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Aphrodisiacs and conception

Italians have the reputation for romance, and even their food just seems to make an evening more romantic. Even better, then, that some of the ingredients popular in Italian cuisine are considered aphrodisiacs.

One of my favorite Italian foods is pesto. As it turns out, pesto contains four ingredients that rank up there for supposedly helping put people in the mood: basil, olive oil, pine nuts and garlic.

Basil supposedly helps sex drive by promoting relaxation. It's also used in aromatherapy to improve mood. Basil is high in magnesium, and magnesium has been demonstrated to cause muscle relaxation. Magnesium is good for sleep, too, so I would guess it's a balance between relaxation and sleep!

Olive oil is packed with vitamin E and healthy fats. I came across a study (Lipids. 2009 Apr;44(4):345-57) that showed that coconut oil and olive oil fed to rats led to increased testosterone production compared to soy oil or grapeseed oil. Perhaps that is due to the high vitamin E content in olive oil, which increases blood flow to the genital area, but it's probably also due to the healthy fats olive oil contains. The fats actually help the body absorb the vitamin E, so how helpful that they're packaged together in olive oil!

But back to testosterone. Low testosterone is a cause of low libido in men, and it production naturally decreases with age.

Pine nuts were an aphrodisiac of the Romans. Men supposedly ate them with honey and almonds for three days to help them perform. They contain a lot of zinc, and that's necessary for testosterone production. For women, low zinc is also tied to a lack of interest in sex, and many women who have taken the pill for a long time are zinc-deficient.

We can't forget garlic. All jokes about the odor and scaring off vampires aside, garlic is a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes the blood vessels. Like nitric oxide, it allows more blood flow to the reproductive organs.

Who knew that pesto was such a powerful aphrodisiac? If you are trying to conceive, perhaps more Italian food is just what you need.

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