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Smart nutrients play an important role in sexuality, and their presence in smart foods provides a powerhouse of sexual potency for those who are smart enough to seek them out. Since vitamins and minerals and other nutrients are fragile—many are destroyed by cooking, metal pans, and light or are leeched out of foods during preparation-—you may be getting less of these vital nutrients than you think. The following vitamins and minerals will help keep you in top sexual form. I've listed the latest RDA for each nutrient, so you can compare these values with those found in many commercially available antioxidant formulas. The RDAs—most of which are, in my opinion, worthless—change every four years or so and are designed, at best, to prevent deficiency diseases (such as scurvy, beri-beri, and pellagra), but have little relevance to maximum mental performance, life extension, and the overall prevention of degenerative diseases. Anyone who is familiar with the scientific literature is aware that most studies that have demonstrated the beneficial effects of nutrients (especially antioxidants) in humans have used many, many times the RDA for the majority of nutrients.

Thiamin (B,) is essential for optimal nerve transmission and energy production throughout the body—which means it's essential for sex. (Chronic alcohol use predisposes one to thiamin deficiency.) Natural food sources include beans, peas, lentils, raw nuts, soybeans, whole-grain cereals and breads, seeds, peanuts, and yogurt. RDA: 1 mg minimum.

Niacin (B3), in addition to combating depression, insomnia, anxiety, and fatigue helps dilate blood vessels that are important for maintaining penile erection in men and clitoral erection in women. It helps the body synthesize sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, and, like thiamin, helps the body convert foods into energy. Niacin can lower elevated blood cholesterol levels, a cause of impotence, but the most common form of vitamin B3, niacinamide, cannot do so.

Niacin may cause temporary skin flushing, burning, itching, redness, and heat which usually last no more than 15-30 minutes. This reaction is generally harmless and can be minimized by taking niacin supplements on a full stomach. All people, including those taking antihypertensive (high blood pressure) medications, those with gout, diabetes mellitus, or a history of liver disease, gallbladder disease, peptic ulcer, arterial bleeding, or acanthosis nigricans, should consult with a physician before taking niacin supplements.

Pantothenic acid (B5) is popularly known as the stress vitamin because laboratory tests show that animals that are exposed to environmental or mental stress survive longer when their diets are rich in pantothenic acid. Vitamin B5 helps the adrenal glands manufacture steroid hormones and has been used to treat PMS. Vitamin B5 is found in poultry, beef, eggs, beans, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and molasses. RDA: no recommended dosage; 4-7 mg are suggested.

Pyridoxine (B6) (commonly found in vitamin supplements as pyridoxal-5-phosphate) is required for the transport and metabolism of amino acids that serve as precursors to the synthesis of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, that are involved in the sex drive. Birth control pills and estrogen-replacement therapy can lower the levels of B6 in the body. Foods that are rich in this vitamin include eggs, red meat, bananas, carrots, cantaloupe, wheat germ, and sunflower seeds. RDA: 2 mg for men, 1.6 mg for women.

Cyanocobalamin (B12) helps the body manufacture hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule found in red blood cells (low levels of vitamin A12 can result in a type of anemia that can cause, among other things, a loss of sex drive). Vitamin B12 is essential for proper brain and nerve development and for DNA synthesis. Strict vegetarians need to supplement their diets with vitamin B12 because it is found in appreciable amounts only in animal food sources. Vitamin B12 is found in muscle and organ meats, fish and shellfish, milk and milk products, eggs, and seaweed (contaminated with vitamin B12 from microorganisms). RDA: 2 mcg.

Folic acid is required for the production of energy, the synthesis of nucleic acid, the division and replication of cells, and the formation of red blood cells. Birth control pills and hormone-replacement therapy can deplete levels of folic acid in the body. Recent research has shown that folic-acid supplementation, around the time of conception, can help prevent birth defects of the central nervous system (one of the most important nutritional discoveries, in my opinion, of the twentieth century). Folic acid has also been used in the treatment of cervical dysplasia. It is found in such foods as green leafy vegetables, root vegetables, organ meats, tuna, salmon, whole grains, wheat germ, cheese, and citrus fruits. RDA: 200 mcg for men, 180 mcg for women.

Vitamin N participates in the synthesis of hormones that are involved in sex and fertility: androgen, estrogen, and progesterone. In addition to aiding in growth, tissue repair, and bone healing and offering widespread protection against free-radical damage throughout the body and central nervous system, vitamin N is vital to the formation of connective tissue (collagen), which helps keep skin supple, elastic, and youthful looking. It is found in citrus fruits and tomatoes; green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage; and broccoli. RDA: 60 mg; 100 mg suggested for smokers.

Vitamin A and beta-carotene are involved in cell growth, vision, protection against free-radical damage to the lungs and mucous membranes, the production of healthy sperm, and the maintenance of a properly functioning thyroid gland. Vitamin A also helps regulate the synthesis of the sex hormone progesterone. Vitamin A is found in two forms, preformed vitamin A and pro-vitamin A, or beta-carotene. Carotene is a pigment found in vegetables, such as yams, carrots, yellow squash, and pumpkin. Carotene is converted by the body to active vitamin A only when needed, so it is relatively nontoxic, even when taken in large amounts. Vitamin A is made from carotene in the bodies of other animals, which are subsequently ingested by humans in foods, such as liver, milk, and eggs. Other foods that are high in carotene include tomatoes, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables. RDA: 1,000 RE for men, 800 RE for women.

Vitamin E, often referred to as the sex vitamin, is a powerful antiaging antioxidant that protects cell membranes from free-radical damage and is required for the synthesis of hormones and hormonelike substances known as prostaglandins. Food sources of this vitamin include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, egg yolks, wheat, spinach, fruits, peas, and asparagus. RDA: 10 mg for men, 8 mg for women.

Anyone taking large doses of vitamin E should consult an ophthalmologist to make sure they don't have retinitis pigmentosa (half of all those who develop RP have no idea that they're at risk because it's a recessive trait). More information on RP can be obtained from the RP Foundation (800-683-5555). Those people scheduled for surgery who take vitamin E supplements should inform their physician prior to surgery because vitamin E can prolong bleeding times.

Zinc, in terms of sex, primarily affects men, because it is required for the production of testosterone and proper functioning of the prostate gland. It has been shown to help manage prostatitis and some cases of impotence. Food sources of zinc include oysters, beans, peas, lentils, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, and spinach. RDA: 15 mg for men, 12 mg for women.

Magnesium participates in the synthesis of sex hormones and has been used to treat PMS and menstrual cramps. It is vital to proper muscle and nerve functioning. Foods rich in this mineral include meats, fish, dairy products, avocados, apples, apricots, figs, peaches, beets, and whole grains. RDA: 350 mg for men, 280 mg for women.

Manganese is a trace mineral that is important for the production of sex hormones, such as androgen and estrogen, and neurotransmitters that modulate the sex drive, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Good food sources include apples, apricots, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, beets, and nuts. RDA: none; 2-5 mg recommended for adults.