Can food really put you in the mood?

Annie told me that she fell for her boyfriend over a plate of fish. "He seduced me with catfish," she laughed, ""&

166; this great meal of delectable juicy catfish with Thai pepper."

Though they broke up eventually, Annie still makes that recipe.

At 38, Annie's recently realized how food enhances her sex drive. "As I get older I've definitely had times of not being in the mood, where I've just gone, 'What's wrong with me?! I haven't even thought about sex!' Then I started eating healthier, and it got me more in the mood"&


Annie "went on a health kick," eating mostly organic fruits and vegetables, cutting all the refined sugar from her diet. She also stopped drinking caffeine and alcohol. Two months later she perceived a big change. "It all hit at once. Not only did I feel sexier but I noticed men looking at me more too."

It's a given these days that food influences our moods and energy levels, but can what we eat really affect how randy we feel?

Diane Brown, author of "The Seduction Cookbook," thinks so. "It makes sense that if you're eating healthy food and you feel good physically, your sexuality's going to be enhanced," says Brown, who adds that it's not only what you eat, it's how you eat it.

Her advice is familiar: If you want to get lucky after dinner, create a sensual atmosphere with candles, dim lights and soft music. I've heard it before but since the laundry machine is in the kitchen, I'm more apt to put in a load before supper than take the time (when the kids aren't around) to make things romantic.

Adding aphrodisiacs to our diet might be easier. Annie's favorites are oysters, seafood and strawberries. (In her healthy diet she's cut down on red meat, but she thinks steak is a libido-enhancer. "A nice piece of steak if I haven't had one in a long time &

the first bite reminds me of sex.")

There may be real biological reasons certain foods affect us. Take strawberries. Red, sweet, and succulent, strawberries have the seeds on the outside. Interestingly, these seeds &

there are some 200 in each berry &

are high in zinc, a mineral important to prostate gland function and reproductive organ growth and one that gives a kick to men and women's sex drive. Plus they're packed with vitamins and antioxidants.

Oysters, also, do amazing things. "It's a very raw sensual experience to eat oysters that wakes you up to your naked humanity," a friend (who asked to remain nameless!) blurted out. "I can feel my body getting charged up even as I eat them." But the director of the visitors' bureau in Castelnaudary told me last week she became so sick after eating raw oysters she thought she was going to die. If you eat raw oysters (which are by far the most delicious and nutritious), make sure they're fresh and have been properly refrigerated. Oysters spoil quickly at high temperatures and can harbor potentially lethal bacteria, such as salmonella and campylobacter.

The ancient world also believed asparagus &

which is shaped like male genitalia &

is a powerful aphrodisiac. If that's not enough of a reason to eat it, according to the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, nutrient-dense asparagus is high in folic acid and a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin.

Other purported Love Enhancers include garbanzo beans, avocados, flax seeds and dark chocolate.

A lot of couples inadvertently let their sex lives go once they start procreating (which is rather ironic, isn't it?) but I don't want to make that mistake. Still, it's hard to fuel the romantic fires while juggling kids and work, school lunches and playdates, laundry and soccer practice.

Perhaps as important as the particular aphrodisiac, the recipe to jump-start your libido includes feeling good and enjoying food together. I guess that means it's time to bike to the store for strawberries. I just have to hide them in the back of the fridge, where the kids won't find them.

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