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Valentine's Day lends itself to culinary sorcery.
Garlic is said to stimulate desire in men and increase their sexual potency. Honey is said to improve the feminine libido. Chiles are said to get the blood pumping and chocolate to stimulate the pleasure center of the brain.
These are just a few of the foods that couples for centuries have turned to for passion.
But can food really act as an aphrodisiac?
The science remains suspect, but that matters little on the holiday of love.
"There are chemical compounds in foods that are believed to enhance the mood for love, and whether they do or not, people turn to these foods every February. It's a Valentine tradition," said James Porter, who, as chef-owner of Petite Maison in Scottsdale, created a multicourse, aphrodisiac holiday meal.
"The moral of the story is that the better you eat, the better the sex."
Other foods are credited with aphrodisiac powers based on their phallic looks: the banana and asparagus.
According to Susan Benjamin, West Virginia-based author of "Flash" and expert on aphrodisiac foods, their powers are a combination of looks, chemistry and psychology. If you believe something to be an aphrodisiac, it might just turn out to be true.
"There has been sexual connotations to foods and flavorings from the beginning of time," she said.
The great Aztec leader Montezuma is credited with first mixing chile and honey in his hot chocolate. Along with its aphrodisiac qualities, the Aztecs believed this "warm liquid" bestowed them with godly wisdom.
Giacomo Casanova, the 18th-century Venetian, reportedly ate dozens of oysters at a time to stir arousal before his legendary trysts.
So, forget the roses and candles. What your partner really wants is chocolates and caviar.
"Aphrodisiac foods are really incredible, so even if you don't get love, you enjoy a great meal," Porter said.
Spice up your Valentine's Day
These foods are filled with the flavors, looks and legends of love:
Hot chiles: Capsaicin, a chemical found in fiery peppers, increases circulation to get blood pumping and stimulates nerve endings associated with feeling in the mood.
Chocolate: The king of natural aphrodisiacs contains a host of feel-good chemicals that release dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain. The chemicals are said to induce feelings of excitement, attraction and euphoria.
Figs: This image of this fruit as sexy can be traced to Biblical times. Adam and Eve wore fig leaves to cover their private parts. The ancient Greeks held them as sacred and associated them with love and fertility.
Truffles: Its rarity and musky aroma has long been credited with arousing the palate and the body. An ancient lover in lore was said to have gorged himself to death on Alba truffles during the wedding feast.
Vanilla: The scent and flavor of vanilla is believed to increase lust. The scent of vanilla also is recognized by the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls memory and emotion.
Oysters: Probably the most famous food aphrodisiac, they are high in zinc, a necessary component for sperm production, and in chemicals that affect the libido and stirs up desire.
Honey: This natural product of "birds and bees" makes up the first part of honeymoon. In ancient Egypt, newlyweds were encouraged to consummate their marriage after the ritual drinking of honey and water.
Basil: This herb is said to stimulate the sex drive and boost fertility. It is also said to produce a general sense of well-being for body and mind.
Avocado: The Aztecs called the avocado "testicle tree" because they believed the fruit hanging in pairs on the tree resembled testicles. The Catholic priests in Spain found this fruit so obscenely sexual that they forbade it.
Its reputation as an aphrodisiac is due to its luxury status and association with fertility. It is an egg. This indulgent food also has high zinc content, which is essential for blood flow and sperm production.
The Republic | azcentral.com