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What Foods Help You Get Hard: 8 Foods For Erectile Dysfunction

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown, MD

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 02/02/2021

Updated 05/30/2024

Whether we’re craving salt, sugar, a cold beer or a perfectly cooked steak, every guy knows how to satisfy his own cravings. But if you’re having some problems in the bedroom, you might want to satisfy some nutritional cravings.

Making changes to your habits, lifestyle, and diet can improve your sexual performance and make it easier to get and keep an erection

Some foods might even help you manage erectile dysfunction by improving your cardiovascular health, increasing blood flow, and supporting your body’s production of essential hormones. 

Below, we’ve outlined how foods help, which foods to eat, and some ways to address ED once you’re done eating.

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Eating a nutritious diet is important for overall health, so it could be one of the many treatment options you employ to deal with the causes of ED. However, there’s some important context to add here.

If you have mild to moderate ED, making changes to your diet and lifestyle can be an essential part of making it easier for you to get an erection.

But dietary changes won’t help everyone. If you have severe or persistent ED, it’s best to think of diet as one aspect of managing your condition, along with medication and other treatments.

In addition, risk factors for ED, such as high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar, may need more than more fruits and vegetables. But those fruits and vegetables could still be helpful.

Either way, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider to discuss the best holistic plan to address your ED.

In some cases, you need to shift your diet long-term to see a potential benefit  you can’t just eat a food and expect it to correct your ED an hour later. In other cases, diet may only help if you have an actual vitamin or mineral deficiency that contributes to your ED, which is rare.

We’ve talked more about the other options, including medications for ED, in our full guide to erectile dysfunction symptoms, causes, and treatments.

The following foods might be helpful because they contribute to cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol levels, or contain supplies of the critical building blocks our bodies need to produce a healthy erection. Some may help with blood flow, while others may support testosterone production.

Health professionals say that the following foods could improve your erection:

  • Spinach, lettuce, and other nitrate-rich leafy-green vegetables

  • Oysters and other shellfish

  • Proteins like meat, dairy, and nuts

  • Cocoa, chocolate, and other flavonoids

  • Tomatoes, watermelon, and other sources of lycopene

  • Avocados

  • Coffee

  • The foods of the Mediterranean diet

Now, let’s look at why these foods are what your erection might be craving.

Spinach, Lettuce, & Other Nitrate-Rich Vegetables

Popeye knew that spinach could help him build muscle, but we can't say for sure whether he knew that it could also help his sexual health.

Spinach, lettuce, and similar vegetables are rich in nitrates, natural chemical compounds that have a vasodilating effect.

Nitrates affect the nitrate‐nitrite‐nitric oxide pathway, in which nitrates are recycled in blood and tissue to produce nitric oxide — an important molecule for vascular health and blood flow.

Most vegetables, especially the green leafy ones, contain nitrates. Research published in PLOS shows that green, leafy vegetables such as parsley, spinach, and beet leaves tend to have the highest concentration of nitrates, while root vegetables and fruiting vegetables (like bell peppers) contain lower amounts.

These leafy greens are also high in folic acid, which is important because folic acid deficiency may be associated with ED severity.

Oysters & Other Shellfish

Scientists consider oysters an aphrodisiac because they're rich in zinc, an essential mineral linked to testosterone levels.

As the primary male sex hormone, testosterone plays a key role in your sexual functioning. If your testosterone levels are low, you may feel less interested in sex and experience issues like erectile dysfunction.

Zinc supplementation may play a role in increasing testosterone levels in men who are deficient in this mineral. That means that if a zinc deficiency is hindering your testosterone production, adding more to your diet may help you get hard.

Zinc is found in a wide variety of foods, including:

  • Crab

  • Lobster

  • Beef

  • Pork

  • Beans

  • Chicken

  • Fortified breakfast cereals

  • Chickpeas

  • Pumpkin seeds

Zinc is also commonly available as a supplement. Oysters just contain the highest levels of zinc of any common food by far.

Proteins Like Meat, Dairy, and Nuts

Protein will help you get “swole,” but it’s also a source of L-arginine — a common amino acid that may help your penis get swole too.

L-arginine is used to create nitric oxide, and we already mentioned how that’s important. However, research has noted that men with ED often have low levels of L-arginine, too.

A 2003 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that a combination of L-arginine and pycnogenol (a type of bark from the Pinus pinaster tree) helped men affected by ED regain normal sexual performance over several months.

L-arginine is found in:

  • Red meat

  • Poultry like chicken or turkey

  • Seafood like salmon (which gets bonus points for its omega-3 fatty acids)

  • Dairy like milk or cottage cheese

  • Nuts like pistachios, almonds, and walnuts

  • Protein powders and other supplements for athletic performance and general well-being

Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Nuts & Other Flavonoid-Rich Foods

Most of us view chocolate as a treat, but dark chocolate may offer benefits for sexual health. It contains a compound called flavonoid, a naturally occurring plant chemical with antioxidant effects.

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a higher intake of foods rich in flavonoids is associated with a reduced risk of developing erectile dysfunction.

Flavonoids are found in many common foods, including:

  • Nuts

  • Tea and tea leaves

  • Cocoa

  • Dark chocolate

  • Whole grains like oats

  • Fruits like oranges, blueberries, apples, and peaches

  • Vegetables like carrots and chili peppers

  • Red wine

While eating chocolate in excess isn’t a good idea if you’re trying to keep weight off, eating one or two small pieces of dark chocolate each day is unlikely to hurt — and it might help you maintain healthy blood flow for erections.

Tomatoes, Watermelon, & Other Lycopene-Rich Fruits

Tomatoes, watermelon, guavas, papaya, and other fruits are all great sources of lycopene — an important plant-based nutrient with antioxidant properties. 

Lycopene is also associated with improved general vascular function.

While very little research is available on the potential effects of lycopene on sexual performance in humans, some animal research has found that lycopene may play a role in improving erectile health.

One 2012 study found that lycopene restored erectile function in male rats with diabetes and ED, and another animal study found that lycopene may benefit cardiovascular health — an essential component of erectile function.

Full disclosure: animal studies don’t always translate to humans. But the big picture is that many fruits and vegetables are rich in various nutrients and compounds that may help with ED.

Watermelon, for example, contains the amino acid L-citrulline, which is linked to a variety of vascular health benefits.

In a 2017 scientific review, researchers found that L-citrulline supplementation may increase nitric oxide levels, reduce blood pressure, and improve flow to blood vessels.

Learn more about fruits with potential benefits in our blogs on the surprising sexual benefits of mangos and the sexual benefits of pineapple.


They may prevent you from achieving home ownership, but avocados are rich in dietary fiber and healthy fats that can contribute to better cardiovascular health and blood flow.

There’s no direct scientific research on avocados and erectile dysfunction, but avocados have health effects that could be building blocks of improved sexual wellness.

Consider the cholesterol question. Research found that avocados may help lower low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, which can clog arteries and affect blood flow.

Avocados also contain a bit of zinc (remember, zinc deficiency is associated with ED severity) and small amounts of vitamin E and selenium, which are linked to improvements in sperm motility, semen quality, and male fertility.

Curious to know more about the sexual benefits of avocados? Check out our guide for more information about this superfood.


Coffee may wake up more than your mind in the morning.

A study published in PLOS One in 2015 analyzed the relationship between coffee drinking and erectile dysfunction by surveying 3,724 men aged 20 and above about their eating and drinking habits and erectile health.

The study found that men who consumed the least caffeine were more likely to report ED than men who consumed the equivalent of two to three cups of coffee per day.

That said, a different study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2018 found no difference in ED risk between men who consumed the most coffee (four or more cups per day) and the least (zero cups per day).

The Mediterranean Diet

It’s not one specific food, but hear us out. 

The Mediterranean diet consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. It uses olive oil as its source of fat and includes protein sources such as fish, poultry, dairy products, and eggs in low to moderate amounts. 

In other words, it combines a lot of the stuff we’ve already mentioned plus much more.

A 2017 review in the Central European Journal of Urology found that adhering to a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing ED, specifically by improving metabolism, increasing antioxidants, and raising erection-promoting arginine levels.

The Mediterranean diet also emphasizes limiting simple sugars, salt, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and heavily processed or fatty meats — which you should moderate for your well-being anyway.

And it includes ingredients like turmeric, olive oil, and lemon juice, which might also benefit your general well-being.

So, maybe whip up a little salmon and a fresh salad dressing to go along with those oysters? It’s your kitchen, not ours, but by now, you should understand the best choices.

Choose your chew

A pattern of unhealthy eating can contribute to various circulatory and metabolic syndromes that may lead to erectile dysfunction.

For your health, you should avoid, limit or moderate saturated fats, sugar, alcohol, and a few other things.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats, such as lard, dairy, and other animal-based products, are solid at room temperature. 

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, excessive consumption of saturated animal fats and trans fats can negatively impact your heart by leading to higher levels of “bad” (artery-clogging) cholesterol in the blood and contributing to atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty deposits accumulate along artery walls, causing the arteries to narrow and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

If your arteries are clogged, reduced circulation could affect not only your heart but also your ability to achieve and maintain an erection.

You should also avoid fatty foods when taking Viagra, but that’s another story.


Sorry to tell you this, but a sweet tooth can eventually lead to ED. According to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), over-consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and other sugary foods is linked to weight gain and increased body mass index.

Obesity is directly linked to erectile issues, which makes sugar an indirect contributing factor to these problems.


In addition to food, you need to keep your eye on your drinking. Excessive alcohol consumption can inhibit blood flow, reduce sensation, and revoke your erection privileges for the evening.

One study by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry showed that 72 percent of men who are dependent on alcohol have one or more sexual dysfunction disorders, including premature ejaculation, low sexual desire, or ED.

You are what you eat, but your erection is what you eat, drink(we're looking at you, energy drinks), smoke, and do with your life. So, it’s important to eat better, but also important to take better care of your erections.

Although making changes to your diet and lifestyle can improve your sexual performance and make ED less severe, the most effective way to treat erectile dysfunction is through the use of medication with clinically proven ingredients. Common oral erectile dysfunction treatments include:

  • Sildenafil, which is the active ingredient in Viagra® and also known as generic Viagra, provides relief from ED for around four hours.

  • Tadalafil, the active ingredient in Cialis®, is a long-lasting medication that can provide relief from ED for up to 36 hours.

  • Vardenafil, the active ingredient in Levitra®, can provide relief from ED for slightly longer than sildenafil.

  • Avanafil, which is sold as Stendra®, is a newer ED medication that’s fast-acting and less likely to cause certain side effects than older medications.

These medications are available in pill or tablet form, as well as in mint form for those interested in chewable ED meds.

You can learn more about how these ED medications work, their effects, side effects, and more in our guide to the most common erectile dysfunction treatments.

There are other treatments for ED as well, including the injectable medication alprostadil and the recently FDA-authorized, non-prescription topical gel Eroxon.

Additional Healthy Habits to Improve Sexual Performance

Since erectile health is so closely linked to your general health, maintaining good habits and a healthy lifestyle can often help improve your sexual performance.

Try making the following changes to habits and lifestyle factors to improve your sexual performance and reduce your risk of ED:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity and ED are closely linked — in fact, research shows that having a body mass index (BMI) in the obese range triples your risk of erectile dysfunction. To reduce your risk of dealing with erectile dysfunction, try to maintain a healthy body weight. Although BMI is far from an ideal measure, the CDC says thataiming for a BMI in the healthy range is a good way to limit your risk of developing erectile health issues.

  • Exercise regularly. Research shows that regular exercise is linked to improvements in sexual performance. A review of five studies published in the Ethiopian Journal of Health Science found that men with ED who engage in regular physical activity experience significant improvements in erectile health.

  • If you smoke, try to quit. Research published in Andrologia shows thatsmoking is a significant risk factor for ED, with the amount of tobacco you smoke closely correlated with your risk of developing erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, make an effort to quit.

Making other lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress and treating underlying medical issues like high blood pressure or heart disease, can also positively impact your sexual health and performance.

We’ve talked more about good habits and lifestyle changes for improving erectile health in our guide to natural ways to protect your erections.

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Picking the best foods for your sex life is about more than avoiding foods that give you bad gas in the night — it’s about a healthy diet.

Leafy greens, dark chocolate, and a dozen half shells are a good start, but for stronger erections, you’ve got to look at the big picture (and not the dessert menu). 

Remember, ED is one of the most common men’s health issues out there. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, an estimated 30 million men in the United States are affected by some level of ED.

If you want to help manage with diet, keep the following in mind:

  • Adding certain foods to your diet may help improve your heart health, manage type 2 diabetes, promote optimal blood flow, and make it easier to get an erection.

  • Over the long term, improving your diet and habits can also have a huge positive impact on your life and reduce your vulnerability to the causes of erectile dysfunction, like obesity or heart disease. 

  • However, it’s important to put the effects of an erection-friendly diet in context — a healthier diet is not an ED treatment. Eating more spinach is generally good for your health, but improving your diet won’t immediately cause your ED to disappear. 

  • That means you may need more help. Currently, the most effective way to treat ED is through the use of medications like sildenafil and others.

We offer many of these ED medications online, following a consultation with a healthcare professional who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

They’ll be able to work with you and provide information about ED medications and other techniques that you can use to treat erectile dysfunction and improve your sexual performance.

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Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown, MD

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown was previously Medical Director of a male fertility startup where she lead strategy and design of their digital health platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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