Valentine's Day is the time we set aside every year to celebrate our love. The emphasis on this sacred day tends to be put on the dinner and the promise of the unforgettable night that will follow this ultimate romantic meal. Which can mean that there's a lot of pressure put on one meal. And in anticipation of this ultimate night of romance, it is easy for plans to take a wrong turn. Many over-reach, planning a "dinner to remember" with ingredients they hope will be perfect for this special night. But not all foods are right for Valentine's night, especially if you're looking to turn your rendezvous into a night of passion. Here are five foods and drinks to avoid serving at your Valentine's meal:
The beer scene in America is having an incredibly exciting moment. There is something for every taste and budget. Experiencing what the beer world has to offer can be a great gastronomic odyssey for you to take together... just not on Valentine's Day.
Hops, a grain commonly used to make beer, is anaphrodisiac. In other words, it's a libido-killer. (According to a scientific study performed in 2005, it's the lupulin in hops that gives it a negative effect on the libido.) But even if you choose a hops-free brew, there's still the fact that beer tends to bloat most people. All alcohol is considered inflammatory, but the drinks that are high in carbohydrates and are carbonated seem to have more pronounced effects. This is probably why beer seems to cause bloating more than many other forms of alcohol.
Instead of beer on Valentine's Day, consider enjoying a glass of red wine and a glass of water. (Alcohol can also cause the body to retain water, so staying hydrated will also help counteract any alcohol bloat.)
According to the research of Dr. Max Lake, red wines with musky, truffle-like and earthy aromas can potentially turn your date on just with the scent! A good bet is to look for an earthy red Burgundy or a California cabernet.
In addition to the potential of the carbonation in tonic to irritate your digestive system, the quinine in this drink is believed to be a libido killer. A study published in 2006 showed conclusive evidence that quinine lowers testosterone levels. (Studies show quinine may also be detrimental to sperm levels, so this drink is a definite no-go for anyone trying to make babies, not just on V-day but all the year long.)
For a drink that simply quenches thirst, stick with plain old filtered water instead. And if you're looking for something a little more flavorful and potentially aphrodisiac, you might want to try ginseng tea. In several small studies, Panax ginseng was documented as improving sexual desire in both men and women. Unfortunately, however, all the studies conducted thus far have been too small to be considered conclusive evidence. But healers and herbalists have been using it for centuries as a libido booster, which certainly helps make a case for the drink.
A thick, juicy steak may seem like the perfect special occasion dish for Valentine's night. But beef is notoriously hard to digest - and a marbled steak is even harder to digest than a lean cut. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a beautiful cut of beef on occasion, but if a bit of nookie is also on your menu, that steak can completely derail your plans. You see, while your stomach is busy trying to digest that meat, more blood is sent to your digestive system. That leaves less blood for the rest of your body, not only making arousal more difficult but also simply making it hard to stay awake at the end of a long day.
If you're craving red meat for your Valentine's affair, consider wild game instead of beef or lamb. Game meats, although they're still harder to digest than carbohydrates, tend to be considerably leaner, therefore a little quicker to break down in your digestive system than beef. In addition, wild game tends to be higher than beef in omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-3s can improve mood. There's no better aid for getting in the mood than being in a good mood!
Weird Things You Heard Were "Aphrodisiac"
Nothing says "I love you" like a bottle of whiskey with a dead snake floating inside or a bowl of (illegal) shark fin soup, right? Wrong! Throughout the ages, man has been misguided by the promise of rare, exotic, and dangerous ingredients that are said to instantly turn those who imbibe into wild, sexual beings. The truth is, there's no magic gastronomic elixir to turn anyone into something they aren't.
In fact, most exotic supplements marketed as such are dangerous either to your health or to the world's animal population. So no shark fins or rhino horns, please! And stay away from anything labeled "Spanish Fly." True Spanish Fly, which is made from an iridescent member of the blister beetle family, is scientifically documented to have an effect - one that can be deadly. The active compound that gives this beetle its aphrodisiac reputation, cantharidin, is a poison known to cause great pain in small doses and organ failure in those who consume it in too large of a quantity. It is unlikely that anything you'll find labeled "Spanish Fly" in a market is actually made from this dangerous bug, but whatever it is, you and your date do not need it.
If you're looking for something on the exotic side to serve as an aphrodisiac, consider shellfish like crab, mussels, or clams. Or if you want an indulgence, consider garnishing the plates with caviar. Just be sure to pick something your date will enjoy. The mostromantic choice may be something mundane like a simple, roasted, organic chicken cooked with love.
How could a candy found in every corner store be dangerous to your libido? Believe it or not, licorice may be the most studied food in the realm of aphrodisiacs. In 1998, Dr. Alan Hirsch published his discovery that the scent of licorice combined with cucumber is arousing to women. So why is it on a list of foods never to serve on Valentine's Day? Because a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine the following year found that testosterone levels were reduced in healthy males who took licorice supplements. Further study by the same researchers concluded that as little as 240 to 525 milligrams of licorice per day reduced testosterone levels by one-third. Additional studies have found that licorice has a negative impact on levels of this vital sexual hormone in women as well as men, and it can also cause potassium levels to plummet.
If you want to serve your Valentine sweets, why not give them the ultimate symbol of Valentine love, chocolates? Chocolate has a reputation as a potent aphrodisiac. (In truth, you'd have to consume so much chocolate in one sitting that you're more likely to fall into a diabetic coma than reap its potential libido-boosting benefits.) But chocolate has a strong psychological link with Valentine's Day and romance. And if you stick with dark chocolate, you'll consume less sugar than you would from most desserts and enjoy a few heart-healthy benefits.
Amy Reiley is an MA in Gastronomy and the author of 5 aphrodisiac cookbooks. Her latest book, Eat Cake Naked: aphrodisiac desserts to heat up your love life came out on January 10, 2018 and became an Amazon bestseller in its first week.
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