Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition that can make it difficult for a person to achieve or maintain an erection. Following certain diets or eating specific foods may help contribute to successful treatment.

This article examines what foods people could include in their diet to help combat ED.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), ED affects roughly 30 million men in the United States. A person’s chance of developing this condition increases with aging and taking specific medications, including antidepressants and blood pressure drugs.

Smoking, being physically inactive, or having a health condition such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease, can also lead to erectile function problems.

In addition, one article notes that the main cause of ED is poor vascular function. As a result, the risk factors for ED are the same as those for cardiovascular disease.

A 2018 study with participants aged 18–40 years old found that those consuming a higher amount of flavones in their diet improved their ED.

Flavones are a sub-compound commonly found in fruits and vegetables. They are part of their parent compound, flavonoids, usually found in teas, fruits, and vegetables.

The concentration of flavones in specific foods, includes:

However, a food’s number of flavones displays in ranges. For example, bell peppers can have 0.1–12.9 milligrams of flavones per 100 grams of fresh weight. This may indicate that the source quality of fruits and vegetables has an effect on the number of flavones in the final product.

Berries

A 10-year prospective study of 25,096 middle-aged males indicated that those who consumed the most flavonoids had a 9–11% reduced incidence of ED when compared with those who consumed less.

The authors observed that the chance of ED reduced by up to 19% in those who ate the following five flavonoid-rich berries and other fruits:

Salmon

A 2016 study of rats looked at the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and ED. The study found that a higher intake of omega-3 helps lower physiological damage, which in turn may lower ED.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists cold-water salmon as one of the most fundamental foods for omega-3 intake. Farm-raised salmon may have slightly fewer nutrients as omega-3 comes from the algae, which is not common in fish farms. The levels of omega-3 in farmed salmon largely depend on what the fish eat.

For higher intakes of natural omega-3, individuals should consume more wild salmon from cold waters.

Olive oil

A 7-year study of clinical trials examining the relationship between Mediterranean diets and ED lists olive oil as a beneficial ingredient.

However, the study only examines virgin and extra virgin olive oil. This could be because any oil that goes through a refinement process changes its molecular structure.

The study looks at what refining does to food oils, including olive oil. It shows that it can destroy antioxidants and omega-3 anti-inflammatory properties. This also removes the properties that could benefit ED.

Individuals who want to incorporate oils in their diets for ED and other health benefits should consider unrefined and extra virgin olive oil.

Whole grains

A 2017 study also examined the effects of grains on ED.

The results conclude that a Mediterranean diet, which includes whole grains, is more beneficial to treating ED than a low fat diet.

This could mean that a healthy balanced diet that includes whole grains without potentially harmful additives such as pesticides, can benefit individuals with ED.

However, researchers should perform more studies to understand the overall health benefits of whole grains, particularly in comparison to keto or low carb lifestyles.

Nuts and legumes

A 2020 study found that eating nuts and legumes may help lower ED.

The Agriculture Research Service (ARS) states that legumes are the only natural food containing catechins and epicatechins — compounds that make up one subset of flavonoids, flavan-3-ol.

However, there are no studies that compare the differences in each type of nut or legume and its realistic effect on ED.

Herbs and spices

The ARS also lists herbs and spices that have high amounts of flavonoids.

These include:

Meats and poultry

A food component that could benefit ED is l-arginine — an amino acid found in protein-rich foods.

2017 research suggests that l-arginine levels are lower in males with ED. The body uses l-arginine to make nitric oxide. This is a molecule that widens and relaxes blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the penis.

Foods that are good sources of l-arginine include:

  • poultry
  • red meat
  • fish
  • nuts
  • dairy products

Learn more about foods that are high in l-arginine here.

Leafy greens

Nitrates are food compounds that can increase nitric oxide levels. Research suggests that they may also reduce blood pressure and inflammation.

Foods that contain high levels of nitrates include:

Tea and coffee

A 2020 study states that teas increase flavonoids as part of a healthy diet.

One 2018 study examining the impact of coffee on ED found that long-term coffee intake is not associated with the risk of ED. In fact, since coffee contains antioxidants, moderate levels may help build resistance to inflammation.

There are some foods that a person may wish to avoid when managing ED, including:

Sugar

According to Action on Sugar, regularly eating foods that include substances considered unhealthy or drinking beverages containing sugar can lead to weight gain and a high body mass index (BMI).

An older article notes that excessive body weight and an increase in BMI can lead to ED. The researchers state that in 2014, there were 8 million cases of ED that were related to diabetes and obesity.

High fat meals

People who have high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, obesity, and those who smoke may have an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis. This occurs due to plaque buildup in the inner lining of the arteries.

As a result, this reduces the oxygen supply and blood flow to the organs.

In addition, according to Wayne University School of Medicine, men who have clogged heart arteries may also experience issues in the arteries that supply blood to the penis.

Alcohol

Alcohol can also affect a person’s sexual health.

An older article found that 72% of men with alcohol dependence had one or more sexual health problems, such as premature ejaculation, low sexual desire, and ED.

Excessive alcohol consumption can also reduce blood flow to the penis, so individuals may not be able to achieve an erection.

Several options can help treat ED. These include:

Medications

According to the NIDDK, doctors can prescribe any of these drugs to help individuals maintain an erection:

  • Sildenafil (Viagra): MedlinePlus states that a person should take sildenafil an hour before engaging in sexual activity. They can take it with or without food, but the drug may take longer to work if people consume a high fat meal. Learn more about sildenafil here.
  • Tadalafil (Cialis): According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), Cialis can treat ED and symptoms of an enlarged prostate. A doctor may also prescribe it for people who have pulmonary hypertension in some cases. In addition, individuals can take tadalafil 30 minutes before having sex but should not take more than one pill in one day. The NHS explains that tadalafil may not be a good option for individuals who take nitrates, as these can lower their blood pressure when interacting with the ED drug. Learn more about tadalafil here.
  • Vardenafil (Levitra): This is a tablet that dissolves in the mouth, so people do not need to drink water to swallow it. Individuals can take it when required, but an hour before sexual intercourse. Also, MedlinePlus explains that a person should immediately place the tablet on their tongue after removing it from its blister pack. Learn more about vardenafil here.

Herbal products

There are also many herbal or all-natural products on the market.

However, individuals should be aware that these may be ineffective or even dangerous. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that its lab tests found over 300 of such products with undisclosed ingredients or excessively high dosages. The FDA warns that consumers are being misled by many of these all-natural brands and products.

Surgery

The NIDDK mentions two surgical procedures that urologists may recommend for people with ED:

  • Implantation: Doctors may also refer to these as prostheses. They may use inflatable implants, that can make the penis appear longer, or malleable implants. These are devices that allow individuals to adjust their penile position.
  • Reconstruction: This may be the best option for those under the age of 30. During this procedure, the doctor repairs the arteries preventing individuals from maintaining an erection.

Exercise

Exercise may help individuals manage ED symptoms.

In a 2018 article, researchers advise that a 160-minute weekly exercise over a 6-month period can help reduce erectile problems that occur with obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.

The article also mentions other interventions that can help improve erectile function. These include:

  • pelvic floor muscle training
  • quitting smoking, if a person smokes
  • following a healthy diet

Learn more about the natural and home remedies for ED here.

A person should contact a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms of ED:

  • they can get an erection sometimes, but not every time they want to have sex
  • they are not able to maintain an erection during intercourse
  • they are unable to get an erection at any time

A doctor is likely to ask the person about their medical and sexual history. They may also examine the person and perform some tests.

If the doctor diagnoses the person with ED, they can then recommend treatments. They may also advise certain lifestyle changes that research has shown to benefit sexual function. These may include the person doing more exercise, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and reaching a moderate weight.

Learn more about treatment options for erectile dysfunction here.

It is also important for individuals to consult a doctor to rule out any other potential health issues, such as cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure.

Here are some answers to common questions about ED:

Is there any food that works like Viagra?

Switching to a healthy balanced diet high in flavonoids may complement the treatment of long-term erectile dysfunction.

However, individuals should be aware that many potentially unsafe products claim to have the same effect as Viagra but with natural, herbal alternatives.

The FDA advises individuals should proceed with caution when exploring such products and ensure they are fully aware of the possible side effects.

What is the best fruit for erectile dysfunction?

Strawberries and other berries may best complement ED treatments, especially if free from harmful pesticides.

Other beneficial fruits include apples, pears, and citruses such as oranges and lemons.

What is the fastest way to cure erectile dysfunction?

The quickest way to treat erectile dysfunction will depend on many factors, including a person’s age and underlying medical conditions.

Alongside a doctor-recommended treatment plan, individuals may notice an improvement in their symptoms by maintaining a balanced diet and getting regular exercise and sleep.

Those with ED may find that eating certain foods and maintaining a healthy diet helps their symptoms if they are unable to take medication or find it ineffective.

However, a person should consult their doctor if they have symptoms of ED. The doctor may also want to discuss any potential coexisting health issues.

People should also check with their doctor before taking any supplements or increasing the intake of specific foods, especially if they take other forms of medication.