Quinn on Nutrition: The ingredients of love

February 16, 2015

Love is in the air this week. Hint, hint…you may still have time to get your sweetie a Valentine. I happened to read—not from a scientific journal—that we consider chocolate, oysters, strawberries, and whipped cream to be the top most romantic foods. Why? I decided to investigate.

Chocolate is "the most commonly craved food in North America, especially among 16- to 19-year-olds and women between 40 to 49 years of age."  That is according to a review on this very important topic that appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Apparently, say neuroscientists, when we eat chocolate, we feel the same drug-like effects we experience when we are head over heels in love. Two of chocolate’s main attractions are caffeine and theobromine, stimulants that produce feelings described by some as "internal bliss." Another compound is phenylethylamine, which has a chemical structure similar to amphetamine, a stimulant that transmits messages of well-being to our brains. 

Oysters became famous for their aphrodisiac qualities since word got out that Casanova, the 18th-century lover, ate 50 raw oysters for breakfast to increase his romantic prowess. Scientists have generally disregarded this claim…until recently. 

In 2005, a team of American and Italian (of course) scientists teamed up to study the validity of oysters in the field of romance. They conducted their research on mice, not men. But sure enough, they found that oysters, especially raw oysters, contain two amino acids, D-aspartic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartate, that are involved in the production of sex hormones. When injected into male rodents, these substances did indeed seem to cause these mice to be more frisky. Interesting, too — when we consider the seasons of romance — oysters contain the highest concentrations of these amino acids in the spring. Another study on rats in 2013 found that oysters did indeed possess "potential aphrodisiac properties."

Nutritionally, these mollusks are rich in protein and iron. And they contain high levels of zinc, a mineral essential for the development of the reproductive system.

Strawberries. They are red, and they are shaped like cute little hearts. In ancient days, strawberries were said to symbolize Venus, the goddess of love. As far back as 234 B.C. strawberries grew wild in Italy (of course). And they are brimming with nutrition. Ounce for ounce, they contain more vitamin C than oranges and are a good source of dietary fiber. One cup of sliced fresh strawberries contains just 50 calories.

Romantic legends surround the sweet strawberry, according to the University of Illinois Extension Service. For example, if you find a double strawberry, break it in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex. You will surely fall in love with each other. Dip it in chocolate or whipped cream and who knows what might happen?

Whipped Cream. I’m not touching this one. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day.




McClatchy-Tribune Information Services