Eating For Your Erections

Dr. Rachael Ross MD, PhD

Your penis will be happier if you add the snacks listed below into your rotation. We have all spent so much time at home lately, and it’s admittedly hard to stave off cravings. Your time at home means that you likely fall into one of two categories. 1. You have done everything right and look like you have been away at a mega spa for the past two months, or 2. You did the exact opposite and have fallen victim to home baked goodies coupled with Netflix and chill. Whichever one of these categories you have fallen into, don’t be too hard on yourself, and just know that it’s never too late to do the right thing. 

The good news is erectile function has everything to do with what you eat and how much you move. It makes sense that the longer you sit each day, the more likely you are to have trouble with your erection. If you are sitting down all day long, blood flow has been reduced to your most intimate nether-regions . It also shouldn’t surprise you to note that food impacts blood flow, and in order to have a strong pulsating erection, your blood vessels must be tip top condition. The Standard American Diet (SAD diet) can lead to chronic disease and ED, and on the flip-side, an earth-based diet cn lead to a lifetime of wellness and erectile function. 

Erectile Dysfunction is Not a Normal Part of Aging

Erectile dysfunction is not a normal part of aging, so we shouldn’t treat it like it is.  Yes, your erections will start to sag a bit as you age, as gravity spares no one. Your erections can actually stand tall and proud without help from Viagra, well into your eighties.  I will show you four food items that have been linked and studied to show that they improve erectile dysfunction.  These four foods, in some men, have actually replaced the blue pill.

The Anatomy of An Erection

Before we talk about the four foods that combat ED, let’s first chat about the science behind an erection.

There are two spongy blood vessels systems in the penis called corpus cavernosum.  There is a smaller one underneath it called the corpus spongiosum.  Imagine if we are constructing a penis model: stack three sausages, without a bun, on top of each other like so:

The two on the bottom represent the corpus cavernosum, and the one on the top is the corpus spongiosum.  An erection occurs when this spongy tissue gets hard because it is full or blood.  These three areas of erectile tissue are the parts responsible for an erection.  Within each of the cavernosa is a network of tiny blood vessels.  In order for the cavernosa/spongiosa to become firm, they blood vessels within must fill up with blood.

In order to fill up with blood, the body needs Nitric Oxide to help relax the blood vessels coursing through the penis.  When the blood vessels relax, the blood flows into them.  The corpus cavernosum and the corpa spongiosa become firm.  The result is an erection.  

Why are Nitric Oxide, L-Arginine, and L-Citrulline so Important to an Erection? 

The body makes Nitric Oxide through a reaction within the body where the amino acid L-arginine is converted to Nitric Oxide and L-citrulline.  The L-citrulline produced along with any that comes in through diet, helps make more Nitric Oxide.  The Nitric Oxide then causes the cells that line the blood vessel to relax.  The blood vessel relaxes and opens so that blood can flow inside.  The increased blood flow that occurs because the blood vessels are now wide open, is what causes an erection to take place.  In order to maintain an erection, the blood must stay in place until sexual activity concludes.  

Food Can Be Nature’s Viagra

When you know what it takes to have and maintain an erection, it is easier to understand why food can be medicine for ED.  Let’s talk food!


Pistachios contain the amino acid L-arginine which the body converts directly to nitric oxide which leads the blood vessels to relax, and an increase in blood flow to the erection.  Other food items with noticeable L-arginine levels are: almonds, walnuts, chickpeas, turkey, chicken, and pork loin.  A handful of pistachios eaten daily for three weeks was shown to improve sexual function. Int J Impot Res. 2011;23(1):32-38


Watermelon fruit and rind have high doses of L-citrulline.  L-citrulline helps the blood vessels of the penis relax so that they can fill with blood and become engorged ( You can purchase L-citrulline as a supplement.  However, the purpose of this post is to show you that you can eat it, you don’t have to buy it.  Some experts estimate that four ounces of watermelon juice contain close to 150mg of L-citrulline. L-citrulline is also found in garlic, liver, onion, walnuts, and dark chocolate.


Beets contain nitrates which in the gut produce nitric oxide.  Nitric Oxide causes the blood vessels in the penis to relax and swell with blood (like swollen lakes.  (radishes, turnip tops, and carrots also contain nitrates).  

Another plus, beet juice and beet root have been associated with lowering blood pressure – all blood vessels work the same way.  British researchers found that healthy people who drank 2 cups of beet juice, had a decline in their blood pressure an hour after drinking it (


Pomegranate juice has flavonoids which are potent antioxidants-they fight cell damage and fight against clogged arteries.  Pomegranate is also suspected to raise testosterone in both men and women.  So potentially eating pomegranate will help both with blood flow and with hormone levels.

One study found that men who had mild to moderate erectile dysfunction, had some improvement after drinking pomegranate juice daily. They found that the antioxidant in pomegranates improved erectile function over long term (

Almonds & Other Foods Rich in Magnesium

There is a potential link between premature ejaculation and magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium is essential to so many aspects of health, yet studies show that 50% of Americans are likely deficient in magnesium.

In order to ensure your erections and your health are headed in the right direction, integrate avocado, almonds, figs, Nuts, spinach, pumpkin seeds, black beans, bananas, dark chocolate, and Swiss chard into your diet.  Magnesium is essential for the metabolism of nitric oxide.  

If you take care of yourself, you will essentially take care of your erections!!  A good guideline to follow: if it’s heart healthy, it’s probably also erection healthy. 

Rachael Ross, M.D., Ph.D., is a Board-Certified Family Medicine Physician and Clinical Sexologist. You can schedule an appointment with her by calling 310-451-8880 or emailing us at