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By Nutrition Team


Wednesday, July 02, 2008.


Love has not always been associated with mushy cards, cuddly toys or helium filled balloons. The cheesy element aside, it has been intimately associated with food for centuries. Montezuma drank 50 cups of chocolate every day to boost his virility before visiting his harem of 600 women.


Casanova swore by oysters, along with Champagne and chocolate, and managed to seduce a nun or two using this particular combination. Nineteenth century bride-grooms were given not one, not two, but three courses of asparagus on their wedding day due to its aphrodisiac properties. Here are some of our favourite foods historically considered to have aphrodisiac powers:


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· Caviar: it’s high in zinc, which stimulates the formation of testosterone and also appears to have qualities that promote nerve cell activity, which can heighten our romantic feelings. It’s powers are enhanced when taken with vodka apparently.


· Truffles: these contain a chemical that is similar to the male pig sex hormone. This is why sows are used to search them out. The chemical in truffles is also similar to a human male sex hormone, which gives truffles their romantic reputation.


· Chocolate: this traditional food of love contains a mild central nervous system stimulant that helps heighten mood, as well as a sedative which relaxes and lowers inhibitions. Chocolate was actually banned from some monasteries centuries ago.


· Asparagus: according to a 17th -century herbalist, asparagus 'stirs up lust in man and woman.'


· Coffee: coffee drinkers are reportedly more sexually active than non-coffee drinkers. Perhaps because they stay awake longer at night?


· Radishes: celebrated as aphrodisiacs by the ancient Egyptians, probably because of their spicy flavour.

· Garlic: the heat in garlic supposedly fires the flames of passion…


· Banana: some studies show its enzyme bromelain enhances male performance.


· Alcohol: in moderate quantities it lowers inhibitions and increases confidence; however too much will have you snoozing instead of schmoozing.


· Champagne: the lovers’ tipple, a glass or two will lower inhibitions and cause a warm glow in the body; too much could burst your bubble.


· Figs: these exotic delicacies were celebrated by ancient Greeks


· Scents and smells: a recent survey in America showed that the smell of pumpkin pie was the most sexually stimulating aroma in younger men and that vanilla had the same effect in older men. Whatever that means in terms of our men-folk here, the smells of natural foodstuffs such as almond, vanilla and other herbs and spices can act as a pheromone to communicate emotions by smell.


· Oysters: some oysters repeatedly change their sex from male to female and back, giving rise to claims that the oyster lets one experience both the masculine and feminine sides of love.


· Tomatoes: called "love apples" in the Renaissance – enough said!


· Spam: my favourite, allegedly relished by post-WWII Italians (yikes!).

We don’t expect you to eat three courses of asparagus this Valentine’s day (!) but we have put together a menu for two based on some of the aphrodisiac foods that might be handy. We’ve even worked out the calories, fat and Units, so enjoy!


Romantic night in - menu


Oysters Rockerfella

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Grill 2 rashers of trimmed bacon, cut into small pieces and set aside. Meantime, clean 8 unopened, fresh, live oysters and place in a large pan. Pour in enough water to cover oysters and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, drain and allow oysters to cool. Once cool, break the top shell off of each oyster.


Using a food processor, chop 1/2 cup cooked spinach, 2 tbs breadcrumbs, 1 tbs spring onions, the cooked bacon and 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley. Add a pinch of salt, a dash of hot pepper sauce and 2 tsp olive oil and process briefly until finely chopped but not pureed.


Place the oysters on a baking tray and spoon the spinach mixture into each oyster. Bake for 10 minutes until cooked through and then grill until browned on top. Serve hot.

Nutritional information: 2.5 units, 195 calories and 8g fat.


Chilli stuffed tomatoes


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Boil 2 oz uncooked brown rice according to the package instructions, omitting any added fat or salt.


In a large pan, brown 2 oz minced steak without adding any fat. Add ½ a small onion, chopped, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, 4 chopped button mushrooms and ½ a green pepper, chopped, and cook the vegetables in the juices of the meat. Crumble in ½ a beef stock cube and add 1 tsp chilli powder, a pinch of ground ginger, and ½ tsp cocoa powder. Add a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes and 1 tsp tomato puree, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and add the cooked rice. Cook for a further 5 minutes on a low heat.


Cut the tops off 4 large beef tomatoes and scoop out in insides. Divide the chilli mixture evenly between the four tomatoes and top 1oz grated low fat cheddar cheese and replace the lids. Bake for 20 minutes


Serve with a salad of mixed salad leaves, radish, grated carrot and cucumber with any low fat salad dressing.

Nutritional information: 4 units, 350 calories and 10g fat.


Banana, Fig and Almond Crumble


Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. In a small oven proof dish place 2 chopped bananas and 2 dried figs, chopped. In a mixing bowl, mix 1 tbs each of plain flour, wholemeal flour and porridge oats and 2 tsp brown sugar. Add 1oz of marzipan and ¼ tsp vanilla essence and rub the marzipan through the mixture with the tips of the fingers as if making pastry. Pour the crumb mixture over the bananas and figs and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.


Nutritional information: 3 units, 290 calories and 3g fat.


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