- 9 Aphrodisiacs to Heat Up Your Love Life
- Find a New Crush
- Nutrition 911
- Test Your Valentine's Day IQ!
The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.
9 Aphrodisiacs to Heat Up Your Love LifeBy Joe Wilkes
Named for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, aphrodisiacs have been the stuff of legend and song throughout history. Lovers looking for a leg up in the libido department have gone to their shamans, medicine men, and herbalists for centuries, searching for the magic ingredient that will kick their mojo into high gear. And today the search has gone to the Internet. Anyone with a lackluster spam filter has probably scanned the hundreds of emails that arrive every day, advertising powdered rhinoceros horn or some unpronounceable chemical that promises to goose your or your partner's desires. The efficacy of these miracle products is extremely dubious (and, in the case of the exotic animal parts, illegal), but there are plenty of products that you can find right in your grocery store or farmers' market that can potentially increase the heat between the sheets. Here are some common foods and why they might be able to put a little extra oomph into that special evening. And over half of them are in the top two tiers of Michi's Ladder, so you can have your cake and eat it, too! (Well, not cake, but asparagus and bananas!)
- Oysters. These are perhaps the classic aphrodisiacs of all time. The legendary lover Casanova reportedly consumed 50 oysters every day to keep his . . . um . . . stamina up. But until recently the powers of these bivalves were only backed up by anecdotal evidence and the testimonials of mollusk-loving Lotharios. Recently though, studies have shown that oysters and their shellfish brethren, including clams, scallops, and mussels, all contain chemical compounds that may aid the release of testosterone, estrogen, and other sex hormones in both men and women. Oysters are also full of zinc, a deficiency of which can cause impotence in men, another reason they can be man's best friend in the bedroom. And then of course there's the conventional wisdom that if you'll eat an oyster, you'll eat anything.
- Chocolate. What's more associated with Valentine's Day than chocolate? The ancient Aztecs considered chocolate to be an aphrodisiac for both men and women, and when the Europeans got wind of its inhibition-lowering properties, it wasn't long before the candy treat became a must-have when pitching woo. Casanova and famed Louis XV courtesan Madame du Barry were reported to be great believers in the powers of chocolate, and there may have been something to it. Chocolate contains the chemicals phenylethylamine and serotonin, which are also naturally occurring chemicals in the brain, usually released when we are happy or in love. Its chemicals can literally cause your heart to beat a little faster. Add to that a boost of caffeine and sugar, and it can be a pretty good pick-me-up with a small side of euphoria.
- Figs. Maybe it wasn't just the apple in the Garden of Eden that got things going. Remember, Adam and Eve ended up covering themselves in fig leaves. And it was also the favorite fruit of Cleopatra, who was certainly no slouch in the ways of love. In ancient Greece, fertility rituals would often follow the first fig harvest, and Greek portrayals of bacchanalia usually also included some fig action. In some European countries, figs are thrown instead of rice at newly married couples (ouch!) as symbols of fertility.
- Bananas. In the Islamic version of the tale, Adam and Eve covered themselves with banana leaves rather than fig leaves. Bananas are also considered a fertility symbol by the Hindus. Bananas can really get you going with their high levels of potassium and B vitamins, which aid the production of hormones. Bananas also contain the protease bromelain, which is believed to help circulation.
- Asparagus. It is rich in vitamin E, which is critical to the production of hormones. It also contains a lot of folic acid, which the body needs to produce histamines. And histamines are the chemical compounds that cause muscle contractions. A word of caution though—too much asparagus can cause flatulence, which might make the whole romantic plan backfire (no pun intended).
- Avocados. The Aztecs referred to the avocado tree as Ahuacuatl or "testicle tree." Apparently, the fruit usually hangs in pairs. There appears to be little besides anecdotal evidence to support its claim as an aphrodisiac, though it is rich in many nutrients, including vitamins B6, C, and E. The California Avocado Commission conducted a Valentine's Day survey in 2000 of experts, 63 percent of whom concluded that the avocado does have some aphrodisiac qualities, some of which could be attributed to recently discovered phytochemicals.
- Caviar. This fish-egg delicacy has been enjoyed by lovers for centuries, including, of course, Casanova (which increasingly leads me to believe a lot of women were just sleeping with him to get to the buffet). Caviar is known for its silky texture. Naturally, eggs are common fertility symbols, but there may also be some chemical reasons for which they are rated so highly on the love-maker's diet. Like oysters, they are high in zinc and rich in vitamins A and D and omega-3 fatty acids. They also are high in arginine, an amino acid which acts as a vasodilator, widening blood vessels and increasing blood flow.
- Truffles. Not the chocolate kind (although those count under the "chocolate" category) but the expensive underground mushroom kind that pigs and dogs root out of the ground. Unlike other foods, it is the musky scent of the truffle that is believed to be what gets us going. Scientists have recently discovered that black truffles contain the pheromone androstenol. There is some debate over how much human beings are affected by pheromones, but truffles have been considered to be aphrodisiacs for centuries, and this recent discovery could be one explanation.
- Champagne. When we think of romantic beverages, the list pretty much begins and ends with champagne. Most of the effects of champagne seem to be largely psychological, though. The purchase of an expensive beverage may set the mood for a special evening, and a mystique has been built in the media about the drink and its drinkers, from Marie Antoinette to Marilyn Monroe. But scientifically speaking, its amorous effects seem to come from the same place as most alcoholic beverages. Alcohol appears to have no positive effect on sexual function and, when overindulging, will usually move you in the other direction. It does, however, lead to a loss of inhibition and a decrease in judgment—in other words, a prelude to a kiss.
Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Tuesday, February 17th, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!
Nutrition 911: Here's the straight 411, so you can avoid a dietary 911By Steve Edwards
We hear a lot about nutrition on TV these days. Carbs, net carbs, impact carbs, trans fats, and essential fats . . . and on and on. Yet studies show that this information goes way over most people's heads. In fact, it seems like most people have forgotten what they learned back in eighth grade nutrition class—at least those who had a nutrition class. Nowadays, most people get through school having taken no nutrition class at all. With world obesity rates at an all-time high, we're obviously on the wrong track. After all, what good is hearing that a food contains "healthy omegas" when you don't know what fatty acids are?
But we've all got to eat, so someone needs to teach us. Let's forget about Nutrition 101. There's no time for math. Let's break it down even simpler than that. Maybe we'll call it Nutrition 1. All we want to do is get you out of the supermarket with some idea of what you just bought. With society headed in its current direction, this 411 on nutrition is more of a 911, so let's call it that—a bit more impactful than Nutrition 1 and maybe not as patronizing. It's like traffic school but for nutrition. You don't need to win the Indy 500. You just need to get yourself around town safely. You've been cited for poor eating habits. You can pay the fine and endure a chronic disease, or you can take Nutrition 911 and get your health back. Are you ready for class?
Hello, class. I'm Professor Edwards, but you can call me Steve. Forget hierarchal labels; this is no dull SAT preparedness course. We're sticking to just the things you'll want to know to keep you healthy—hey, you, in the back. Stop shooting spitballs at Mr. Kroc! Give me that thing. What's your name, son? Okay, Carl, one more slipup and you're back on the bypass waiting list. It seems like the situation is direr than I thought, so let's get straight to it.
We're here to talk about food. This is the stuff we eat that enables us to live. You in the clown suit with the big red wig, stop laughing. This is a lot more important than it sounds! If we understood food, we wouldn't be here. You see, we also eat a lot of stuff that's not food but that comes with our food. Some of it we're supposed to eat, things like fiber in plants. But many companies also add things to food that aren't food at all, stuff like color, flavors, and things to make the food last longer while it sits on a shelf waiting for you to buy it. These added ingredients have no nutritional value. We also eat other additives that are sort of food. These are altered from their natural state to change the way food tastes and to make food more addictive. Stuff such as HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) falls into this category. And more often than not, these things are bad for you—yes?
Why do they do this, you ask? That's a very good question, Michael, but we can't answer that here. This is Nutrition 911. Politics 911 is in the other room. And, please, turn off that camera. Learning to distinguish foods that have additives, or may have them (as it's not always clear), will help you make better choices when deciding what you should and shouldn't eat.
Nutrient values are based on the parts of food that your body can use. In packaged foods, these values can be found on the food label. They break down what you are eating into various components. These various components are vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbs. Nutrients have something called calories. Most of us know what these are because we blame them for making us fat, but, in fact, they are just a measurement for the energy in food that our bodies can then turn into energy.
If you've ever glanced at the package of something you're eating you know this, but you may not know how to make sense out of it. That is the goal of this class. When we're finished, you'll be able to understand how to decipher a food label and a supplement label, and how to navigate a grocery store and not feel overwhelmed. We'll also cover how to eat in restaurants and how to best avoid the insidious ingredients referenced above. So let's take a look at how this class will be structured.
Today is just an introduction to explain why we're in this class. We're going to look at the very basics of nutrition—the very basics, real "duh" kind of stuff that I hope most of you know. Words like food, water, vitamins, and supplements are a normal part of our language. We hear about these things every day and consume them to live, but most of us lack a big-picture understanding of how the entire process is supposed to work.
Next, we'll take a look at the things you hear on TV and see at the market. We'll analyze slogans like "organic," "low carb," "omega rich," and so forth and discuss just why we need to know this, or whether we'd be better off ignoring it.
Then we'll take a closer look at food labels. These are less difficult to understand than you probably think. If they seem confusing, it's because they're designed that way. But when we're finished, you'll be able to scan a label and tell whether or not you should buy something in 15 seconds or less.
We'll follow this with a simple yet thorough analysis of just what you should eat. You'll see that once you know how to wade through the marketing jargon, it's not as difficult as it seems.
Subsequent classes will cover subjects such as sweeteners, desserts, alcohol, caffeine, and water; the best and worst foods in the world; how to navigate a supermarket; and how to order in restaurants. When we're finished, you'll have a simple yet thorough understanding of the eating process. It's not rocket science. It is, however, science. But don't worry. Once you learn to weed out all the fancy words, it's not all that complicated. We've been eating, well, forever. Science has actually made it more difficult for us to understand. Therefore, the aim of this class is to help you wade through all that pesky science—especially the research that's been skewed by marketers—and to get back to basics.
Lesson #1: What we consume
If you ask someone what they eat, they'll probably answer, "Food." As we discussed above, that answer would be incomplete. We also eat water—okay, drink, but whatever. In fact, let's use the word consume because we don't have a preconceived notion about it. Everything we put into our mouths makes up who we are, whether it's food, water, beer, drugs, vitamins, dirt, or whatever. Don't discount dirt because it's actually healthier than a lot of things we eat. It's even healthier than many things we call food. In fact, a recent study concluded that kids who ate dirt were healthier than those who weren't allowed to eat dirt.* Soil is organic, meaning it contains living matter (or once-living matter). In the study, kids eating dirt developed stronger immune systems. While this makes sense, I think this study shows more than anything else just how bad our diets have become. But hey, look at me, I'm rambling. The point of this lesson isn't to discuss eating dirt. It's to discuss food. So let's get back on track.
We've briefly discussed food, so let's touch on water. It's the most important thing we consume, yet all that most of us think about it is whether or not it's polluted. We need to drink a lot of it, as it makes up around 70 percent of our body weight. But we also get water from things that aren't water, like foods, beer, wine, sodas, coffee, and tea, so it's hard to know how much we need. "They" ubiquitously tout that we need 6 to 8 glasses a day, but that varies depending on what we are doing and what else we've consumed. When we don't drink enough water we can become dehydrated, which is a serious condition in its latter stages, but even in its early stages, it inhibits bodily functions and can make us hungrier than we should be. We need to drink some amount of plain water because drinking our calories can become a dangerous habit, which we'll cover in depth at a later date.
Our society has become increasingly dependent on something else we consume: drugs. These also need to be considered as a part of our diets. Some drugs are helpful, some are necessary, and some can be lifesaving. But drugs alter our bodily processes and should only be taken when absolutely necessary. Ah, apparently the little butterfly hovering over Jack is arguing that drugs are good because they help us sleep, wake up, feel good all the time, and have fun. True, we like our drugs; I'm just saying that we should be careful about how we use them. It's possible we're not supposed to feel that good all of the time, but that should be discussed in sociology class. Here, we're only interested in how they affect your diet. And wake Jack up, would you? I don't think he needed your help after eating that Big Cheeseburger for lunch, which is the point I was trying to make in the first place.
I mentioned drugs because people often confuse them with supplements. This is probably because they both come in pill form. But they are very different. Supplements are technically called food supplements, meaning that they are made from food (or at least come from something that naturally occurs in food). Supplements are, essentially, condensed nutrients. So a supplement will only work in your body's natural pathways the same way foods work. The upside to this is that it means that supplements are very safe. The downside is that a supplement cannot work the same way as a drug, no matter what it claims.
Does that mean supplements are worthless? Not at all. By supplementing your diet with the proper nutrients, you can enhance your health. But there should always be some reason behind your supplement regimentation. A good example of this rationale is taking a vitamin supplement when you're dieting. Less calories means less nutrients, so adding basic nutrition in this case makes a lot of sense. There are many examples, which we'll cover later.
Then there's alcohol. Is alcohol a drug or is it a food? It's sort of both, so we'll look at it in depth later. Alcohol comes from a reaction of food when it's rotting. This natural process creates something that behaves as a drug. The difference between alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs is that alcohol has calories—a lot of them. And other than its drug effect, it has no nutrient value. So it's easy to see how it could interfere with you keeping your diet balanced (whatever that means—again, you'll learn it later). Alcohol often comes in food products, such as wine and beer, and food products do have a nutrient value. But because of its high caloric value and low nutrient value, the amount of alcohol in your diet should be limited.
I hope most of you know everything we've gone over today. With the obesity epidemic like it is, one can never be too sure of anything. We have become a nation of terrible eaters, and we're paying the price. To recap, everything we put in our mouths counts toward our diets, whether it's food, beer, mouthwash, a One A Day vitamin, Paxil, or a Twinkie. If we want to be healthy, most of what we consume should be water. Next should be foods that consist of mainly carbohydrates, proteins, and fats from as close to nature as we can get them. We should limit the number of calories that we drink. We should take supplements to make up for nutrient deficiencies, which can be caused by dieting, exercising, or eating bad foods. We should limit our drug intake, as these, too, are part of our diets. This is the "duh" stuff, which I hope you all understand. I know it's too basic to help you change your diet much, but trust me, we'll get there. Things should be more interesting as we build on this foundation.
There's the bell. That's all the time we have today. Next time, we'll get the 911 on how marketers can trick us into eating the wrong things.
Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Tuesday, February 17th, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!
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Test Your Valentine's Day IQ!By Joe Wilkes
- Who was the first to declare Valentine's Day an official holiday in 1537? It was that old romantic King Henry VIII. His motto was "Coeur Loyal," meaning "true heart." He had a heart and the word "loyal" sewn onto his clothes—ironic in light of his six marriages. But to this day nothing says "I love you" like a heart or "it's over" like a beheading.
- What was invented by NECCO in 1866? NECCO (New England Confectionary Company), maker of the delicious NECCO wafers, invented "Conversation Hearts" in 1866. With new sayings added every year, more than 8 billion are expected to be sold between January 1st and February 14th.
- The city of Verona receives 1,000 letters for whom every Valentine's Day? The lucky lady is Juliet, the star-crossed lover immortalized in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Undeterred by the fact that she is both dead and fictional, every year around 1,000 correspondents wish her many happy returns on the day.
- What product was introduced on Valentine's Day in 1929? Penicillin—discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and introduced to the public on Valentine's Day the following year (the same day as the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre). Maybe it's not the most romantic product, but it's one which has cleared up the side effects of many an unprotected encounter.
- Who sent the earliest known Valentine's Day card? Charles, the Duke of Orleans, sent his wife a love poem in 1415 while imprisoned in the Tower of London. The valentine is now in the British Museum.
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