“Plant foods are packed with nutrients and low in fat,” says Leslie Bonci, M.P.H., R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “As a result, they help keep the arteries unclogged and help prevent both heart disease and erectile dysfunction.”
A particularly powerful pick: tomatoes. “Studies show that the tomato component lycopene, a member of the vitamin A family, helps maintain prostate health,” says Shari Lieberman, Ph.D., a nutrition scientist and exercise physiologist. Lycopene is best absorbed when tomatoes are cooked with a little oil, as in pasta sauce.
They’re high in the amino acid arginine, which is crucial to the synthesis of nitric oxide, a compound in the body involved in generating erections. What’s more, “ nut oils are nowhere near as harmful as saturated fat or trans fats,” Lieberman says. “In fact, recent studies show that nuts help reduce cholesterol.”
“In addition to being a rich source of zinc, pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrients, including the antioxidants selenium and vitamin E, which are good for the arteries,” Bonci says.
Saturated fat and trans fats narrow the arteries, but monounsaturated fat, found in olive oil, helps keep them functioning well.
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