“Not tonight.” This simple phrase can initiate a divide between partners that grows into a complicated relationship issue if left alone and ignored. There are many underlying reasons as to why intimacy may falter from time to time as a relationship grows and evolves. Possibly work is causing a preoccupation that is being brought home, maybe you haven’t been making many positive health choices and you’re lacking self-confidence, maybe you and your partner have been in a loving relationship for years and you’re feeling somewhat stagnant, or there could be an underlying hormonal imbalance. Regardless of the path taken, the destination could be the same: the unnerving feeling that something is missing.
It’s not uncommon for peri-menopausal women and men in their 50’s to report a diminished sex drive, as this coincides with the hormonal changes (mainly decreases in testosterone, estrogen and progesterone) that accompany normal aging. However, just because this is a common feeling, does not mean it’s written in stone. Many studies have shown that improving your lifestyle can delay, stop, or reverse a decline in sexual desire. Perhaps the first step to your solution can be found in the kitchen, so let’s take a look at some common foods that may help you and your partner re-ignite the fire so to speak…
Avocados are loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that can keep your heart and arteries running smoothly (and therefore supplying blood where it’s needed). Avocados are also high in the B-vitamins, which are crucial to metabolize your food into useful energy. In particular, they are good sources of vitamin B6, which assists men in hormone production and in potassium, which assist women in the production of thyroid hormones. Both of these factors may increase sex drive in men and women.
Almonds are another rock-solid source of heart-healthy fats that can assist in reducing inflammation and their high zinc content aids in testosterone production in men and gives a sex drive boost to women. There is also interesting folklore regarding the scent of almonds elevating a woman’s arousal…whether or not this last point is true, it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.
Oatmeal is a great breakfast choice because of it’s protein and fibre benefits, but it also is garnering some attention for its role in sexual health as well. Oatmeal is a testosterone-booster in men and also contains L-arginine, an amino acid that has been studied for it’s ability to increase blood flow to the important sexual regions in women. L-arginine is also a common ingredient in natural libido booster formulations for women such as ArginMax™, which has been shown to possibly improve sexual function in peri-menopausal women (Ito, et al., 2006.).
Sounds odd right? As it turns out, celery contains a compound called androsterone which is an odorless hormone that is released in male sweat and has a positive effect on women’s arousal. Like with almonds, it’s already a good choice to consume celery for it’s nutrient content, but if there’s also a chance that your partner may find some enjoyment out of it as well- why not try?
The phytochemicals that are responsible for the rich, deep purple-black color of this variety of raspberry are also able to “enhance both libido and sexual endurance.” This is according to Drs. Anna Maria and Brian Clement, who recommend consuming a handful of whole berries or 1 tablespoon of their seeds a few hours prior to showtime.
Bananas are loaded with B vitamins, potassium, and the enzyme bromelain. The B vitamins are needed to metabolize your food and provide you with the energy you’ll need to perform. The potassium will help stimulate thyroid hormone production in women, and bromelain has been studied for it’s potential role in boosting libido and reversing impotence in men.
As it turns out, watermelon is not just the delicious and refreshing summertime treat that caps a great barbeque, it can also help you in the bedroom. Watermelon contains a compound called citrulline which is converted to arginine in the body. Arginine stimulates the production of nitric oxide, which works to relax blood vessels and can have a viagra-like effect on impotence.
8. Pine nuts
This pesto staple is high in the amino acid arginine, which we have discussed earlier for it’s role in nitric oxide production and the positive effect of having your blood vessels relax when it comes to treating impotence. Top your next date-night dinner salad with pine nuts and see where the night takes you.
While the first thought that crosses your mind after a deliciously garlic-filled meal is never “kiss me,” maybe it should be. Garlic contains high amounts of a compound called allicin, which is touted as a natural alternative to fight inflammation. Another thumbs-up is given to allicin for it’s ability to stimulate blood flow to the sexual organs, which provides a libido boost. If the taste/smell of garlic is a deal-breaker between you and your partner, reach for garlic capsules instead to receive a similar benefit.
It’s well-known that women have formed a long-term relationship with chocolate, and for good reason. Chocolate contains theobromine, an alkaloid chemical very similar to caffeine and phenylethylamine, a chemical that mimics other hormones and gives you a sense of being in love. Add to this equation the fibre and antioxidants that are found in dark chocolate and you have a recipe for a healthy life, in and out of the bedroom.
Written by: Chris Carriere, CNC. Original September 2014
“You’re not getting enough protein.” Does this sound familiar to you? This statement is being increasingly told to us from a variety of sources. Maybe you’re trying to lose weight and you’ve heard it from a weight loss coach, maybe you’re recovering from surgery and your doctor told you this, or maybe you’re trying to build muscle mass and your personal trainer gave you this advice. Although these are very different scenarios, each one of these health professionals could end up at this same conclusion. The reason behind the wide-reaching nature of this statement is because of the importance of protein in so many bodily processes.
When considering weight loss, protein plays a huge role in a couple of different areas. The most substantial effect is in its ability to keep you satiated (feeling satisfied and not hungry) longer. According to newer studies, protein does a better job than carbohydrate and fat making you feel fuller, longer. The enzymes that allow you to digest your foods and the hormones that your body produces to regulate your internal environment are also proteins. A lesser benefit of protein for weight loss is the fact that it causes your internal body temperature to increase during metabolism more than carbohydrate and fat do. This phenomenon is called the thermic effect of food and accounts for a small percentage of the calories you burn on a daily basis without exercising.
The surgery scenario is mentioned to show protein’s importance in immune function. The lymphocytes and macrophages that are responsible for the immune response are proteins and when these cells are functioning properly, the body can accomplish pretty miraculous levels of healing. When immune function is depleted however, a simple virus can become a nightmare. It’s relatively commonplace for a doctor to advise a strict vegetarian/vegan patient to consume more high quality protein during times of severe illness, injury, or post-surgery to help speed up healing times.
When protein is added to the diet alongside a strength training regimen, it can help you avoid muscle catabolism. The major plus side to this (besides increased strength of course) is that the more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body is able to use to maintain its increased energy requirements. Another way that protein assists you in your physical pursuits is by allowing for oxygen to be delivered to your muscles to keep you going. Oxygen is transported throughout the body in red blood cells which are proteins.
We have established that protein is a very important component to a healthy diet, great, so now what?
The next step is to provide you with a list of high quality protein sources that are widely available so that you have the knowledge to improve your protein intake.
Boneless/skinless chicken breast is a staple of the weight training success toolkit, and for good reason. Dark meat also provides a hefty amount of protein, but it also contains more fat per serving. Your best bet is to choose breast meat, go skin-free, and avoid the breaded and deep-fried situation. Besides offering a great hit of protein and very little fat for the caloric buck, boneless/skinless chicken breast responds extremely well to spices. Something wonderful happens when you spice or marinade a chicken breast and bake or grill it.
Serving size: 4 oz.
Protein: 37 grams
Fat: 2.3 grams (0.7 grams of saturated fat)
Turkey breast falls under the umbrella of healthy poultry along with chicken breast. Again, just as with chicken breast, your always better off to choose skinless and avoid weighing it down with breading and deep-frying. Turkey breast has a very similar nutrient profile to chicken breast, however it’s slightly lower in Calories, sodium, and also in cholesterol.
Serving size: 4 oz.
Protein: 36 grams
Fat: 3 grams (1 gram of saturated fat)
Every now and then, nothing beats the taste and texture of rich, red meat. However, it’s very easy to go overboard and end up consuming out-of-whack serving sizes and the glut of saturated fat that accompanies them. Lean, muscular cuts of beef like loin or flank are a great way to get a substantial amount of protein while keeping fat and cholesterol numbers in check. The reason grass-fed beef is on this list instead of conventional beef is because of two reasons: Grass-fed cows are able to be in pasture consuming the appropriate diet for their entire lives (grasses are what bovine stomachs are meant to digest) instead of only their first six months to one year of life. Farms that ranch this way produce cows that are able to move more, remain healthier (and not require antibiotics), live longer before processing, and offer meat that has a better nutritional profile. Grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a beneficial fat that has been studied for its role in weight loss. The other reason to consume grass-fed beef is that the cattle are treated far more humanely than in conventional factory farms and feedlots.
Serving size: 4 oz.
Protein: 26 grams
Fat: 8 grams (2.8 grams of saturated fat)
When I think of high quality sources of protein that are also extremely cost-effective, canned tuna is the first item on my list. Tuna is a great source of protein, a good source of omega-3 fat, and tastes great- all without a hefty caloric price tag. When shopping for canned tuna, I suggest reaching for chunk light tuna over albacore (or chunk/solid white tuna) because although the nutritional profile for both varieties is pretty similar, albacore varieties like yellowfin and bluefin are more often contaminated with mercury and are becoming overfished and therefore are not (generally) sustainably caught. Albacore tuna also costs nearly twice as much per can, so a switch to the dark meat version of tuna is much more wallet-friendly.
Serving size: 1 can
Protein: 42 grams
Fat: 1.4 grams (0.4 grams of saturated fat)
When thinking about the bioavailability (how much of a nutrient the body is able to absorb and utilize) of protein in food, eggs are historically the gold-standard to which all other sources of protein are measured against. Eggs taste great and their amino acid profile is a perfect complement to what our bodies require to assist in tissue maintenance and growth. Eggs are also a very reasonably priced protein source.
Serving size: 1 large egg
Protein: 6.2 grams
Fat: 5.3 grams (1.6 grams of saturated fat)
Plain Greek yogurt
Yogurt in general finds its way into many healthful eating plans because of its protein, beneficial bacteria, and calcium content. Plain Greek yogurt is on this list because for roughly the same number of Calories per serving it offers nearly twice the protein and less sugar than regular plain yogurt. Greek yogurt suffers from elevated sugar numbers when you start getting into the mixed fruit or dessert flavors in the same way as conventional yogurt, so your best bet is to stick with plain and 2% or 0% fat content and add fresh or frozen fruit if you’re craving a more dessert-like treat.
Nutrition info: (I’m using 0% fat yogurt for this profile)
Serving size: 175 grams
Protein: 18 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Vegetarianism to varying degrees has always been a part of the human diet for health benefits and/or ethical reasons, so I wanted to make sure I included high quality animal-free protein choices as well. Tempeh is a fermented soy product and is a great alternative to meat in a variety of dishes. Soybeans are the only vegetarian source of complete protein (there are other sources of vegetarian protein, but these are limited in one or more amino acids and require protein combining to make a complete protein). The bacteria used in the fermentation process are beneficial for our GI tract and tempeh also contains a good amount of calcium, fibre and iron to go along with the protein content. Another benefit of soy products are compounds called flavonoids, isoflavonoids and phytosterols that have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. Tempeh may not be something you have personally tried, but you should sometime.
Serving size: 4 oz.
Protein: 21 grams
Fat: 12.2 grams (2.5 grams of saturated fat)
Beans are great because they’re loaded with stomach-filling fibre, they’re extremely cost-effective, and they contain a good amount of protein per serving. One consideration with beans is that they are low in the amino acid methionine (which makes them an incomplete source), but an easy way around this is to eat beans with rice (which is high in methionine). This is an example of protein combining to achieve the required amounts of all 9 essential amino acids. Protein combining does not have to be done at every meal as studies have shown that complementary proteins function in the same way if they are consumed in the same day.
Serving size: 50 grams (black beans, dry)
Protein: 10.8 grams
Fat: 0.7 grams (0.2 grams of saturated fat)
Lentils are on this list because for the same reasons as beans being included. Lentils are very inexpensive, dried lentils are shelf-stable for what seems like forever, they are packed with fibre, and have more protein per serving than the same serving size of dried beans. Since lentils belong to the legume family (just like beans), they are also low in the amino acid methionine. Also like beans, simply combining lentils with a member of the grain family will give you a complete vegetarian protein. Lentils are a hearty and versatile legume that should become a staple in your pantry if they aren’t already.
Serving size: 50 grams (dry)
Protein: 12.9 grams
Fat: 0.5 grams (0.1 grams of saturated fat)
Whey protein isolate
Although protein powder is not a whole food, it still deserves it’s place on this list because whey powder is an extremely bioavailable source of high quality protein and is quite possibly the easiest way to increase your daily protein consumption. One consideration with whey protein is that it is a milk-derived protein, which means it is not lactose-free. However, a way around this is by choosing a hydrolysed (pre-digested) whey protein, which uses enzymes to make the protein easier to digest. One of the enzymes utilized in this process is lactase, which breaks down lactose and makes it possible for people with lactose intolerance issues to be able to consume. Adding whey powder to oatmeal, shakes, or just mixed with water is a great way to get a quick and easy shot of high quality protein.
Nutrition info: (for an average whey protein powder)
Serving size: 1 scoop
Protein: 24 grams
Fat: 1.5 grams (0.5 grams of saturated fat)
There are other good and great sources of protein available to you, but the purpose of this list was to provide you with an easy jumping-off point that you could use to improve your nutrition. The easiest way to maximize the health benefits associated with this list is to vary your protein sources. Choosing a variety of different sources and preparing them with a variety of other healthy ingredients with allow you to obtain the most health bang for your caloric buck.
The nutrient analysis in this article was obtained using the eaTracker program from the Dietitians of Canada. It can be found at http://eatracker.ca.
Written by: Chris Carriere, CNC. Original September 2014.
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“Not tonight.” This simple phrase can initiate a divide between partners that grows into a complicated relationship issue if left alone and ignored. There are many underlying reasons as to why intimacy may falter from time to time as a relationship grows and evolves. Possibly work is causing a preoccupation that is being brought home, [...]
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“You’re not getting enough protein.” Does this sound familiar to you? This statement is being increasingly told to us from a variety of sources. Maybe you’re trying to lose weight and you’ve heard it from a weight loss coach, maybe you’re recovering from surgery and your doctor told you this, or maybe you’re trying to [...]