4) White flour: Don't be a sponge-bread soft-pants
Trans fats aren't the only reason to cut back on packaged foods such as white bread, sweets and many refined-grain breakfast cereals. Processing removes most of the nutrients in these items, including ones that are important to your sex life. "For health, for fitness and for good sex, you want a well-nourished body, not one filled up on empty calories with few nutrients," Bonci says.
When whole wheat is processed into white flour, for example, it loses about three-quarters of its zinc, a mineral essential to men's sexuality and reproduction. "One of the highest concentrations of zinc in the body is found in the prostate gland, which produces most of the fluid in semen," Lieberman says. "There is some evidence that a diet high in zinc helps prevent midlife prostate enlargement and prostate cancer."
There's another reason to avoid too many refined grains, Lieberman says: They're associated with insulin resistance, a precursor of diabetes, which in turn can accelerate narrowing of the arteries, increasing your risks of heart disease and ED. Moreover, 60 percent to 70 percent of those with diabetes experience nervous-system disease as well.
5) Soy: Avoid too much of a good thing
Yes, eating soy foods is good for you. In fact, studies of some traditional cultures in which soy is a major protein source found that many men who consume it regularly keep indulging in the pleasure principle well into old age. The FDA allows label claims that soy foods help lower cholesterol, and other studies have found that they reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Still, researchers haven't ruled out the possibility that too much soy can affect your manliness. That's because one of the ways it achieves its healthful effects is by mimicking the female sex hormone. "Soy foods have estrogenic qualities," Lieberman says. "And it's not really clear how this affects men."
While there's no evidence that a moderate soy intake will have a negative impact on your sex life, it's theoretically possible that a high intake could - say you were to drink several soy protein shakes, which are high in the estrogenic constituent called isoflavones, every day. "I'd say it's fine to have soy foods a few times a week," Bonci says. "Just don't go overboard with them."
Hear us now, thank us later
While a double cheeseburger with fries is more likely to be followed by a nap than a romp in the sheets, most foods that poison men's sexuality usually take decades to do their dirty work.
Of course, if you abuse many of these foods, then your problems can start showing up in mild forms earlier in life, as early even as the mid-30s. Often, erectile dysfunction starts at this stage; some docs believe it's an early indicator of arterial disease.
So what's a guy to do? "Start eating healthier now," Bonci suggests, "and commit to improving your diet in the future. Every time you eat some vegetables instead of a muffin drenched in trans fats, you're helping your arteries stay healthy - and that keeps your penis working properly as well."