Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the medical term for the inability to get or keep an erection, and it is thought to affect at least one in five men in the UK. There are a whole host of reasons why it might occur, from physical problems that restrict blood supply, to mental and emotional problems such as stress and low self-esteem.  

It’s often assumed to be a normal consequence of getting older, and age is a risk factor. However, it’s perfectly possible to maintain good sexual function in later life, particularly with a healthy diet and lifestyle. 

A recent report by BBC News explains that in the first instance, men who are experiencing persistent problems with ED should put aside any reluctance or embarrassment and go and visit their doctor. This is because it may be the sign of a serious health condition such as diabetes or heart disease.

If the doctor is able to rule out any specific causes, they are likely to advise you on a number of lifestyle changes, particularly regarding diet. This is because there is some scientific evidence to suggest that eating a healthy balanced diet can reduce the risk of ED, by lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. 

Most people already know that a healthy diet involves eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, but are there any specific types that can be more beneficial than others for preventing ED? 

The BBC reports that Professor Aedin Cassidy of Queen’s University Belfast and her colleagues have been carrying out research into the most effective foods for men with ED. In particular, they have found that a compound that is naturally found in fruit called flavonoids is beneficial for male sexual function. 

Prof Cassidy commented: “We know that fruits and vegetables are good for our health. But we probably need more targeted advice, because they’re not all created equally.”

The scientists found that two specific types of flavonoids were particularly beneficial: anthocyanins and flavanones. The former are found in dark-coloured fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, and blackcurrants, while the latter are found in citrus fruits such as oranges, mandarins, and grapefruits. 

Flavonoids are also found in tea, coffee, and red wine, although the alcohol will probably cancel out any health benefits as far as sexual function is concerned. Furthermore, they can benefit cardiovascular health, which in turn can mitigate against the risk of ED.

In terms of vegetables, leafy greens such as spinach and rocket are considered beneficial, because they can help the body to produce nitric oxide, which is a chemical that helps the blood vessels to widen. This has obvious potential usefulness for men who are experiencing problems with ED.

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