One rumor that I heard recently is that a vegetarian diet improves your sexual performance…so naturally, I had to look into this claim further.
It appears that some of this talk was sparked by PETA’s provocative ad campaigns over the last few years, which claim, among other things, that vegans and vegetarians have better sex. This has prompted many other popular publications, such as Men’s Health, to “investigate” the claims about improved sex drive.
Spoiler Alert: There’s not much evidence to directly link a vegetarian/vegan diet to being better in bed.
Through investigating these claims, I came up with three main findings.
First, many articles like to hide behind the elusive claims of non-cited “researchers.” Second, there is very little research being published on diet and how it relates to sexual performance. If there is research being done it tends to relate to males and sperm motility rather than females (which goes in line with the gender and sexual discrimination our society is still fighting against).
Third, it isn’t a vegetarian diet, necessarily, but rather a heart-healthy lifestyle filled with vegetables and fruits that links to improved sexual performance.
1) The first two findings, don’t relate as much to the gist of this article, but are comments that I believe merit mentioning. For the first finding, I won’t say much other than providing this advice: try to be an inquisitive and informed reader. It’s disappointing to repeatedly read the words, “studies show,” or “according to this Journal,” only to find no link, no specific cited study, or no such evidence in the scientific world.
There may be no ill-intent by those writers but without sources, the information effectively is hear-say.
2) For the second finding, that very little research is being done in this area, it is time that our culture starts to look into issues related to sex from more than just a male perspective.
Sperm motility is not the only way to measure changes in sexual fertility or libido and the historically agent-male identity should not be the standard of measure. Until more research is done in this area from many sides, advertisers and individuals will continue to make unsubstantiated claims, knowing they won’t be investigated.
3) But the third finding, of healthy lifestyles relating to sexual performance, is where there is actually (maybe) some substance. Are vegetarians and vegans completely off-base by claiming that sex can be improved through vegetarianism? No. But the reason isn’t directly because of what they don’t eat. Rather, it’s about what they do eat and the lifestyles they tend to lead.
With most of the research out there being male-centric, unfortunately we start with a study that measured sperm viability and motility in regards to Vitamin C supplementation. The study had an extremely small sample size of only 13 subjects.
Though this study had major limitations with that sample size, there was an extremely significant finding that Vitamin C supplementation dramatically increased sperm viability and motility in men who were previously found to be infertile. This is in line with other scientific theories on Vitamin C.
So, if one were to extrapolate that to eating foods high in Vitamin C, you could improve your sexual reproductive capabilities as a male through eating more fruits and vegetables. 
When it comes to sexual arousal and stamina, it’s all about blood flow.
Therefore foods that facilitate blood flow and vascular relaxation could lead to better sex.
And this could be found with foods rich in one amino acid: L-arginine.
L-Arginine is a precursor that sets into motion nitric oxide synthesis, which promotes vascular relaxation. Foods such as oats and other whole grains, tend to be high in L-arginine. Still, there have not been many studies done directly relating to L-arginine to sexual arousal. Nor have there been studies directly measuring whole grain consumption and sexual performance.
There is a study showing that people with hypertension, though, tend to have less availability of L-arginine in their system, thereby leading to less nitric oxide production.  The factor of hypertension decreasing potential sexual ability adds another variable, heart health, to the mix.
A strong volume of research is out there on the effects cardiovascular disease can have on sexual activity . As mentioned above, it’s all about blood flow. If you don’t take care of your heart and cardiovascular system, you may end up being more disappointing (and disappointed) in bed.
And this is the key when it comes to dietary claims about sexual performance. Vegans and vegetarians tend to have better heart health, not only from avoiding meat and dairy (processed as we do here in the US), but, more significantly by consuming more fruits and vegetables high in vitamins and antioxidants.
One can consume meat and still take care of their heart given that they do so mindfully and take other measures to live healthy (eat fruit, exercise, etc.). It’s not the act of being vegan or vegetarian, it’s the act of taking care of your heart through being mindful of what you put in your body.
In summary, none of these studies directly suggests that a vegetarian or vegan diet is the key to sexual prowess. What studies do hint at though, if you squint your eyes and look really closely, is that a heart-healthy lifestyle should lead to better blood flow, better stamina, and maybe improved fertility. With that said, it is important to acknowledge that a lot of this is conjecture as little research is out there directly linking diet to sexual activity.
What about all those “superfoods” that are supposed to heighten sexual desire, fertility, and performance?
Chia seeds and maca powder are two of the most common ones. While many individuals report benefits from taking these, again, very little research has been done to explore them. Chia seeds are high in zinc, which has been linked to increasing male fertility. Maca powder is a Peruvian root said to increase mental clarity and improve libido.
But as with other such substances, any claims made by advertisers in the US do not have to be FDA approved. Most of the studies done with these substances are in animal models. Yes, the libido of male rats (again, males) tends to improve with these substances . But little to no studies have measured the impact in humans.
On the other hand, if we’re looking at animal models, you may as well go to a classic drosophila model too. And there we can find studies like this one linking high protein diets to increased fertility .
I’m not saying they don’t work, I’m just saying we don’t have much scientific evidence that they do. And if we’re going to use animal models to advocate for supplements and veganism, don’t ignore the other animal studies being done that show differing sexual enhancers, such as high protein consumption.
The moral of the story ends up the same. Live a healthy lifestyle and be mindful of eating a balanced, heart-healthy diet.