(PHOTO CREDIT : PETER PEARSON)

According to the Census Bureau, 1,148 manufacturing facilities in America produced chocolate and cocoa products for Valentine’s Day in 2011. PHOTO CREDIT : PETER PEARSON

The annual day of love is around the corner, which means that chocolates are flooding stores. But chocolate is not the only food associated with Valentine’s Day. For this special edition of College Gal Cooking, The Statesman looked into some of the foods that get people’s heart pumping and found mixed results when it came to the success of food aphrodisiacs. Some foods may not make your partner swoon and increase arousal, but here are some of the foods that have a sweet surprise.

1. Chocolate—Chocolates are everywhere on the days leading up to and on Valentine’s Day. According to the Census Bureau, 1,148 manufacturing facilities in America produced chocolate and cocoa products for Valentine’s Day in 2011. This savory sweet treat contains phenylethylamine, PEA, according to howstuffworks. PEA is called the “love drug,” as it releases the same chemicals that humans release when they fall in love. Swanson Health Products asserts that this compound helps release both dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is a hormone that controls the brain’s reward system and pleasure centers. Norepinephrine, according to Swanson Health Products, supports the body’s response to stress. It increases heart rate, which increases blood flow to the body’s muscles among other things. But WebMD is one of several sites stating that the human body does not absorb enough PEA from chocolate to have a strong effect.

2. Oysters—What is so seductive about slurping one or more of these shellfish down? Well, oysters are high in zinc, according to the Coast Seafoods Company’s website. The site says that there is 76.7 mg of zinc in six medium sized oysters—the suggested daily amount for adults is 8 to 11 mg. According to healthline.com, zinc may assist those with erectile dysfunction. Livestrong.com also says that zinc helps males’ testes function—deficiencies in zinc may effect sperm production. The National Institute of Health also states that zinc deficiency can lead to the delay in sexual maturity. But caution comes with eating these bi-valves. Livestrong.com states that the location and time of the year are key when harvesting oysters. Oysters can contain the vibro vulnificus bacterium, which can be harmful when consumed. Although the number of this bacteria increases during warmer weather, livestrong.com claims the bacteria can also infect oysters picked during the colder months.

3. Honey—This natural, sticky sweetener contains the mineral boron. The Organic Facts website claims that deficiencies in this mineral may lead to sex hormone imbalance among other health issues. The site also reports that boron enhances testosterone levels. There are mixed findings whether honey does increase testosterone levels. However, the Anabolic Men website says this mineral lowers the Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) count. SHBG binds into the “free testosterone molecules,” which simply put makes testosterone molecules unusable.

4. Avocado—Not only does this fruit’s name mean testicles, but avocados contain vitamin B6 and folic acid. EVitamins is one of several sites to report that vitamin B6 decreases the shift of hormones like estrogen and progesterone during menopause. According to the site, it is this shift that result in the loss of sex drive for older women. Additionally, the vitamin B complex—vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12—help with blood flow throughout the body. Care2’s site stated that vitamin B6 in particular protects the heart from homocysteine—a chemical that allows cholesterol deposits. Maintaining a healthy heart decreases the risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Folic acid is a form of the B vitamin, which can prevent various birth defects. It is also one of the essential nutrients for women who want to get pregnant as it leads to healthy eggs as mentioned on the Ovuline website.

These are just some of the foods and the vitamins or chemicals found within them. Many of the foods above have a variety of other health benefits. Despite some of the sexual health benefits of these foods, what makes food aphrodisiacs fun is not necessarily eating it, but how it is eaten.