Sugar and fat decrease the production of NO (nitric oxide) by blood vessels and can have a significant negative effect on erectile function. Sugar is the least expensive way for the food industry to add flavor to foods, so it is often added to food products. Examine food labels and pick products with less added sugar. Of course sweets are loaded with sugar and should be kept to a minimum. Have one portion shared by the table or take 3 bites and stop. Sugary desserts are empty calories without nutritional value and sugar and carbs are preferentially stored as abdominal fat as in the beer belly. Abdominal fat has a greater impact on erectile function by causing inflammation and insulin resistance (see the review in The International Journal of Impotence Research for more details—a link to it can be found at the bottom of the Home Page.

Saturated fat should also be kept to a minimum because certain types of saturated fats are linked to atherosclerosis. The penile blood vessels are small and blood flow can be blocked by the same fatty deposits that can build up in heart vessels and cause a heart attack. Instead, emphasis should be placed on the good fats such as olive oil, which contains lots of monounsaturated fat that is good for health. Ask for olive oil and balsamic vinegar for bread instead of butter. Olive oil is also great on salads.

Juices and sodas often contain high amounts of sugar and are not filling. After drinking these products, blood sugar soars and then crashes, making an individual ravenous for their next sugar fix. Unfortunately, sugar is as addicting as cocaine, so it’s a difficult habit to break. Pick foods that are filling and when a sweet taste is needed, use sugar substitutes.

Alcohol in moderation actually stimulates NO in blood vessels, but mixed drinks are often sweet, and the maltose in beer is rapidly converted to sugar. Wine is a better choice instead. Red wine, particularly from more southern climates, contains lots of antioxidants, but white wine also contains antioxidants and is a better choice than a mixed drink or beer.

What is Good to Eat?

Omega-3’s, antioxidants, and lots of colorful vegetables all stimulate NO, which relaxes the penile blood vessels allowing the penis to become engorged with blood resulting in a firm erection. Foods with the highest levels of antioxidants are spices, berries, chocolate, and green tea. Colorful veggies supply antioxidants and the nitrate in veggies also stimulates NO production. It is also important to have adequate protein in the diet because it is broken down into amino acids, one of which, L-arginine, is the building block from which NO is made by your blood vessels. Chicken and turkey are healthy sources of protein and very good sources of L-arginine. Red meat, fish, and dairy products also are good sources of protein. Vegetarians often have difficulty including enough protein in their diet and may benefit from taking 2-3 grams of L-arginine or L-citrulline as a daily supplement (the average normal diet contains about 5 grams of L-arginine; L-citrulline is changed to L-arginine as it is absorbed).

What if I Can’t Change My Diet?

Although it is not the best option, supplements may be used while working to improve diet over time. Tastes can change markedly over time and individuals who are motivated and persistent will get to enjoy healthy food just as much as what they have been eating in the past. Try some of the recipes on this website and in Survival of the FIRMEST to experience how good healthy food can taste.