A vast amount of research has shown that what we eat has a tremendous effect on all aspects of our health and well-being. A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats (yes, you DO need fat), whole grains and legumes can provide most of the nutritional elements we need to function well, both physically and mentally. On the other hand, deficiencies in these nutrients can wreak serious havoc; for men, this can have implications in terms of sexual performance and penis health. This article outlines some of the important nutrients that men can’t afford to go without.

Nutrients that affect sexual health, performance and fertility

1) Zinc. This nutritional powerhouse plays an important role in immune function and other aspects of overall health, but it is especially important when it comes to testosterone production. Clinical trials have shown that low levels of zinc result in decreased testosterone production, whereas supplementing with zinc may reverse sexual dysfunction in some individuals.

2) Vitamin A. This vitamin is also essential for testosterone production; deficiencies in this nutrient may cause delayed puberty in boys.

3) Arginine. This essential amino acid is required for the production of nitric oxide, a neurotransmitter that is highly important to erectile function. Treating patients with L-arginine has been shown to successfully reverse sexual dysfunction.

4) Vitamin E. This often overlooked nutrient has a wide range of functions in the body. Studies have shown that deficiencies in vitamin E caused atrophy in rat testes, leading to damaged sexual function and fertility. Research has also demonstrated that vitamin E protects against the damaging effects of free radicals on the hormones and is needed for healthy sperm and adequate sperm motility.

5) Magnesium. Low levels of magnesium have been linked to vasoconstriction in the penis, leading to problems with premature ejaculation.

6) Selenium. Increasing selenium intake has a clinically proven positive effect on sperm health and motility.

How to get the nutrients needed for better sexual health

Fortunately, getting these ingredients through one’s diet is not all that difficult, if men are willing to put in a little time and effort. The best approach is to aim for fresh, whole foods and to avoid processed, packaged items, as well as foods that are high in animal fats, sugars, salt and preservatives. With that said, the following foods and other nutritional items can be excellent sources of the elements needed for better sexual performance, as well as overall physical and mental health.

- Fruits and vegetables. The produce section of the grocery store can provide nearly all of the nutrients needed for better sexual health. Essentially, all fruits and vegetables contain at least some of the vitamins, amino acids and other nutritional elements required, so look for a colorful mix - the more, the better. Eating plenty of these every day can provide zinc, magnesium and vitamin A, as well as many other important nutrients needed for healthy body function.

- Lean Proteins. Beef, lamb, seafood and many nuts and legumes are all excellent sources of zinc; most lean proteins also provide vitamin E and magnesium. These food items support healthy hormone production, along with providing iron - essential for keeping the cells well-oxygenated and encouraging energy and stamina (in the bedroom and beyond).

- Whole grains. In spite of the low-carb fad, complex carbohydrates are still an important source of nutrition; among other essential nutrients, they provide zinc, magnesium and selenium. Choosing natural, whole-grain breads, brown rice and whole oats - as well as many of the other grains available - is ideal, but for men who are not excited about the idea of eating what appears to be animal fodder, fortified cereals and breads are a feasible option.

- Healthy fats. In spite of the admonishments about fat in the diet, fats are actually critical to our health and play an important role in metabolism, as well as the production of the hormones and neurotransmitters that control how we think, feel and function to a large degree. Healthy fats can be found in foods such as plant oils, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, avocadoes and ground and tree nuts.

- Oral Supplements. Oral supplements are a popular way to address nutritional deficiencies, and in many cases, science does support their use. However, dietary supplements are considered to be nutritional items, not medications; therefore, they are not subject to the same rigorous testing for efficacy. This doesn’t mean they are not worth trying - it just means that men need to be selective about any products they choose. In addition, all men should check with their doctors before taking oral supplements, because certain nutrients may actually be harmful at excessive levels in the body.

Rather than hitting up the low-priced supplements at the local big-box retailer, it is well worth going to a store that specializes in nutritional supplements and has employees who are knowledgeable about the products they sell. A consultant can be very helpful when it comes to finding the right supplements for a specific purpose, and recommending those that are more likely to be absorbed and used by the body; never be afraid to ask.

- Penile nutrient creams. Many men find a quality penis health cream (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) to be an easy and effective way to provide the penis itself with some of the ingredients needed for better sexual health. Look for a penis-specific cream that contains preparations of vitamins A and E; L-arginine and its partner acetyl L-carnitine; alpha lipoic acid; vitamin C for healthy circulatory function; and moisturizers that help with absorption and keep the skin smooth and supple at the same time.