Foods for Penis Health

There are some foods that can help, but there are others you might want to avoid.

Nutrition is a vital component of overall health. But certain foods, nutrients, and eating patterns have been shown to affect specific body parts, including the penis and other male sex organs. Here are foods linked to male sexual function, including sperm count, testosterone levels, and the management of conditions like erectile dysfunction and enlarged prostate.

Man mixing salad with his hands in a big bowl.

Melissa Mills Photography / Stocksy

Best Foods for Male Sexual Health

Eating specific foods might promote health for the penis and other male sex organs. Eating foods in line with certain dietary patterns or that have certain key nutrients may also help.

Food With Flavonoids

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition in which it is hard for someone to get or keep an erection for satisfactory sex. 

A type of antioxidant called flavonoids may help with ED. Flavonoids are found in: 

  • Tea
  • Wine
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Herbs
  • Onions
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Soybeans
  • Citrus fruits
  • Dark chocolate

A study involving men aged 18 to 40 years old found that those with ED consumed a lower amount of flavonoids. The men without ED ate more flavonoid-rich vegetables and fruits.

Other research has shown that fruit and vegetable flavonoids improve testosterone production, contribute to normal sperm production, and prevent age-related diseases associated with testosterone deficiency.

To take advantage of flavonoid benefits: 

  • Incorporate more vegetables and fruits into meals and snacks.
  • Blend greens, berries, and cherries into smoothies.
  • Add apples, citrus, onions, or soybeans to salads and stir fries.
  • Make dark chocolate your go-to treat.
  • Drink tea and wine in moderation.

Foods in Line With the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to positively impact sexual function. A review of four previously published clinical trials found that closer adherence to a Mediterranean diet reduced the likelihood and severity of ED.  

The diet is moderate in red wine and rich in:

  • Olive oil
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Fish

Following the Mediterranean diet improves the regulation of blood sugar, increases antioxidant defenses, and increases levels of nitric oxide, a compound that improves blood flow. All of these outcomes improve the penis' ability to achieve and maintain erections.

Plant-Based Foods

There is no one universally accepted definition of a plant-based diet. Some might define it as a diet that emphasizes whole, plant-based, unrefined, unprocessed foods that limits or excludes meat, dairy, and eggs. Eating a plant-based diet that is high-quality could reduce ED risk. 

A study involving more than 20,000 men showed that a healthful plant-based diet—one that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils, and tea or coffee—reduced the incidence of ED among men aged 60 to 70 years.

Participants who had the highest diet healthfulness score had an 18% lower risk of ED compared to those with the lowest score. In fact, plant-based diets with a lower healthfulness score—diets that included fruit juices, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes, sweets, and desserts—were linked with an increase in ED among men younger than 60.

A healthful plant-based diet has been shown to not only reduce the likelihood of ED, but also the severity of ED.

To eat more plant-based meals: up your intake of vegetables; replace animal protein with plant sources, like lentils, beans, and tofu; and choose more whole plant foods over processed products with animal ingredients, like snacking on fruit and nuts instead of cheese and crackers.

Watermelon

L-citrulline, a natural compound found in watermelon, has been shown in older, small studies to improve erection hardness in men with mild ED. The improvement was actually seen after taking L-citrulline in supplement form. L-citrulline is part of a process that increases blood flow overall, which may include blood flow to the penis. Because the concentration of L-citrulline is higher in a supplement than in fresh watermelon, it is unclear whether fresh watermelon would have this effect on blood flow. 

Still, the rind of red and yellow watermelon does pack a higher concentration of L-citrulline than other parts of the fruit. Watermelon juice or puree may contain higher amounts of the compound, as well. So any potential erectile benefits from fresh watermelon would probably be more likely to come from the white rind or 100% watermelon juice that contains both flesh and rind.

Watermelon might also help prevent prostate cancer. The fruit is a source of the antioxidant lycopene. One research review concluded that a higher dietary lycopene intake and greater blood lycopene levels were significantly related to a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Pumpkin Seeds

Benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) is a condition in which the prostate gland is enlarged but not cancerous. The cause is not well understood, but BPH is the most common prostate problem for men older than 50. Symptoms include a need to urinate eight or more times a day, the inability to delay urination, a weak or interrupted urine stream, and pain after ejaculation.

For one study, more than 1,400 men aged 50-80 with BPH took either 5g of pumpkin seeds twice per day, 500mg pumpkin seed extract capsules twice per day, or a placebo. Over 12 months, both pumpkin seed treatments led to a clinically relevant reduction in BPH symptoms compared with the placebo.

The study also found a slight relationship between a lower risk of BPH and an adequate intake of nutrients, including zinc. Pumpkin seeds are a top source of zinc—one ounce, or a quarter cup, provides 20% of the daily value for the mineral.

The zinc pumpkin seeds offer is beneficial in preventing not only BPH, but also hypogonadism. Hypogonadism, a condition when the body's sex glands produce little or no hormones, can develop due to long-term zinc deficiency.

Enjoy pumpkin seeds as is, or sprinkle on nearly anything, including oatmeal or overnight oats; salads; soups; stir fries; side dishes like cooked vegetables, beans, and slaw; or desserts, like baked apples or chia pudding.

Brazil Nuts

Testosterone is the hormone responsible for male sexual development, which includes testicular descent, sperm production, enlargement of the penis and testicles, and increased sex drive.

Research has found that selenium—a mineral the body only needs in small amounts—is key for testosterone and sperm production.

A top source of selenium are Brazil nuts. One ounce—about six to eight nuts—provides nearly 1,000% of the daily value for selenium. 

Other good sources of selenium include:

  • Yellowfin tuna 
  • Halibut 
  • Sardines

Food With Magnesium

Magnesium is needed for more than 300 reactions in the body, such as energy production and muscle function. There is also evidence that this mineral has a positive influence on hormonal status, including testosterone in men. 

The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium for men aged 31 or older is 420mg per day. Top food sources include: 

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Cashews 
  • Peanuts
  • Cooked spinach
  • Soy milk
  • Edamame
  • Black beans

In one research review, researchers stated that the aging process—which negatively impacts male reproductive health—seems to be due, at least in part, to hormone defects and poor-quality nutrition. Specifically, men with poor magnesium status and low testosterone may benefit from increased magnesium consumption.

Another study that looked at the relationship between magnesium blood levels and hormone disorders in more than 300 middle-aged and older men found that, in those with normal testosterone levels, magnesium was significantly higher compared to those with a testosterone deficiency.

Foods That Provide Adequate Fat

While more research is needed to say for certain, it appears as though eating a diet low in fat may be associated with lower testosterone levels—at least for European and North American men. Low-fat diets are generally defined as containing less than 30% of total calories from fat.

The difference that low-fat diets and diets with higher fat amounts make in testosterone levels is not drastic. So while you shouldn’t necessarily change any low-fat diet you might be following, it may be something you’d want to talk about with a healthcare provider. You might consider incorporating higher-fat foods like: 

  • Avocado and avocado oil
  • Olives and extra virgin olive oil
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut or seed butter

Foods to Avoid

No one food can make or break your health because your overall eating pattern has a far greater impact than any single food. However, certain amounts of food or certain long-term eating habits can potentially have a negative effect on male reproductive health. Here are the foods and habits you may want to avoid:    

An Excess of Alcohol

Excess alcohol consumption is associated with a greater risk of ED. For men, excessive consumption is defined as having more than four drinks in one day or more than 14 drinks in one week.

The misuse of alcohol has also been shown to reduce testosterone production and negatively affect both sex drive and fertility.

The Western Diet

Reduced testosterone levels and semen quality have also been associated with what is typically referred to as the Western Diet.

Researchers use the term “Western Diet” to describe diets that are high in red meat, refined grains, added sugars, salt, fats, and processed foods. These diets are also low in fruits and vegetables.

A High-Protein, Low-Carbohydrate Diet

Lower testosterone levels have also been seen in men who eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. In one analysis of 27 previous studies, researchers found that men who ate low-carb diets that were high in protein (meaning more than 35% of their calories came from protein) had lower levels of both resting and post-exercise testosterone compared with those who ate low-carb diets that were moderate in protein (less than 35% of calories from protein).

A Quick Review

Certain key nutrients, eating patterns, and foods affect the health of male reproductive organs. To potentially help with ED, reach for more flavonoid-rich foods, foods in line with the Mediterranean diet, or plant-based foods. To potentially up your levels of testosterone, try having more Brazil nuts and foods with magnesium. You can also try minimizing foods that interfere with male reproductive health, primarily excess alcohol and highly processed foods.    

For personalized guidance regarding the best way to eat for your sexual health and to address concerns related to issues like testosterone, ED, or fertility, talk with a healthcare provider.

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Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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