Aphrodisiac foods cheaper than you think for Valentine's Day romance

Lovers, you've got a little more than one week until the hottest day of the year. No, we're not talking about summer solstice or the dog days of summer.

Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, the day devoted to red-hot romance, love and hearts, is notoriously hot, hot, hot. And whether lovers are toting home heart shaped boxes of chocolate under their arms, ordering in heart shaped pizzas or going out for a romantic dinner, food plays a big role in Valentine's celebrations.

So WalletPop thought we'd give lovers a helping hand this year. With the help of Dr. Melody Hart a practitioner at ChicagoHealers.com, we compiled a shopping list of must-have aphrodisiac foods. And, as an added bonus, most of these foods are pulling double duty, offering numerous health benefits, too.

And just in case you're worried romance will set you back two weeks pay, relax. At $55.89, this feast for two costs less than a bouquet of roses. Plus you and your main squeeze can enjoy the health benefits much longer than you would flowers.

Go nuts
"Nuts and sesame seeds have an amino acid called L-arginine that enhances blood flow throughout the body," says Hart. One pound of roasted mixed nuts -- unsalted to protect your heart's health -- will run about $9.99.

Be sweet
Chocolate (70% or more cocoa) releases pleasure-enhancing endorphins in the brain. "Researchers have studied chocolate and found it to contain phenylethylamine and serotonin, which are both "feel good" chemicals," says Hart.

These "feel goods" occur naturally in our bodies and are released by our brains when we are happy or feeling loving or passionate, but chocolate is a great way to kick start or enhance that passion. "It produces a euphoric feeling, like when you're in love," says Hart. Opt for 86% dark chocolate and you'll improves blood flow to the skin, which enhances hydration, increases dermal thickness, and decreases roughness and scaling. So you and your sweetie will look as youthful as the day you met. The price for all this goodness: $20 for a box of 16 pieces.

It seems oysters deserve their reputation of having magical sex-inducing powers. Hart says the zinc in oysters revs up productions of hormones in men and women. Not to mention zinc is great at boosting your immune system, too.

But oysters aren't the only love-friendly food from the sea. Mussels, clams and oysters have all been found to contain D-aspartic acid and NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) compounds, which may be effective in releasing sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen.

One pound of fresh-frozen little neck clams costs about $10.95 a pound. A pound of fresh-frozen blue mussels is also about $10.95. If you splurge and get both, that's $21.90 for this main course.

Spice it up
Chilies have capsaicin, which Hart says increases circulation and releases endorphins that make you feel good.

"Eating chili peppers generates physiological responses in our bodies like sweating, increased heart rate and circulation, that are similar to those experienced when having sex," she says.

So not only will you feel good during your romantic meal, all that circulating blood is good for your heart, too. Your grocer's produce department has many dried and fresh options. and since a little chili goes a long way, you can buy a small one for under $1.

Pull out all the stops
Hart says the smell of licorice candy can get a woman "in the mood." "The smell has shown to be very stimulating." You can pick up a bag of Twizzlers Pull-n-Peel (which makes sharing fun) for under $3 at your local grocery store.

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance journalist specializing in health, celebrity and consumer issues.
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