Erectile dysfunction or ED happens when you are unable to achieve or sustain an erection long enough to complete intercourse. ED can happen to any man regardless of age, and it can occur for several different reasons.
Often, erectile dysfunction is psychologically-induced, but today more and more men suffer from ED. There is one thing common to them: being overweight or obese. This article will help you understand how weight gain can lead to erectile dysfunction and how you can avoid it by making lifestyle changes by starting with the food you eat.
How Being Overweight or Obese Increases Your Risk for ED
Though there are many reasons you may suffer from erectile dysfunction, you are twice as likely to suffer from it if you are obese compared to other men with normal weight.
Not too long ago, a study was published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine that showed the impacts of obesity on a male’s sexual function. Among the 2,345 male patients, 45 percent of them have normal weight, while the remaining 55 percent of them were overweight, obese and severely obese.
The participants underwent lab tests and an ultrasound to measure blood flow to the penis. They also answered questionnaires and interviews to determine the psychological impact of their weight. The researchers found out that the obese participants had lower levels of testosterone. Many of the participants had high blood pressure and were found to have decreased blood flow to the penis.
Being overweight or obese can also have a psychological impact. If you have low testosterone, you may have low libido, low energy and a depressed mood, which can keep you from enjoying an active sex life.
When it comes to confidence, being overweight or obese hardly affects a man as it does in women. However, once you fail to achieve an erection, it can create a vicious cycle of anxiety that can worsen your erectile dysfunction. Your weight may not hurt your confidence, but your inability to sexually perform can land a blow to your ego.
Fortunately, a study suggests that losing, at least, five percent of your body weight can significantly improve your symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
The Link Between Cardiovascular Disease and ED
Many health experts agree that erectile dysfunction can be an early sign of heart disease in men. If only men with ED get tested for heart disease, many of them would be saved from heart attacks.
How can your erection problems be related to heart problems? A recent study suggests that the clogged arteries that inhibit blood flow to the penis will eventually prevent blood flow to the heart and brain. The accumulation of plaque made of cholesterol and other toxic substances will start in the smaller arteries, and it will eventually affect the major arteries found near the heart.
Cholesterol and the substances that make up the plaque mainly come from the food you eat. Yes, your diet plays a major part and making a change will not only save you from erectile dysfunction but can also save your heart.
Manage your weight and lower your risk of developing erectile dysfunction through a well-balanced and healthy diet. Here are 13 ways you can diet ED out of your life.
13 Ways to Diet ED Out of Your Life
1. Choose Your Carbohydrates Carefully.
What’s the fuss about avoiding all carbohydrates-rich foods? It is believed that foods high in carbohydrates can cause weight gain. It is true, but weight gain results from excess energy from the food you eat which is then stored as fats. This excess energy can come from different types of foods including foods with carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates may be dubbed as the number one culprit for weight gain as it is the most common type of food present in almost every meal. Cereals, chips, baked products, carbonated drinks, pasta, flour and bread are among the foods with the highest carbohydrates. Notice that these foods all undergo heavy processing. Processed foods are refined, which strips off the nutrients, making it even unhealthier.
To effectively lose weight and improve erectile dysfunction, several studies suggest you should implement a low-carb diet. But still, your body needs carbohydrates because this nutrient serves as fuel for many body functions.
What you need to do is choose healthy sources of carbohydrate-rich foods, such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Some of these foods contain healthy fats and nutrients that can help improve blood flow.
2. Increase Your Intake of Fiber.
Dietary fiber is the part of a plant that your body neither digest, nor absorb. Fiber has numerous health benefits. It can help you lose weight by making you feel fuller for a longer period and by regulating bowel movements. It can also keep your heart healthy by lowering bad cholesterol levels, especially when you combine it with a low saturated and trans fat diet.
Excellent sources of dietary fiber are:
- Whole Grains
- Wheat Bran
- Fruits and Fruit Peels
- Vegetables and Vegetable Skin
You can find fiber in plant-based foods. To make sure you are eating enough fiber, you should eat at least 28 grams of fiber per 2,000 calories you consume.
3. Avoid Phytoestrogens.
While soy and flax seed are good for your health, it can hurt you down there. You must be wondering how and why. Soy and flax seed contain phytoestrogens or estrogen-like substances found in plants. Phytoestrogens can mimic estrogen and may override testosterone levels in your body, which may affect your erections.
Several studies on rodents suggest that consumption of high quantities of phytoestrogens can affect fertility. Another study on rabbits also showed that introducing phytoestrogen to the animals significantly affected erectile function.
A 19-year old vegetarian man suffered from low libido and erectile dysfunction after consuming large volumes of soy. The male adult also suffered from type 1 diabetes, which is why he had to rely on soy for protein. Diabetes can also contribute to erectile dysfunction, but it is important to note that the man regained his sexual function after stopping his vegetarian diet.
A 60-year old man also suffered from the same symptoms after consuming three quarts of soy every day in six months. He also recovered from erectile dysfunction after he stopped drinking soy.
If you have been drinking soy or adding flaxseed to your food, you do not have to stop consuming them completely. These foods are highly nutritious and are beneficial to your health in other ways. What you need to do is limit your intake. Many studies show that moderate consumption of soy will not affect sexual functions.
4. Drink Alcohol Moderately.
You may already have the idea that drinking before having sex can increase body heat, boost your confidence and release your inhibitions. This might be true, but only if you had a drink or two. Alcohol consumption can cause both temporary erectile dysfunction and long-term erectile dysfunction.
If you drink heavily, alcohol can dampen your mood, reduce your sexual desire, affect your performance in bed and make it difficult to reach orgasm. Studies also show that men who are dependent on alcohol have 60 to 70 percent risk of developing sexual disorders.
To lessen your risk of suffering from ED due to alcohol intake, you should limit yourself to not more than two drinks a day.
5. Do Not Give in to Your Sweet Cravings.
High blood sugar levels can inhibit the production of nitric oxide from your blood vessels. Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels so more blood can flow. If there is not enough blood flow, achieving an erection can become difficult.
Sugar is the least costly way for food manufacturers to add flavor and this is the reason sugar is present in almost all foods. Sugary treats have high calories and low nutritional value. Soft drinks and bottled juices are culprits for sudden sugar spikes and crash. Once your blood sugar crashes, you will crave for another sugar fix. Unfortunately, cravings for sweets can become an addiction.
Diets high in sugar and carbs often lead to stored fats in the abdomen and increase your triglyceride levels. A “beer belly,” as they call it can make you highly at risk for erectile dysfunction, as it is associated with inflammation and insulin resistance.
When grocery shopping, read labels carefully and choose foods with the least added sugar. If you are fond of desserts after every meal, always limit your portion. If you have to add sweetener, use stevia or honey.
6. Cut Down on Saturated Fats.
A high fat diet can also reduce the production of nitric oxide and, therefore, decrease blood flow. One study shows that reduced nitric oxide can lead to the abnormal thickening or hardening of the blood vessels, higher risk of blood clotting and the accumulation of cholesterol in your arteries. All of which can lead to atherosclerosis.
When your heart beats, it pumps blood to your arteries, so it can flow all over your body. Before blood reaches your penis, it passes through the arteries in your belly. But if your arteries are blocked or if you suffer from atherosclerosis, blood cannot flow smoothly, therefore, making erection difficult.
The type of fat that can contribute to atherosclerosis is saturated fat. You can find this kind of fat in the following food items:
- Baked Products
- Fats in Meat
- Full-Fat Dairy
There is no need to exclude these foods in your diet totally. In truth, your body needs fats to produce testosterone. Instead, limit your daily total fat consumption. On average, a man can eat up to 70 grams of fat a day with not more than 30 grams coming from saturated fat.
You can also choose healthy fat sources such as:
- Canola Oil
- Olive Oil
- Fatty Fish
These sources of dietary fats are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart. When it is good for your heart, it is good for your erection.
7. Keep a Watch on Your Cholesterol Levels.
High levels of bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein in the body increase your risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Saturated fats found in butter, lard and full-fat dairy can increase your cholesterol, but you should not interchange cholesterol and fat because they are too different things.
Fat refers to a group of substances found in food, while cholesterol is produced by the liver to help build and protect cells and it can also come from the foods you eat. Cholesterol cannot dissolve in blood that is why it needs protein or lipoprotein to transport, hence the name low-density lipoprotein or LDL.
These bad cholesterols can accumulate in your blood vessels, and the higher your LDL is, the higher a blockage can form leading to atherosclerosis.
Altering your diet and cutting down on saturated fats, together with regular exercise can help combat high LDL. However, if these lifestyle changes are not enough, your doctor can prescribe medications to control cholesterol production by your liver or to limit cholesterol absorption from the food you eat.
8. Eat Foods High in Nitrates.
Before an ED drug was approved by the US FDA, studies that show the benefits of nitrates for people with erectile dysfunction were already published.
If your body cannot produce enough nitric oxide to help relax and dilate blood vessels, you can supplement it by eating foods high in nitrates and nitrites. Your stomach converts these compounds into nitric oxide.
One of the most abundant sources of nitrates is the vegetable beet. It has the highest amount of nitrates among the vegetables. Drinking beet juice is another great way to increase your nitrate intake. Other vegetable sources of nitrates are:
- Green Beans
- Collard Greens
Vegetables usually have higher nitrates than fruits because vegetables get these compounds from the nitrate-rich soil.
9. Load Up on Antioxidants.
You may already know that antioxidants can help get rid of toxins in your body and protect your cells from oxidative damage. But did you know that it can also possibly help people with erectile dysfunction?
According to research published in one edition of Pharmacological Research, antioxidants may improve erectile dysfunction by fighting off free radicals that lessen the production of nitric oxide. On the other hand, the authors of the study admit that the findings of their study need further evidence before they can recommend antioxidant supplementation for treating erectile dysfunction.
Regardless, there are a lot of other important reasons why you should include antioxidant-rich foods in your diet. Foods high in antioxidants are:
- Dark Chocolate
There would be no reason not to include these foods in your diet, as these are great-tasting additions.
10. Protein is Not Just for Your Muscles.
Increasing your intake of protein may also help improve blood flow. Once inside your body, protein breaks down and forms into amino acids. One of which is L-arginine, an amino acid necessary for the production of nitric oxide by the blood vessels.
Excellent sources of protein are:
- Red Meat
If you are a vegetarian, it can be difficult for you to include sufficient amount of proteins in your diet. There are plant-based foods high in protein. However, your body cannot easily convert it into amino acids. You can ask your doctor if taking L-arginine oral supplement is good for you.
11. Eat Watermelon After the Summer Ends.
If you only eat watermelon in the hot summer months, you may want to change that. This is because watermelon will not only rehydrate and keep you refreshed, but it also has some sexy benefits, too. Watermelons may help improve erectile dysfunction in three ways, because it is rich in the following:
- Phytonutrients, an antioxidant.
- Lycopene, which is good for the heart.
- L-citrulline which turns into L-arginine once inside the body.
Who would have thought that its watery flesh packs these amazing benefits? Other excellent sources of lycopene and phytonutrients are tomatoes and grapefruit.
12. Zap ED With Zinc.
Oysters, a classic aphrodisiac, and other shellfish are high in zinc. It is a mineral necessary for the production of the male hormone testosterone. Experts are still unsure on how testosterone levels cause erectile dysfunction. And, despite having low T, some men have perfectly normal sexual functions.
One thing is for sure, a low testosterone level is common among men who suffer from diabetes or heart problems, together with erectile dysfunction.
There is no clear link between low T and erectile dysfunction, but one thing is for sure, low T can affect your libido, mood, and energy. Therefore, it still pays to include foods high in zinc such as oysters in your diet.
13. Feast on Foods With Flavonoids.
Researchers from the UK conducted a study to determine how certain foods can lessen a person’s risk of developing ED. They carefully monitored the diets of 25,000 men within 10 years. They found out that the men who drank red wine and ate the five key fruits were 19 percent less likely to experience erectile dysfunction compared to the men who did not.
The five key fruits include:
One common thing about red wine and these fruits is the group of compound called flavonoids. According to the author of the study, flavonoids can help dilate blood vessels to promote blood flow.
Effectively Sustain Weight Loss While Eating Healthy
A healthy diet is necessary for losing weight; however, planning a well-balanced diet can be confusing, especially if you are advised not to eat this and that.
What is a healthy and well-balanced diet? It should comprise different types of food such as whole grains, fish, meat, dairy, nut, seeds, oils, fruits, and vegetables. Eating diverse types of foods ensures your body gets all the necessary nutrients. Foods high in sugar, fats and carbohydrates should be consumed in moderation.
Most importantly, your intake of energy should not be more than the energy you can use from doing physical activities. Energy will be stored as body fats over time, which can lead to weight gain. To start your journey towards a healthy weight, you should implement a diet change. For you to sustain weight loss and maintain your desired weight, you should also exercise regularly.
Excess weight gain or obesity can make you highly at risk of developing erectile dysfunction. The good news is that you can battle weight gain or obesity by making diet changes.