Studies show that there is a direct link between what men consume and the chances of developing erectile dysfunction.
And if that isn’t a compelling enough argument - it’s worth considering also that a consistently bad diet will vastly increase the chances of developing a number of other, more serious health conditions.
Generally speaking, the longer a bad diet is sustained over someone’s life, the shorter their ‘healthy life expectancy’ becomes. Eating well is essential, for erectile dysfunction and much more beyond it.
What can a bad diet do and lead to?
But what does that have to do with erectile dysfunction? Well, it’s important to be aware that, while erectile dysfunction can be a condition in itself, it is far more commonly the symptom of another condition.
This can include conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which make up for just shy of 75% of all physical causes of erectile dysfunction.
Take diabetes, for example. Over 90% of people diagnosed with diabetes will have Type 2 diabetes, which can often be the consequence of poor lifestyle habits - of which poor diet is a leading contributor.
This demonstrates that a poor diet can lead to conditions which make erectile dysfunction much more likely.
However, a poor diet can lead to a plethora of other health conditions also - some of which have no links with erectile dysfunction, but are still very harmful.
What makes a good diet?
The importance of maintaining a well-balanced, vitamin and nutrient-rich diet cannot be understated. But what should eating well actually look like?
Variation and consistency make a good diet. It’s often hard to visualise how much of which types of foods we should be eating, so here’s a breakdown:
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables should comprise around 35% of what you eat on a daily basis.
Following the 5-a-day rule is a good way to help you reach this. 80g of one type of fruit or vegetable counts as 1 of your 5 a day. This can include canned, frozen and fresh food.
Smoothies can only ever count as one, regardless of how many fruits or vegetables are inside, because they’re often high in sugar. Potatoes do not count: they’re classed as a carbohydrate because they’re high in starch.
Fruit and vegetables are one of the best sources of essential vitamins and nutrients. But some fruits and vegetables contain different types of vitamins and nutrients, which is why variation is important.
These foods should make up for an equal proportion of your daily diet as fruit and vegetables. This group is where potatoes can count, but also bread, pasta, rice and other starchy carbs.
Wherever possible, opt for carbohydrates which are wholegrain and as high in fibre as possible.
High protein foods
This food group needs to comprise around 17% of our daily dietary intake. It can include foods such as beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins. Try to incorporate a majority of beans and pulses over meat, consume leaner cuts of meat and limit red meat wherever possible. Avoid processed meat like sausages and bacon, or keep your intake of these foods to a minimum.
Milk, dairy and dairy alternatives
This group should count for roughly 10% of our daily food consumption. Milk, cheese and yoghurt are excellent sources of calcium, protein and a range of other nutrients also.
Where possible, opt for reduced fat and sugar options.
Oils and spreads
This group is by far the least important, and should make up for around three percent of our daily consumption.
Opt for healthier fats which aren’t saturated. This can include vegetable and rapeseed oil. Low-fat butter counts also.
Chocolate, crisps and cake?
If you’re good with maths you’ll have figured out that the previous five food-groups have already added up to 100% of your dietary intake.
Unfortunately, it isn’t a mistake. Confectionery, crisps and cake are of no nutritional benefit. Our bodies do not require them, so they’re essentially ‘empty calories’. While it’s nice to enjoy the odd treat occasionally, it’s better to try to limit your consumption of these foods.
Foods specifically good for ED problems
While consuming a fair and balanced diet will be of added benefit to the whole body, as well as for erection problems, there are said to be particular types of food that are of specific benefit to erectile dysfunction.
Some foods are good are certain things, like improving circulation and so by default may help with ED. Some of these foods are to said to include, but are not limited to:
Leafy greens like kale and spinach
Leafy greens are said to be good for ED because they contain nitrates, which can also be found in high amounts in beets.
Nitrates contain molecules which help oxygen move around the body more efficiently in the bloodstream, meaning overall circulation is improved. In turn, this can be good for ED problems where blood flow is thought to be a physical cause.
Certain herbs and spices
Lots of herbs and spices are said to be good for ED problems, this can include cumin, cinnamon, ginger, parsley and ground pepper.
Some of these foods can act as sexual stimulants and even aphrodisiacs, but are also said to help the bloodstream flow more efficiently.
Most people wouldn’t immediately associate chocolate with good health, and with good reason. Chocolate is often high in sugar and calories. However, dark chocolate tends to taste richer and some may find it easier to eat only a small amount of dark chocolate where they might eat a higher quantity of milk chocolate.
Dark chocolate consumed in strict moderation, and as part of a broader, balanced diet, is supposedly of benefit for erection problems because it contains antioxidants called flavonoids, which may help with circulation and blood flow.
Zinc in oysters
Zinc is a mineral which can help to boost immune health and metabolic function. It’s also said to increase the functionality of certain senses, like taste and smell. This can be good for sexual stimulation.
In terms of ED, zinc can help the body to produce important ‘sex’ hormones, and there is new evidence, still yet to be fully explored, which shows it may be of direct benefit in terms of male impotency.
A good diet doesn’t just mean food
When we think of ‘diet’, it’s easy to forget this means our fluid intake as well as food. Choosing the right things to drink is important when it comes to a balanced diet.
The first thing to remember is to drink plenty of water. Mineral or regular tap water doesn’t contain any calories - so we can consume as much as we like.
Unsweetened tea and coffee without sugar count toward our recommended fluid intake too, though it’s important to consume only a healthy amount of caffeine.
Try to avoid fizzy drinks which are high in sugar wherever possible. As a minimum, aim to consume six to eight glasses of fluid per day. Doing this will be of benefit to your body overall, this includes erectile dysfunction.
It’s important to remember that the more alcohol we consume, the more likely we are to develop a number of health conditions - ED included. Stick to the low risk alcohol guidelines of no more than 14 alcohol units per week, spread out across the week with breaks in between.
Where lifestyle changes such as those just mentioned have not proved successful, some men may try a number of natural or remedies for ED.
If I eat well, does that mean I’ll never get ED?
Erectile dysfunction is a more complex condition than some people think. Erections are dependent on hormones, circulation, the brain, muscles and nerves all working together.
Sometimes, we can do everything within our ability to live healthy lives and still develop certain health conditions. This can sometimes just come down to a combination of genetics and luck.
However, the overwhelming evidence supports the notion that maintaining a healthy lifestyle will drastically reduce the chances of developing any serious health conditions, which can include ED, or of which ED can be a significant symptom.
If you develop erectile dysfunction, one of the first things a doctor will look at is your lifestyle choices. So if you develop ED, and there seems to be no apparent cause, save yourself the appointment and try to confront any negative lifestyle choices first.
If your ED persists after you’ve chosen to address any potential lifestyle causes, then it’s certainly recommended to see a doctor. You can consult with a GMC-registered doctor or GPhC-registered prescriber using our friendly and convenient online video consultation service, Treated/Live.