avocado
Paul Sakuma  /  AP
Avocados -- the ancient Aztecs referred to them as "testicle trees" -- are packed with folate, which is necessary for healthy sperm.
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updated 2/27/2011 8:10:15 AM ET 2011-02-27T13:10:15

From Casanova's oysters to George Costanza's pastrami sandwich, men have been using food to enhance their sex lives for years. And now, research shows what you put in your mouth outside the bedroom can also boost your performance and overall sexual health. Check out these ingredients that'll improve your sex life faster than you can say "aphrodisiac."

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For heathier sperm, eat your greens
If you'd rather not have mutant sperm, try filling up on folate, a B vitamin that's key for cell production. Men low on folate may have 20 percent more unhealthysperm (swimmers that have missing or extra chromosomes) than those with higher levels, suggests a new study in the journal Human Reproduction.

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Which foods pack the most punch: Leafy greens (think: spinach and kale), citrus fruits, and beans are all full of folate. Another source? Avocados, which—not so coincidentally—the ancient Aztecs referred to as "testicle trees."

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The recommended daily amount is 400 micrograms, but study authors think upping your intake to 700 micrograms might give sperm extra protection from mutations.

Easy fixes: Swap lettuce for spinach the next time you order a sub, opt for chili with extra beans, or add orange juice to your post-workout smoothie.

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The mineral zinc may work as a libido-enhancer by helping with testosterone production—higher levels of the hormone are linked to an increase in desire.

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Bonus: Some research finds zinc may even play a part in warding off prostate cancer. Which foods pack the most punch: Oysters take the prize, hands down. Besides being known as a classic aphrodisiac (thanks to their resemblance to a certain female body part), oysters hold more zinc than almost any other food. "Casanova reportedly ate 50 raw oysters a day, but I recommend getting no more than double the RDA of 15 mg—about the amount in six oysters," Marrena Lindberg, author of The Orgasmic Diet. Other good sources include red meat, peanuts, cashews, and pumpkin seeds.

Easy fixes: Eat raw oysters on ice with some lemon juice or chili sauce. Or toss roasted pumpkin seeds or peanuts in your next salad.

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For better erections, fill up on fish
When it comes to keeping your sex sessions going long and strong, a certain amino acid known as L-Arginine may be man's best friend. "L-Arginine works likeViagra by increasing nitric oxide to help relax blood vessels and allow more blood flow to the penis," says Lindberg. Some studies suggest that getting three grams a day could make for better erections. Which foods pack the most punch: Many foods high in good-for-you omega 3s are also high in L-Arginine, such as free-range game, seafood, walnuts, and sesame seeds. Plus, omega 3s help your body better absorb L-Arginine, according to a study in Nutrition & Metabolism. There are no RDA guidelines for how much L-Arginine you should have, but Lindberg recommends getting your daily fix by eating omega-3 packed protein such as free-range beef and chicken, or fatty fish like salmon.

Easy fixes: Here's your excuse to try out that whipped-cream and chocolate-sauce fantasy: the dark stuff also has L-Arginine. And its no news flash that most women love chocolate, so make her happy in more ways than one by bringing home a box, and then sampling some for yourself.

© 2012 Rodale Inc. All rights reserved.

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