Around this time of year, the rumors start up about aphrodisiacs. Chocolate, strawberries, spicy peppers, and of course, oysters, just to name a few. So is an oyster an aphrodisiac? Well, it’s both simple and complicated. The short answer, biologically, is no. There is no evidence that oysters, or any other food for that matter, contain any chemicals, compounds, nutrients, or anything else that specifically impact your libido.
With that said, there is some justification to this claim for oysters. Per Smithsonian Magazine, oysters are high in zinc, which aids in the production of testosterone. They also contain certain amino acids, as well as serotonin, which activate the pleasure centers in the brain. Good stuff, but none of that actually increases or impacts desire, which is what would make the oyster an aphrodisiac.
The zinc, serotonin, amino acids, and all the other healthy stuff in oysters can make you feel good after eating them. They are a nutrient dense, lean protein. So of course your body is getting a boost from all those nutrients and you aren’t getting bogged down with a lot of carbs, sugars, or fats. This isn’t unlike how you might feel really good after exercising, or watching a funny movie. You feel good and the pleasure center of your brain is ready for a good time, but none of that actually crosses the line from generally feeling good to specifically desiring a little intimate time with your partner.
The only thing that really makes any food an aphrodisiac is your belief that it is. If you associate a food with a particular feeling or emotion, when you have that food, it helps put you in that frame of mind. It’s kind of like how everyone associates champagne with a celebration or special event; we’ve all just kind of agreed that’s what champagne is for. When people see champagne being served, they ask “what’s the occasion?” and that connotation assists with setting a frame of mind. It’s the same with oysters. They can help, but only if you’re in the right frame of mind.
So in short, if you think oysters are aphrodisiacs, then for you, they are. They are full of things that will make you feel good and get your brain ready for a good time, but you still have to point your brain at which good time you want.
So, to assist, say it with me: "Oysters are an aphrodisiac."
To dive into more of the science and learn more, read the Smithsonian Magazine's article here.