Valentine's Day

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These aphrodisiacs make for great gifts this Valentine's Day

If ever there was a day to rev up the libido and enjoy amorous feelings, that day is Valentine's Day. The official day for love and romance offers couples the chance to spend time together and express their feelings of affection for each other.

People have enjoyed foods purported to be aphrodisiacs for centuries. Believed to boost the libido, aphrodisiacs were enjoyed by Cleopatra and Casanova, and they were commonly used among ancient Greeks.

Aphrodisiacs are agents that work on the mind and body to increase sexual desire and arousal. Foods affect the body in different ways and can have a positive impact on how a person feels. Certain foods can help promote feelings of intimacy, increase blood flow and create euphoria.

With Valentine's Day upon us once again, here are some purported aphrodisiacs that can be incorporated into special dinners with a sweetheart.

* Almonds: This nut has been regarded as a fertility symbol through the years. While it has been said almond aroma can incite passion, there is no concrete proof. Still, almonds are a good source of essential fatty acids and important B vitamins that can help prevent coronary artery disease.

* Asparagus: This vegetable may inspire lust in men and women, but it also is a good source of various vitamins. Asparagus is a member of the lily family that is nutrient-dense, containing folic acid, potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, and thiamin.

* Avocados: This fruit has a shape that could put people in the mood. In fact, centuries ago Catholic priests from Spain who visited Mexico found commonly grown avocados to be obscene and prohibited their consumption.

* Bananas: Potassium is a key nutrient for muscle strength. Muscle contractions will be more intense and the body will have greater endurance after consuming bananas.

* Chocolate: Chocolate and romance have often gone hand-in-hand. Chocolate contains the chemical phenylethylamine, a stimulant that releases dopamine and produces feelings of well-being and excitement.

* Figs: This sweet fruit has been revered as an aphrodisiac for thousands of years. In many cultures, figs are considered to be a symbol of fertility. Figs are very high in fiber and have a higher mineral profile than any other fruit or vegetable.

* Hot peppers: Chili peppers and others that contain capsaicin help to increase circulation and stimulate nerve endings. A spicy meal may lead to a spicy ending to the night.

* Oysters: This shellfish is one of the better-known aphrodisiacs. However, not every person finds seafood palatable. Oysters are high in zinc, the mineral known to increase libido. Therefore, it stands to reason that other foods high in zinc might be just as effective at inspiring romantic notions.

* Pomegranates: This fruit owes its power to the antioxidants within. Antioxidants help protect the lining of blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow through and increasing sensitivity around the body.

* Salmon: This pink fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids that aid in the production of key hormones in the body, including estrogen and testosterone.

A variety of foods that are hailed as aphrodisiacs may add some spice to Valentine's Day celebrations.