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These Foods Help Not Only Your Heart, But Also Your Sex Life

Motivating patients to change poor lifestyle habits can be extremely difficult. Preventing cardiovascular events such as heart attacks or strokes is a relatively distant benefit, whereas barbecued ribs, cheesecake, or sitting on our butts promises almost instant gratification. Public health experts are now hoping that prevention or improvement of erectile dysfunction could be a more immediate motivator that physicians can use to improve our patients’ lifestyles and in turn their overall cardiovascular health. That’s how doctors can save a life during a clinic visit for erectile dysfunction.

We used to think of erectile dysfunction in young men in their 20s and 30s as psychogenic in origin, meaning it’s all in their heads. But now we’re realizing it’s more likely an early sign of vascular disease. But even when the penis heads in the wrong direction, the heart need not follow. Atherosclerosis in both organs can be reversed with lifestyle changes. We know that a substantial body of knowledge demonstrates that the abundant consumption of vegetables, fruit, and whole grain, and the dietary patterns rich in these foods, convey a markedly lower risk of coronary disease. One group of researchers tried putting impotent men on a Mediterranean diet, which includes an abundance of plant-based foods. After two years on the Mediterranean diet, 37% of the men regained normal sexual function. What is it about the diet that appeared to do it? Improvements in erectile function were tied to 5 things: increased intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and, essentially, the ratio of plant fats to animal fats.

Similar benefits were found for women. The same kind of diet significantly improved sexual function, together with a significant reduction of systemic inflammation. As a whole, these findings suggest that a Mediterranean-style diet may be a safe strategy for amelioration of sexual function in women with pre-diabetes or diabetes, who found significant improvement in sexual satisfaction on the healthier diet. For more on preventing sexual dysfunction in women in the first place see Cholesterol and Female Sexual Dysfunction. The improvement in sexual functioning is thought to be because of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits of plant-based diet.

The above video is the second of a 3-part series on sexual health. If you missed the other two, check out Survival of the Firmest: Erectile Dysfunction and Death and Pistachio Nuts for Erectile Dysfunction.

Other benefits of fiber may include improved bowel function (Bristol Stool Scale) and frequency (Prunes vs. Metamucil vs. Vegan Diet), lower colorectal cancer risk (Stool Size Matters), lower breast cancer risk (Relieving Yourself of Excess Estrogen and Fiber vs. Breast Cancer), lower blood pressure (Whole Grains May Work as Well as Drugs), lower blood cholesterol (How Fiber Lowers Cholesterol), weight loss (Beans and the Second Meal Effect) and a longer lifespan (What Women Should Eat to Live Longer).

A similar Mediterranean diet failed to help fibromyalgia in the short term (see Fibromyalgia vs. Mostly Raw & Mostly Vegetarian Diets), but diets that were even more plant-based were found to be beneficial: Fibromyalgia vs. Vegetarian & Raw Vegan Diets.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Male Fertility and Diet
Poultry and Penile Cancer
Less Cancer in Vegan Men Despite More Testosterone

Read more: Health, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Heart & Vascular Disease, Men's Health, Sexual Health, Videos, Women's Health, , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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9:17AM PST on Feb 17, 2014

this is a good read, and i know a few men my age that are experiencing this and refuse to talk about it. ive always thought it had to do with their diets.

10:29AM PST on Jan 1, 2014


7:45PM PST on Dec 22, 2013


11:41PM PST on Dec 21, 2013

Keep it coming! Good information!

5:52PM PST on Dec 21, 2013


5:52PM PST on Dec 21, 2013


9:24PM PST on Dec 15, 2013

I like your articles by and large Dr. Greger, except the less than subtle skewing of the studies presented,to the vegan lifestyle.

The Mediterranean Diet is successful for the same reasons the Okinawan Diet, Icelandic Diets. They are primarily fresh vegetable AND seafood based.

6:51AM PST on Dec 13, 2013


3:14AM PST on Dec 13, 2013

Well said, John!

1:09AM PST on Dec 13, 2013

Interesting , thanks

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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