it is that you think makes you look irresistible.) And you’ve been pouring on the charm. Romance is in the air as the waiter hands you the menu—and you want to keep it that way. So do you order the oysters?

Among the long list of foods that have been alleged to have aphrodisiac effects, oysters are certainly near the top. But it is a very long list. Run a Google search for “aphrodisiacs” and you’ll find dozens of listings—from chili peppers to asparagus to figs.

The conventional wisdom as to why they get men and women in the mood for love, however, varies. Some believe it’s chemical—certain substances in each food improves your blood circulation, or affects your hormone levels. Some believe that if spicy food makes you hot, that heat will carry over into the bedroom. And some feel that the shape of certain dishes conjures up lustful thoughts.

Rick Moonen, one of America’s foremost seafood chefs, believes oysters lend a hand in two ways. “The oyster has a lot of zinc in it, and zinc is very good for a man’s prostate,” he explains. “It adds lead to the pencil, so to speak. It helps the hydraulics of having sex. That’s great, because you don’t get zinc in most food products in such a high concentration.”

Furthermore, he points out, “When you cook it lightly, poach it, it resembles the female genitalia—almost identical.”

Of course, while that may do it for you, it might not do it for her (unless you’re a really lucky guy). In that case, you may want to try a few other purported aphrodisiacs. Perhaps an entrée with a side of asparagus, or a banana split for dessert—made with a really big banana.

Damon McCune, the coordinator of the UNLV Nutrition Center, doesn’t buy into the chemical effects of most foods on the libido—with one major exception.

“There’s very little legitimate science to back up conclusively that [most] will help,” he explains. “That said, there are some that will stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain. Stuff like dark chocolate.”

So let’s make that banana split with extra chocolate sauce.

Or, if you want to really up your odds in the bedroom, McCune suggests skipping dinner and booking a date at the gym because “exercise is easily, by far, the one thing that we actually have some evidence to support having an impact on treating erectile dysfunction and increasing sexual activity and performance.”

Of course, all of this talk about mood enhancers begs some moral and ethical questions. If you ply your date with oysters, asparagus, chocolate, and bananas (or push her to spend an extra half hour on the treadmill) and she ends up ravenously horny—rocking your world like she’s never rocked it before — will you need to give Bill Cosby’s lawyer a call the next day? How does that compare to slipping her a roofie, or encouraging her to down a few more cosmos?

To find out, and ease the conscience of anyone whose aphrodisiac splurge pays off, I made another call to UNLV—this time to Katherine Hertlein, Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program. According to her, you’ve done nothing wrong.

“I think it’s reasonable,” she assured me, “in that the types of food that have those aphrodisiac effects are nowhere near as powerful as alcohol or [roofies].”

With that out of the way, good luck on your date nights, gentlemen. And if all of these suggestions fail, Moonen has one a few more ingredients you might want to try. “The expensive ones,” he suggests, laughing. “Because that’s what really turns a woman on anyway.”