We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Erectile dysfunction, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition that happens when men have difficulty getting or keeping an erection. Approximately 30 million men¹ in the US are affected by ED, with the risk increasing with age and other health conditions.
Although the effects of ED are mostly physical, it can also affect your quality of life, including your mental health and intimate relationships.
ED can be caused by several factors, such as:
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
High cholesterol levels
Peyronie disease (scar tissue buildup under the penis)
Alcohol and drug abuse
Psychological, neurological, or endocrine disorders
Treatment of ED includes treating the underlying conditions, which will, in turn, improve ED, psychological treatment if needed, vasodilators such as phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors, vacuum erection devices, and surgery. Your treatment will depend on your current condition and how bad your ED is.
For some, changing diet and lifestyle habits is another treatment option that could help make it easier to get and keep an erection.
While ED can be treated with medications, surgery, and talk therapy, changing your diet and lifestyle, such as exercising and alcohol and smoking cessation, may improve erectile function.
A 2017 scientific review² examined 28 studies on diet and ED or testosterone levels. It found that following the Mediterranean diet can reduce the severity of ED in the long term. Similar results were seen when overweight and obese men with ED achieved weight loss with low-calorie or low-fat diets, while the western diet has been associated with lower semen quality.
A second study³ followed 21,469 men over 16 years. It found that sticking to healthy diet patterns focused on fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and fish while avoiding red and processed meat was associated with a lower risk of developing ED. These studies suggest that eating nutritious foods can help your erectile health and function.
There is no “miracle food” that will cure ED. However, certain foods may help. These foods may improve blood flow, testosterone (sex hormone) levels, and overall vascular function.
Below are some science-backed foods that can help with sexual health and other bodily functions. That makes them a valuable addition to your diet!
Evidence⁴ has suggested that dark chocolate may offer benefits for ED. However, the percentage of pure cocoa has to be quite high to gain the most benefits and avoid the negative impact of the high sugar content and processing that non-dark or commercial candy chocolate may have. Aim for a small portion of at least 85% pure cocoa a couple of times a week.
Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids,⁵ an antioxidant plant compound also found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and wine. A particular flavonoid in dark chocolate called epicatechin⁶ has been known to increase nitric oxide (NO). NO is an essential molecule for vasodilatation and smooth muscle relaxation.
When NO increases, blood flow increases, which is important for getting and keeping an erection.
Dark chocolate is also rich in flavan-3-ol, another flavonoid linked with various health benefits. These include reduced blood pressure, insulin resistance, and increased blood flow. While these outcomes seem promising, it’s important to remember that dark chocolate is a treat that should be eaten in moderation.
Avocados are appropriately named ‘ahuacatl’ from a Nahuatl word meaning testicle. They are a great source of fiber, healthy fats, and vitamins, contributing to better heart health and blood flow.
Avocados are a rich source of L-carnitine,⁷ an amino acid needed for energy metabolism. They also help improve blood flow by increasing NO levels in the blood. They have also been shown to enhance the effectiveness of PDE-5 inhibitors, a medication used to treat ED.
When combined with PDE-5 inhibitors, propionyl-L-carnitine (a chemical relative of L-carnitine) can act as an antioxidant to fight events that reduce NO production.
While research is ongoing, there is no harm in adding avocado into your diet to help improve overall health. Avocados are also a source of dietary fibers, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins.
That makes their addition a win-win for your overall nutrition!
Red meat has often been branded as an “erection killer.” However, there are two sides to every coin. Science suggests that lean red meat in small amounts may be beneficial for erectile health and function when eaten occasionally.
Red meats such as beef, pork, and lamb, are more than great protein sources. They also contain arginine⁸, a natural amino acid that the body uses to produce NO. As you know, NO helps to widen blood vessels and improve blood flow.
Because of this, recent research⁹ suggests arginine supplementation as a potential treatment for ED. This is a promising development for men unable to use PDE-5 inhibitors.
It is important to note that you don’t have to consume meat to get arginine. Many nuts and seeds are rich in this amino acid. Eating too much red or processed meat may also increase the risk¹⁰ of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes.
It is recommended that if you eat red meat, limit it to a small portion occasionally and include it as part of a balanced diet to meet your nutritional needs.
Oysters have long been considered a food that can help with sexual drive and desire. But its reputation as a well-known aphrodisiac is only one part of the story!
Oysters have one of the highest sources of zinc, with 74mg per serving.¹¹ That’s about 673% of the total zinc in a daily diet. Zinc is used in several bodily functions. It may help increase testosterone production,¹² which is important for controlling erectile function and plays a role in NO production to get an erection.
In addition to zinc, oysters are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fats obtained from your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids play a big part in cardiovascular health¹³ and may also aid in erectile function by encouraging NO release.
Recent research¹⁴ has suggested that a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids may indicate ED in men with type 2 diabetes. That means omega-3 fatty acids could have a prominent role in sexual health.
However, further studies are needed to see if there is a relationship between an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency and ED in humans.
Banana is a superfood loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help fuel sexual health and function. One banana provides 9%¹⁵ of the recommended daily intake for potassium, an essential mineral that relaxes the corpora cavernosa¹⁶ muscles in the penis. The relaxation of the corpora cavernosa is an important event as it allows blood to flow in and fill open spaces in the penis, allowing an erection to occur.
Bananas are also high in dopamine,¹⁷ the key player in the body’s ‘reward’ system. While research is ongoing to find the effects of dopamine in ED, current studies suggest that some alterations in the dopamine pathway in the body may help enhance sexual function.¹⁸ It does this by playing a role in regulating sexual function such as arousal due to stimuli and in NO production.
Like oysters, salmon is another excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which significantly increase NO production⁰⁹ in smooth muscle cells. A 2016 study²⁰ looked at the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on ED-induced rats. It found that treatment with omega-3 fatty acids after hypoxic (low oxygen blood levels) leads to better NO production and less inflammation.
While similar findings are yet to be found in humans, there is no harm in including salmon as part of a healthy diet. One serving of salmon provides up to 54%²⁰ of niacin (vitamin B3). That’s vital for turning nutrients into energy and treating high cholesterol levels. Because of its role as a cholesterol-lowering drug, niacin could improve erectile function for men with high-fat levels in the blood and severe to moderate ED.
Often praised as the top choice for brain health, mixed nuts are a fantastic food choice for erectile health and function.
Mixed nuts contain many nutrients²² and are a rich source of monounsaturated fats,²³ which can regulate blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Simply adding 60 grams worth of nuts²⁴ into your daily diet for 14 weeks may be enough to improve sexual function.
Eating certain nuts, such as walnuts and pistachios, can also help with ED. Nuts such as walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid that helps increase NO production²⁵ by stopping oxidative stress. Walnuts are also high in arginine, which is also found in red meats.
In addition to its functions of producing NO, using arginine alongside sildenafil²⁶ (Viagra) may increase the effectiveness of ED treatment compared to taking sildenafil alone.
Pistachios are another popular choice that may help with ED. Not only are they a healthy source of vitamins and minerals, but they may also contribute to improved erectile function as well.
In a 2011 study,²⁷ 17 men complaining of ED were asked to consume approximately 100 grams of pistachios/day for three weeks. Their erectile function, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels were all measured before and after the dietary intervention. Compared to the beginning of the study, researchers observed a significant increase in erectile function and in high-density lipoprotein (known as the ‘good’ cholesterol), suggesting that pistachios might help sexual function.
However, more research is needed to follow up on these effects.
Aside from making dishes stand out, garlic is also a promising ED treatment.
Garlic has been used to treat the preliminary stages of ED as it increases NO production in the body. Many cultures have explored how garlic may help treat ED. Some have paired garlic with ghee to increase sexual function;²⁸ others have mixed the extract with herbal medicines to improve ED symptoms.²⁹
Garlic also contains S-allyl cysteine (SAC), an amino acid that is a powerful antioxidant. A 2013 study³⁰ looked at the effects of SAC on rats with diabetes-induced ED. It found that SAC could restore erectile function by relieving oxidative stress pathways.
Although these results suggest garlic is an effective antioxidant to treat ED, research will need to be done on humans to check these findings.
If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate, consider blueberries as another great source of flavonoids. Blueberries contain a high amount of anthocyanins,³¹ a plant-based compound with powerful antioxidant properties. In fact, men who regularly eat foods high in anthocyanins (berries), flavones, or flavanones (citrus fruits) are 14% less likely⁶ to suffer from ED. They are also 21% less likely when this is combined with regular exercise.
Regularly reaching for a sugary drink to quench your thirst won’t just affect your weight or blood sugar levels. It can also increase your risk of ED.
Research³² found that regularly drinking one or more soft drinks per day was linked with increased blood pressure, insulin resistance, weight circumference, and body mass index (BMI).
A review³³ examining the connection between soft drinks and ED supported these findings. They found that the main parts of sugary soft drinks (e.g., refined carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, and other additives) may lead to a slow progression of ED without symptoms. This happens through fat deposition and changing blood sugar levels.
Together, these can increase the risk of inflammation and oxidative stress, affecting NO availability, smooth muscle cell function, and reduced testosterone.
Although sugary drinks were only mentioned, foods high in sugar or simple carbs are no exception to this list. These can all affect ED by negatively affecting physical health by increasing the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes through increased weight gain. Furthermore, this can also affect mental health, as increased sugar intake can increase the risk of developing depression and other common mental disorders.
Together, the physical and mental outcomes of high sugar intake wouldn’t only increase the risk of ED but can also worsen the effects of ED.
While one small fried meal may not lead to ED, consistently eating fried and fatty foods can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Fried foods are often high in trans-fats, linked to the increased risk of diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Over time, these diseases can negatively affect vascular health and reduce blood flow, ultimately making it difficult to achieve erection or shortening erection times.
These foods won’t only cause fat accumulation around your waist but may also line your arteries. Eating foods high in saturated animal fats or trans fats can change the proportion of low-density lipoprotein (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and HDL in the body.
The excess LDL may cause atherosclerosis,³⁴ which occurs when plaque builds up in your arteries. This can narrow your arteries and limit oxygen and blood flow throughout the body, increasing the risk of ED and other conditions such as a heart attack or stroke.
Drinking a lot of alcohol can greatly affect your sexual health and function. In addition to making you feel “sluggish,” drinking alcohol is linked with reduced testosterone levels and sperm maturation.
One study³⁵ looked at sexual dysfunction in alcohol-dependent men. The researchers found that 58.4% of alcohol-dependent men suffered from one or more sexual health problems, with 37% being affected by ED.
While there is no magic cure for ED, improving general lifestyle factors, mainly through diet and exercise, can help. Taking care of your blood sugar levels and heart and vascular health will also help lower your risk of ED.
Erectile health and function are closely linked to what you eat. So, learning to make informed dietary choices and maintain good eating habits can help improve your sexual health. You should see your doctor if you have underlying conditions. They can help develop a personalized plan to help you maintain these conditions while receiving the nutrients you need.
Definition & facts for erectile dysfunction | National Institute of Health: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Diet and men's sexual health (2018)
Association of diet with erectile dysfunction among men in the health professionals follow-up study (2020)
Cocoa and chocolate consumption – Are there aphrodisiac and other benefits for human health? (2008)
Dietary flavonoids and nitrate: Effects on nitric oxide and vascular function (2015)
Carnitine | National Institute of Health
Therapeutic benefits of l-arginine: An umbrella review of meta-analyses (2016)
Long-term high-dose l-arginine supplementation in patients with vasculogenic erectile dysfunction: A multicentre, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial (2022)
Health risks associated with meat consumption: A review of epidemiological studies (2015)
Zinc | National Institute of Health
Zinc is an essential element for male fertility: A review of zn roles in men’s health, germination, sperm quality, and fertilization (2018)
A multifaceted approach to maximize erectile function and vascular health | Fertility and Sterility
Role of disturbed fatty acids metabolism in the pathophysiology of diabetic erectile dysfunction (2017)
Bananas as an energy source during exercise: A metabolomics approach (2012)
K channels as molecular targets for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (2002)
Dietary neurotransmitters: A narrative review on current knowledge (2018)
Modulation of dopaminergic pathways to treat erectile dysfunction (2016)
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have distinct effects on endothelial fatty acid content and nitric oxide bioavailability (2021)
Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on erectile dysfunction in a rat model of atherosclerosis-induced chronic pelvic ischemia (2016)
Niacin | National Institute of Health
Monounsaturated fatty acids and risk of cardiovascular disease: Synopsis of the evidence available from systematic reviews and meta-analyses (2012)
Effect of nut consumption on erectile and sexual function in healthy males: A secondary outcome analysis of the FERTINUTS randomized controlled trial (2019)
Assessment of the efficacy of α-lipoic acid in treatment of diabetes mellitus patients with erectile dysfunction (2000)
Efficacy and tolerability of sildenafil/l-arginine combination relative to sildenafil alone in patients with organic erectile dysfunction (2019)
Pistachio diet improves erectile function parameters and serum lipid profiles in patients with erectile dysfunction (2011)
Garlic-potential substitute to synthetic aphrodisiacs for erectile dysfunction (2010)
Improvement of symptoms of aging in males by a preparation LEOPIN ROYAL containing aged garlic extract and other five of natural medicines – Comparison with traditional herbal medicines (Kampo) (2014)
S-allyl cysteine restores erectile function through inhibition of reactive oxygen species generation in diabetic rats (2013)
Recent research on the health benefits of blueberries and their anthocyanins (2019)
Sugar-sweetened beverage intake trends in US adolescents and their association with insulin resistance-related parameters (2009)
Is there a link between soft drinks and erectile dysfunction? (2011)
Atherosclerosis | National Institute of Health
Sexual dysfunctions in alcohol-dependent men: A study from north India (2016)
Current diagnosis and management of erectile dysfunction (2014)
Effects of chocolate, cocoa, and flavan-3-ols on cardiovascular health: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials (2012)
Propionyl-L-carnitine dilates human subcutaneous arteries through an endothelium-dependent mechanism (1999)
Assessment of combination therapies vs monotherapy for erectile dysfunction (2021)
The Mediterranean diet benefit on cardiovascular hemodynamics and erectile function in chronic heart failure male patients by decoding central and peripheral vessel Rheolog (2021)
Effect of niacin on erectile function in men suffering erectile dysfunction and dyslipidemia (2011)
Pistachios for health (2016)
Fried food consumption and cardiovascular health: A review of current evidence (2015)
Sexual dysfunction | Wayne State University
Effect of animal and industrial trans fatty acids on HDL and LDL cholesterol levels in humans – A quantitative review (2010)
Erectile dysfunction (2016)
Peyronie disease (2022)
We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Erectile dysfunction, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.