Young man stroking chin while wondering about the worst foods for erectile dysfunction

Worst Foods For Erectile Dysfunction

Medically reviewed on December 29, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Sexual function is a telling marker of your overall well-being. Like any other system of the body, it’s supported by a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep—and if something is amiss, it could indicate an underlying problem with your health.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a symptom of vascular conditions like hypertension, as well as hormonal conditions like diabetes.[1] As such, the food you eat can play a pivotal part in reconciling not only ED but also its associated health conditions.

Below, we’ll cover the worst foods for erectile dysfunction so that you can work toward improving your ED and overall health.

Understanding Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

The hallmark symptom of erectile dysfunction is the inability to maintain an erection.[1] Other signs and symptoms include[1]:

  • Inability to achieve erection
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Delayed ejaculation
  • Low libido

Sometimes, erectile dysfunction can be brought on by life circumstances or stress, or by taking certain medications (like certain antidepressants).[2] However, for an estimated 75% of men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB), ED stems from more complex causes or underlying illnesses.[3]

ED is known to be common for people living with the following health conditions [1]:

  • Atherosclerosis (congested blood vessels)
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Hormonal conditions (e.g. low testosterone)
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Enlarged prostate (Learn more: Can a Swollen Prostate Cause Erectile Dysfunction?)

Struggling with ED occasionally can be a normal part of sexual life. But if you deal with it consistently, reach out to a healthcare provider for assessment. Erectile dysfunction is often an early sign of another illness that can compromise your overall health.[1]

For instance, ED itself can be one of the earliest signs of high blood pressure (hypertension) or other vascular conditions.[4] This is because the penile artery—the structure that supplies blood flow to the genitals during sexual arousal—is relatively small and fragile.[4] As such, it’s especially vulnerable to early damage caused by elevated blood pressure. So remember this if you find yourself asking, “Can high blood pressure cause erectile dysfunction?”

Foods To Avoid For Improving Erectile Dysfunction

A well-rounded diet is one of the cornerstones of any health pursuit. Concerning erectile dysfunction, any foods known to raise your risk of conditions that can cause ED—like obesity, hypertension, or type 2 diabetes—are best to limit or eliminate when building a proper diet.

It’s always best to speak to a qualified healthcare provider before making any significant dietary modifications, especially if you’re already managing a preexisting illness. That said, the following are foods to avoid if you have an enlarged prostate or ED if you want to mitigate your symptoms and improve overall well-being.

Sugary Foods

Three of the main conditions that contribute to erectile dysfunction—obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes—are closely tied to consuming too much sugar.[5]

Nutritionally speaking, sugars are a kind of carbohydrate: a necessary macronutrient. [6] But simple sugars (monosaccharides) are easily digested by your body and cause a sudden surge of blood glucose. [6] This can lead to elevated insulin production, insulin insensitivity, and type 2 diabetes. [6] One 15-year study showed that people who obtained between 17 to 21% of their daily energy needs from added sugar were 38% more likely to die from cardiovascular illness.[6]

From improving your ED to curbing your risk of long-term health problems, avoiding added sugars is one of the best ways to improve your diet. Obvious sugar sources—like candy bars and fruit juices—should be minimized. But sugar is also a hidden ingredient in many food products available today, from store-bought sauces to microwaveable meals. [7]

To reduce your intake, review food labels for the following ingredients [7]:

  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn sweetener
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Brown sugar
  • Malt sugar
  • Honey
  • Molasses

A helpful rule of thumb is to reduce your intake of any processed foods that contain the suffix “ose” in their ingredients list (e.g. fructose, glucose, or sucrose).[7]

Fatty Foods

Fats are necessary macronutrients and integral to a whole, nutritious diet. However, certain fats can contribute to conditions like hypertension or heart disease, which may also present as erectile dysfunction.

Saturated fats are one of the main culprits for stymying erectile health. These can inhibit blood flow by damaging cardiovascular health, which is essential for proper erectile function. The following foods are high in saturated fats [8,9]:

  • Fried foods
  • Red meat (beef, pork, lamb)
  • Chicken or turkey with skin
  • Butter
  • Cream or heavy cream
  • Ice cream
  • Palm oil
  • Lard

Unless otherwise instructed by a healthcare provider, it’s alright to keep some saturated fats in your diet, but it’s recommended that adults obtain no more than 13 grams of saturated fats daily.[9]

On the other hand, many polyunsaturated fats may assist with erectile dysfunction by enhancing blood sugar regulation and lowering bad cholesterol levels. [8] For this reason, some fats that are okay to continue eating include [8]:

  • Peanut oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (like those found in fish like anchovies, salmon, and sardines)
  • Walnuts

Highly Processed Foods

Highly processed foods are food products that have undergone several phases of processing and manufacturing before being sold to consumers. Though ubiquitous, they can be damaging to sexual functioning in several ways:

  • Providing insufficient nutrition – Many highly processed foods lose their nutritional value during the production process. For instance, the strawberries used to flavor a sugary yogurt won’t provide the same benefits as strawberries in their natural state.
  • Introducing harmful substances – Highly processed foods are often laden with substances that can be damaging in large amounts. These include trans fats, saturated fats, and added sugars.

Highly processed foods may contribute to negative erectile dysfunction outcomes because of their relationship to ED-related health conditions.[10] In one study, adults who ate a diet full of ultra-processed foods were at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and other vascular illnesses.[10]

If you’re unsure of how to spot highly processed foods, the best rule of thumb is to ensure most of your meals are made up of lean proteins, whole grains, whole vegetables, and whole fruits. Cooking at home and staying in the most “colorful” area of your local market can help ensure you stay stocked in mostly whole, unprocessed foods.

Alcoholic Beverages

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), alcohol overuse is prevalent among men and people AMAB. [11] Not only is this demographic more likely to engage in binge drinking, but also, in 2020, 13% of adult men were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder.[11]

Apart from the negative physical, emotional, and circumstantial effects of alcohol misuse, excessive alcohol consumption and drug abuse can compromise the endocrine, nervous, and vascular systems. [1] Male sexual health may be compromised by increasing the likelihood of [11]:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Testicular function
  • Male hormonal imbalance
  • Male infertility

The CDC defines moderate drinking as having 2 drinks or fewer per day for men and people AMAB. [12] If you’re a frequent drinker or you struggle with your alcohol consumption, a trusted healthcare provider can point you toward recovery resources.

Foods To Focus On For Improving Erectile Dysfunction

Knowing which foods are worst for erectile dysfunction is just the beginning of improving your sexual well-being. It can also be helpful to know which food choices may be beneficial for counteracting ED and ED-related conditions, as well as for building more robust health overall.


Fish are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, an excellent type of fat to include in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids promote cardiovascular health and stable blood flow, both of which can aid healthy erectile function.

Folate-Rich Foods

Folate, or vitamin B9, is associated with vascular health and optimal blood flow. [13] Folic acid is an artificial version of folate, but it can be just as beneficial for blood health. [13] Whichever you choose, it’s recommended that most people get 400 micrograms (mcg) per day. [13]

Folate-rich ingredients to add to your diet include [13]:

  • Leafy greens
  • Legumes
  • Fortified grains
  • Nuts

Monounsaturated Fats

Certain healthy fats—chiefly monounsaturated fats—are thought to help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, and promote the presence of good cholesterol.[14] Nuts and seeds are one of the best sources, and they’re easily integrated as snacks or garnishes for meals.

You can incorporate more of these fats by eating:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans

Whole Grains

Opting for whole grains is preferable to refined grains when it comes to rounding out your daily carbohydrate intake.[15] Certain whole grains help promote heart health, stabilize blood sugar levels, and lower your risk of stroke and heart attack by counteracting blood clot formation. [15]

Unprocessed, whole grains are ideal for incorporating in an anti-ED diet. These include [15]:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Buckwheat
  • Rye
  • Quinoa
  • Spelt
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice

Support Your Sexual Well-Being With Everlywell

Erectile dysfunction is an important symptom to pay attention to—not solely for sexual welfare, but also for holistic well-being.

No matter what sexual health symptoms you’re facing, an online men’s health consultation with Everlywell can put you on track to recovery. Everlywell’s online men’s health service connects you with professionals who’ll develop an effective care plan that’s unique to you, all from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

Get started today by visiting Everlywell and booking your first online session.

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  1. Erectile dysfunction - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. Published March 29, 2022. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  2. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects? Mayo Clinic. Published January 25, 2020. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  3. Harvard Health. 5 natural ways to overcome erectile dysfunction. Harvard Health. Published June 30, 2023. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  4. Ma M, Bian Y, Qin F, Yuan J. Current approaches to the diagnosis of vascular erectile dysfunction. Translational Andrology and Urology. 2020;9(2):709-721. doi:10.21037/tau.2020.03.10. Published April 20, 2020. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  5. Clinic C. Sweet spot: How much sugar is OK to eat per day? Cleveland Clinic. Published December 21, 2023. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  6. Harvard Health. Are certain types of sugars healthier than others? Harvard Health. Published October 20, 2023. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  7. Harvard Health. The sweet danger of sugar. Harvard Health. Published January 6, 2022. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  8. Dietary fat: Know which to choose. Mayo Clinic. Published February 15, 2023. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  9. Saturated fat. Published May 10, 2023. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  10. Ldn KDMM Rd,. What are ultra-processed foods and are they bad for our health? Harvard Health. Published January 9, 2020. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  11. Excessive alcohol use and risks to men’s health | CDC. Last Reviewed October 31, 2022. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  12. Facts about moderate drinking | CDC. Last Reviewed April 19, 2022. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  13. Folate (folic acid). Mayo Clinic. Published August 10, 2023. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  14. Professional CCM. Carbohydrates. Cleveland Clinic. Last Reviewed February 8, 2021. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.
  15. Whole grains. The Nutrition Source. Published November 4, 2019. URL. Accessed December 26, 2023.

Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT is most fulfilled when guiding others towards making stepwise, sustainable changes that add up to big results over time. Jordan works with a wide variety of individuals, ranging in age from children to the elderly, with an assortment of concerns and clinical conditions, and has written for publications such as Innerbody. She helps individuals optimize overall health and/or manage disease states using personalized medical nutrition therapy techniques.
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