Sex is a vital part of our human existence, a major component of relationship intimacy, serving roles in procreation and recreation. Although not a necessity for a healthy life, the loss or diminution of sexual function may result in loss of self-esteem, embarrassment, a sense of isolation and frustration, depression and a decreased quality of life.
Healthy male and female sexual functioning involves a satisfactory libido (sex drive). For men, the ability to obtain and maintain a rigid erection and the capacity to ejaculate and climax. For women, the ability to become aroused, lubricate adequately, to have sexual intercourse without pain or discomfort and the capability to achieve an orgasm.
Sexual function is a complex event contingent upon the intact functioning of a number of systems including the endocrine system (produces sex hormones), the central and peripheral nervous systems (provides the nerve control), the vascular system (conducts the blood flow) and the pelvic/perineal muscular system (provides erectile and clitoral rigidity).
Unhealthy Eating Causes Sexual Dysfunction
A healthy sexual response is largely about adequate blood flow to the genital and pelvic area, although hormonal, neurological, and psychological factors are also important. The increase in the blood flow to the genitals from sexual stimulation is what is responsible for the erect penis in the male and the well-lubricated vagina and engorged clitoris in the female.
Diminished blood flow often occurs because of an accumulation of fatty deposits that narrow the walls of blood vessels. Sexual dysfunction is often on the basis of decreased blood flow to the genitals from pelvic atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty plaque within the walls of the blood vessels that bring blood to the penis and vagina.
A healthy lifestyle is of paramount importance to achieve a healthy quality and quantity of life. Intelligent lifestyle choices—including good eating habits, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in exercise, adequate sleep, moderate intake of alcohol, avoiding tobacco and stress reduction — are the initial means of treating many diseases brought on by poor lifestyle choices.
Sexual dysfunction is commonly in the category of a medical problem that is provoked by unwise lifestyle choices. It should come as no surprise that the initial approach to managing sexual issues is to improve one’s lifestyle.
Healthy Eating Habits For Good Sexual Health
In terms of maintaining sexual health, eating properly is incredibly important, obviously in conjunction with other smart lifestyle choices. Fueling up with quality and wholesome food choices will help prevent the build-up of fatty plaques within blood vessels that can lead to compromised blood flow.
Poor nutritional decisions with a diet glutted with sugary-fatty-salty nutritionally-empty choices such as fast food puts one on the fast tract to clogged arteries that can compromise cardiac and sexual function.
A classic healthy food lifestyle choice is the increasingly popular Mediterranean diet. This diet, the traditional cooking style of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea including Spain, France, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Southern Italy and nearby regions, has been popular for hundreds of years.
The Mediterranean Diet: How And Why It Works
The Mediterranean cuisine is appealing to the senses and includes products that are largely plant-based, including antioxidant rich, high-fiber fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Legumes — including peas, beans, and lentils — are a wonderful source of non-animal protein. Fish and poultry are also mainstays of the Mediterranean diet, with limited use of red meats and dairy products.
Olive oil is by far the principal fat in this diet, replacing butter and margarine.
The Mediterranean diet avoids processed foods, instead focusing on wholesome products — often produced locally — that are low in saturated fats and high in healthy unsaturated fats. The Mediterranean diet contains abundant healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) that are present in such foods as olive, canola and safflower oils, avocados, nuts, fish, and legumes, and contains minimal amounts of unhealthy fats (saturated fats and trans fats).
The Mediterranean diet also contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat present in oily fish, including salmon, herring, and sardines. Nuts—particularly walnuts—have high omega-3 fatty acid content. Research has demonstrated that these healthy fats have numerous salutary effects, including decreasing triglyceride levels, slightly lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the growth rate of fatty plaque deposits in the walls of our arteries.
The Mediterranean diet contains abundant anti-oxidants—vitamins, minerals and enzymes acting as “scavengers”—that can mitigate damage caused by “reactive oxygen species” (a.k.a. “free radicals”), the byproducts of metabolism and occur oxidative damage from environmental toxins to which we are all exposed.
Mediterranean residents generally consume a glass or two of red wine daily with meals. Red wine is a rich source of flavonoid phenols — a type of antioxidant — that protects against cardiovascular disease.
The Bottom Line
The incorporation of a healthy and nutritious diet such as the Mediterranean diet is a cornerstone for maintaining good health in general and blood vessel health, including sexual health, in particular. The Mediterranean diet is colorful, appealing to the senses, fresh and wholesome.
Maintaining a Mediterranean dietary pattern has been correlated with less cardiovascular disease, cancer and sexual dysfunction. It is tasty, filling and healthy, with a great variety of food and preparation choices — plenty of colorful fresh fruit and vegetables, a variety of fish prepared in a healthy style (not fried or laden with heavy sauces), healthy fats including nuts and olive oil, limited intake of red meat, a delicious glass of red wine. It’s really very simple and satisfying.
Of course, the diet needs to be a part of a healthy lifestyle including exercise and avoidance of harmful habits including smoking, excessive alcohol, and stress. If you want a sexier style of eating, think about incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle!