Scotland on Sunday
By Ruth Walker
TO ENSURE your dinner à deux goes with a swing, don't go to all the bother (and expense) of preparing a lavish meal for your loved one. Cut straight to the final course. No, not the business in the bedroom - dessert.
Research has found that British men get the biggest boost not from traditional aphrodisiacs like oysters and caviare, but from the sweet whiff of apple pie, custard and doughnuts. According to Jill Fullerton-Smith, the Glasgow film-maker behind the BBC series The Truth about Food and the accompanying book (Bloomsbury, £15.99), scientific wisdom maintains that many supposed aphrodisiacs gained their reputation simply by association. "Oysters are reminiscent of vulvas, for example, while carrots and bananas have more than a passing resemblance to sturdy, erect penises," she says.
"Similarly, the word avocado comes from an ancient Aztec word for testicle. Virgin Aztec girls were banned from the avocado fields during harvest time because of the provocative appearance of the ripe fruits."
Fullerton-Smith drew on the findings of scientists who had researched what happens to men when they inhale the scent of various foods - in particular what happens to the blood flow to the penis. The effects were surprising. For instance, while pumpkin pie and oranges elevated proceedings by 16% and 12% respectively, chocolate resulted in a disappointingly flaccid 3%. The top result - with a whopping 24% rise - came from the aroma of, bizarrely, apple cake.
But for those left deflated by the knowledge that a Mars a day only helps you work and rest, Fullerton-Smith has encouraging words. "Chocolate may not have any real aphrodisiac properties, but its melt-in-the-mouth texture makes it a very sensuous food." And the same goes for the likes of strawberries and cream, honey, yoghurt and ice-cream.
But don't chuck out the oysters just yet. The molluscs have been found to contain the chemicals D-aspartic acid and NMDA, which encourage the release of testosterone and oestrogen. They also contain a lot of zinc, which is important for male fertility.
For assuring a good performance, men need not turn to Viagra. Garlic, nature's equivalent, acts in the same way by encouraging the body to produce nitric oxide, which relaxes muscle tissue in the penis. "This opens up the vessels and increases the flow of blood into it," says Fullerton-Smith.
But there's bad news: to get the most from this erotic but pungent food, you must eat at least three cloves a day, preferably raw. So if you want to get close to your lady love, don't forget to chew some parsley afterwards.