Are oysters really an aphrodisiac?

Now we know: Answering the foodie questions you didn’t even know you had

Are oysters, or any other food for that matter, actually an aphrodisiac? According to an article by Alicia Ault writing for Smithsonian (smithsonianmag.com) last year, the scientific jury is out. "For eons, men and women have searched for plants or foods that could turn on desire," writes Ault. "And, to date, nothing has been scientifically proven to be an aphrodisiac." Though oysters' association with love goes back to the days of Casanova and The Roman Empire, Ault's article points out that their aphrodisiac qualities may be little more than a purely placebo effect.

So how has food become connected with a healthy sexual appetite? I got in touch with sex therapist and psychotherapist Teresa Bergin (www.sextherapy.ie) to see if her professional opinion put any weight on food as fuel for a good time in the bedroom (or any other room for that matter.) "There is a really strong similarity between eating and sex," explains Bergin. "Both are sensual experiences. "We can use our five senses in both situations; vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste.

“Rather than focusing on a particular item of food,” she adds, “cooking together and eating together is probably the best aphrodisiac. It’s more about enjoying that experience together – turning off your phones, the TV and all other devices, and really paying attention to each other. That would really set the scene for a sexual experience later on in the evening.” Whether it’s going out for a nice meal or cooking together at home, sharing a meal together is a good time to connect, Bergin explains.

So it turns out that love isn’t necessarily in the air just because of the ingredients on the table; it’s more about the occasion. Whether you’re eating oysters or sharing a slice of toast, hopefully this Valentine’s Day will give you and your loved one a chance to connect over a dinner table. And if you don’t have a partner, treat yourself to a half dozen oysters and relish in the fact that you’re not missing out on a thing.

Have a food question you need answered? Contact @aoifemcelwain on Twitter or by email atmagazine@irishtimes.com with “Now we know” in the subject line

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