Erectile dysfunction affects many men, and while occasional difficulties can be normal, persistent issues may indicate underlying health conditions. This article explores how diet plays a crucial role in erectile function. Read more to learn what foods to limit and which to eat to improve erectile dysfunction.
Limit saturated fats; choose healthier fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocado.
Manage blood sugar levels by choosing complex carbohydrates and reducing added sugars.
Embrace the Mediterranean diet, rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, and whole foods, to support erectile function.
Monitor your sodium intake to avoid high blood pressure, a potential cause of erectile dysfunction.
Beware of non-approved "foods" and "dietary supplements" marketed for increasing sexual performance. Always consult your doctor before taking any products.
What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is a common problem in men older than 40. It's characterized by not being able to get and keep an erection.
Most men experience erectile dysfunction from time to time. It's common and normal to experience failure to erection due to tiredness, stress, alcohol, and medication.
However, if erectile dysfunction happens often, there could be an underlying cause, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, hormone problems, depression, and anxiety.
Remember to consult your doctor if you keep having problems with getting or keeping an erection. Your doctor will guide you to the best treatment for you.
As with most things, nutrition and your lifestyle massively affect your sexual health. According to the U.K. National Health Service, here are lifestyle changes that can improve erectile dysfunction in some people:
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet
- Being physically active
- Reaching and maintaining healthy body weight
- Not smoking
- Limiting alcohol
- Reducing stress and anxiety
Foods to avoid for erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction can be caused by diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Especially in those cases, healthy and balanced nutrition may improve erectile dysfunction.
You may need to limit foods that negatively affect the endocrine and cardiovascular systems.
Erectile dysfunction can be the first sign of atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks and stroke, and it often first affects the penis, then the heart and brain. So if you can take signs seriously, you may be able to prevent the possibility of heart attack and stroke.
Here are three food groups you should limit:
1. High-fat foods
Fat is not the enemy. In fact, it's an essential nutrient if consumed within the range your body needs. You just need to choose healthy fats.
Healthy fats include unsaturated fatty acid sources such as olive oil, nuts, and avocado. However, you should limit unhealthy fats, which include saturated and trans fats, for not only sexual but also cardiovascular and overall health.
A study investigated the blood lipid levels of a hundred men with erectile dysfunction and a hundred healthy men. The results showed that men with erectile dysfunction have significantly higher blood LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
Highly processed and packaged foods are high in saturated and trans fat, contributing to high LDL cholesterol. Limiting unhealthy fats and opting for healthy fats can support your cardiovascular health and improve erectile dysfunction.
2. Sugar and processed carbohydrates
Metabolic problems have been associated with erectile dysfunction. A meta-analysis examined the relationship between erectile dysfunction and metabolic syndrome criteria, which includes fasting plasma glucose, serum lipid levels (triglycerides, LDL, and HDL cholesterol), blood pressure, and waist circumference.
The analysis showed that men with high fasting plasma glucose had the highest rate of erectile dysfunction. Therefore, managing glucose levels may improve erectile dysfunction in some men.
Your nutrition plays a crucial role in managing glucose levels. Having a balanced diet that has complex carbohydrate sources, healthy fats and protein, and limited added sugar sources can help you to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. To help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, you can:
- Choose low-glycemic index foods
- Eat complex carbohydrates
- Try consuming natural sugar sources instead of added sugar
3. High-sodium foods
Excessive sodium intake is a major contributor to high blood pressure, which can be an underlying cause of erectile dysfunction. More importantly, if the reason is high blood pressure, nutritional interventions and treatments can be life-saving.
Most Americans older than 2 years old consume 3,400 mg of sodium daily, while the recommended upper limit is 2,300 mg of daily sodium intake.
Read the labels before buying products. If it's high in sodium, try choosing "reduced-sodium" and "lower-sodium" alternatives.
Be careful of fraudulent "foods" and "dietary supplements"
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against fraudulent products claiming to enhance sexual performance. These products are falsely marketed as "foods" or "dietary supplements."
The FDA's lab test spotted almost 300 products containing hidden or undisclosed ingredients, which can be harmful.
"All-natural" or "herbal" labels on packaging do not mean a product is safe. You should consult your healthcare provider before taking products to help erectile dysfunction.
Now you know what foods to limit. It's time to find foods that may help support erectile function.
Foods to improve erectile dysfunction
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to positively improve erectile dysfunction.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats, lean protein, antioxidants, and fiber. It is a versatile diet low in processed foods, unhealthy fats, and added sugar. You can incorporate whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, fish, and moderate amounts of other white meats into your diet.
A 10-year cohort study investigated the effects of diet on erectile dysfunction. Every 4 years, the researchers recorded the dietary intake of almost 22,000 men aged 40–75 years. At the end of the 10 years, results showed that participants under 60 who more closely followed the Mediterranean Diet had a significantly lower risk of erectile dysfunction.
Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet is essential for overall health, including sexual well-being. By avoiding high-fat foods, excess sugar, and sodium, individuals can positively impact their cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction. However, it is important to remember that personalized recommendations from healthcare professionals are invaluable in addressing individual needs and concerns.
- International Journal of Impotence. The relationship between lipid profile and erectile dysfunction.
- The Journal of Sexual Medicine. The Relationship Between Metabolic Syndrome, Its Components, and Erectile Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and a Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sodium.
- JAMA Netw Open. Association of Diet With Erectile Dysfunction Among Men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 'All Natural' Alternatives for Erectile Dysfunction: A Risky Proposition.