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Appetite for love: Something sweet and spicy to stimulate your senses for Valentine's Day
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Appetite for love: Something sweet and spicy to stimulate your senses for Valentine's Day

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SIOUX CITY | The saying that the way to a man's (or a woman's) heart is through the stomach is simply a silly, outdated cliche, right?

Well, not according to Western Iowa Tech Community College culinary arts coordinator Brett McCarthy, who said there's a science behind the foods that make us feel amorous.

"Certain ingredients excite us or naturally increase our blood flow," he said. "Those ingredients may make us more alert, give us a sudden burst of energy and, yes, stimulate our sex drive."

With St. Valentine's Day less than than a week away, McCarthy has been creating recipes which showcase long-standing aphrodisiacs that may already exist in your kitchen.

"Valentine's Day wouldn't be the same without chocolate," he said. "Fittingly, chocolate is a very good aphrodisiac."

Chocolate contains an amino acid called L-arginine, which promotes a person's blood flow while increasing sensation, satisfaction and desire. It works for both men and women.

Even more significant is the inclusion of a chemical called phenethylamine.

"Phenethylamine stimulates the nervous system and triggers the release of endorphins," McCarthy said. "Chocolate make us feel good."

The same can be said of red wine, which contains a natural chemical compound called resveratrol. 

"Resveratrol can be found in grapes, red wines and other foods," McCarthy said. "Because of the resveratrol, researchers said the moderate drinking of red wine can lower the risk of heart disease."

Resveratrol also has been packaged as a nutritional supplement for people seeking a natural antioxidant.

"I don't know all of the health benefits of resveratrol," McCarthy admitted. "But I do know red wine helps to protect the heart's blood flow and that makes it an aphrodisiac."

Hot chilies have a similar effect on one's libido. According to McCarthy, it comes down to a chemical found inside spicy peppers.

"Chilies have capsaicin, which is an active compound that stimulates nerve endings," he said. "For instance, it stimulates your endorphins, speeds up your heart rate and makes you sweat."

In addition, foods ranging from avocado, arugula and oysters have been touted as aphrodisiacs, in large part due to chemical compositions.

"While aphrodisiacs may sound like folklore, there are scientific facts about the foods that simply make us feel sexy," McCarthy said.

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