Oral sex. While it's kind of the activity that everyone (or at least, almost everyone) does and yet doesn't openly talk about it all of the time, I feel like it's important that I provide as much information as possible on the topic. After all, knowledge is power, and the more you know about sex—all kinds of sex—the better. Well, when it comes to fellatio specifically, a couple of years back, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, "Do You Swallow? The Unexpected Health Benefits Of Sperm". It touched on sperm from the angle of all of the ways that it can benefit your system—and chile, there are many.
Yet it's hard to take advantage of all that sperm (and semen; the fluid that holds sperm) has to offer if you can't stand that taste of it. You know it. I know it. Well, a way to take better control of how it resonates with your taste buds is to make sure your partner applies certain foods to his diet while avoiding certain others. If you'd like a quick cheat sheet of how to improve the taste of sperm, I've included five foods he should eat and five that he should eat less of. If he wants to get some, that is. (By the way, I'm gonna say sperm all throughout this; just know that semen is included in my thoughts.)
For sperm to taste better, he should eat: Celery
Celery doesn't taste like much of anything. That's why it trips me out that it has so many health benefits to it. Celery is good for you because it's a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, along with folate, potassium, magnesium, iron, and antioxidants. Consuming it can help to reduce bodily inflammation, and improve digestion and it can even help to lower your cholesterol levels. Plus, celery contains properties that can help to prevent cancer.
The reason why it tops the list of things that your man should eat is because, for one thing, the Vitamin C and phytonutrients in it will actually help to increase his sperm count and motility. Not only that but the Vitamin C in celery can also help to take some of the salty taste out of sperm. As a bonus, celery is also known to be an aphrodisiac food, thanks to the pheromones that it produces. Yep, celery can actually make you enjoy the scent of sperm more. Imagine that.
For sperm to taste better, he shouldn't eat: Dairy
Dairy is a bit of a controversial topic, although there is more and more data coming out that it's really not the best for us overall. As far as the belief that dairy strengthens our bones, it's actually more effective to up your Vitamin D dosage instead. Because dairy increases an insulin growth factor in our body called IGF-1, it actually has the ability to increase the cancer risk in our system. While studies have revealed the dairy doesn't actually produce more mucus, what it does do is make it thicker and more irritating. Dairy consumption also increases the risk of breakouts, prostate cancer in your man and ovarian cancer in you.
There are a couple of reasons why dairy is a no-no as far as sperm goes. First, it has the ability to decrease motility in men and even cause sperm to end up having an abnormal shape. Also, dairy has a tendency to alter to taste of semen (and not in a good way), not to mention that it can make your man gassy and…who wants to deal with that during sex. Uh-uh.
To improve the taste of sperm, he should eat: Mint
I don't know a ton of people who just chew on sprigs of mint. Still, fresh mint is something that you can put into your drinking water, smoothie or in some of the dishes that you prepare—and, of course, there is always herbal mint tea. It's well worth the effort because mint contains a fair amount of fiber, Vitamin A and iron. It can help to relieve indigestion ,irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and even improve brain function. Did you know that mint can even relieve cold-related symptoms (due to the menthol that's in it) and decrease breastfeeding discomfort? And, of course, it's one of the most effective ways to get rid of bad breath.
While there are some studies that spearmint and peppermint can slight decrease testosterone levels in women, when men consume it a couple of times a week, it does have a way of making sperm less acidic which can give it a bit of a sweeter, umm, aftertaste. So yeah, pick some up, the next time you're in the produce section.
To improve the taste of sperm, he shouldn't eat: Sulfur-Based Foods
Sulfur is an interesting mineral in the sense that our bodies aren't able to produce it; we have to consume it in order to get it into our system. Foods that are high in sulfur include garlic, onions, eggs, broccoli, cabbage, radishes, parmesan cheese and scallops—just to name a few. All of these foods are beneficial because sulfur can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, can lessen joint and muscle pain, can definitely clear up acne (I am a big-time sulfur soap fan) and it can also help to keep you from developing things like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease up the road.
I'm pretty sure it takes no guessing why sulfur-based foods are the wackest when it comes to fellatio, though. Sulfur stinks—point blank and period. And it tends to pass along a bit of its odor while also intensifying sperm's somewhat naturally bitter taste. Yeah, hard pass.
For sperm to taste better, he should eat: Fresh Fruit
Fresh fruit tastes so good. If you've ever wondered which ones are the healthiest, some that top the list are grapefruit, avocado, pineapple, berries (basically all berries), watermelon, olives, oranges, bananas, papayas and cherries. All are high in antioxidants. All are loaded with fiber. All contain vitamins A, C, folate and phytochemicals (plant compounds). All are filled with water and low in calories.
Your man eating fruit is a good idea because the micronutrients in it will improve his sperm concentration. Plus, fruit can help to take the "bite" off of sperm (you know, the copper/sour taste that it sometimes has). Also, fruit has a way of making sperm taste better too; a little sweeter, even.
For sperm to taste better, he shouldn't eat: Red Meat
Red meat could really get its own article because there are so many pros and cons to it. For the sake of time and space, a pro is that it's really high in iron. Meanwhile, a con is it typically contains a lot of saturated fat which can lead to high cholesterol levels and heart disease overall.
The reason why your man may need to push the plate back more often on the sperm tip is because red meat can make sperm taste really salty (poultry makes it less this way). So, unless you totally dig that idea, a black bean burger might be what he should have leading up to, well, you know.
He should eat: Spices
Ginger. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Cocoa. Rosemary. These are just a handful of spices that are really good for your health because they are rich in antioxidants, are able to reduce bodily inflammation, can help to lower blood sugar levels and so much more.
And why should you encourage your man to sprinkle some of these on his food? They are just one more thing that can help to pull some of the acid out of sperm so that it tastes a little sweeter. Not sweet like cake but definitely less tart and easier to…take in.
He shouldn't eat: Caffeine
I've said before that caffeine comes with its ups and downs as far as health benefits go. Today, let's just stick to the upswing. If you consume it in moderation (because it is a stimulant that is a drug that could lead to an addiction, if you're not careful), caffeine has the ability to (temporarily) increase your energy levels, burn fat, lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, protect your liver and can also put you into a better mood.
The reason why you should discourage your man from having more than a cup of java or scoop of coffee ice cream on a daily basis is because it can cause his sperm to taste pretty bitter. Kinda like licking a penny. And unless that's your thing, it's not.
He should drink: Wheatgrass
I'm not really sure if a lot of folks are thrilled with the idea of taking in shots of wheatgrass. Still, it does top the list of superfoods and when you see the benefits that it provides, it's easy to see why. Wheatgrass is a type of grass that is loaded with chlorophyll, antioxidants, and all kinds of nutrients. It's great for your health because it works to boost your metabolism; purify your blood; detox your system of metals; cleanse your liver; treat body odor; naturally heal symptoms related to eczema and psoriasis and boost your immunity—and so much more.
And how does it help out in the sperm department? Thanks to the high amount of chlorophyll that's in it, it can help to keep the pH level of sperm in check (which should be somewhere between 7.2 and 8.0) which makes it less acidic and more pleasurable to your taste buds.
He shouldn't drink: Alcohol
Last one. If you check out my article, "Liquors That Are Gluten-Free (& Beneficial In Other Ways)", you'll find that there are some health benefits to alcohol—and not just red wine. Shoot, the antioxidants that are in a lot of alcoholic drinks are enough of a reason to pour yourself a glass of somethin' a couple of times a week.
Just make sure that your man isn't tippin' a few bottles back before it's time to put some work in. For some reason, it has a way of causing sperm to taste sour. So, unless you enjoy sucking on lemons (no pun intended, of course), alcohol should be consumed right before "the act", not hours prior. Enjoy!
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Introducing Chief Mom Officer: Where Working Moms Come First
xoNecole's Chief Mom Officer explores the 18-month post-pregnancy journey through the lens of our very own Chief Mom Officer, Shakyna Bolden. The series will serve as an inspirational and resourceful guide to help get through the early days of new motherhood as working moms knowing they are not alone in the hardships.
“I want to build my work around my life, and not my life around my work.”
I typed these words in my iPhone Notes as I fed my newborn daughter one morning during the first few weeks of having her earthside. I didn’t have much time for page-filled journal entries as my days were filled with nonstop feedings, soothing, and recovery…but I knew I needed to give those words space and life.
Prior to my maternity leave, I, like most working moms, was burning fumes juggling work and life. Since 2019, I’ve been running revenue operations here at this really cool company you may have heard of called xoNecole (hehe). I’ve been behind the scenes building our brand partnerships and negotiating deals with companies such as Ulta Beauty, Toyota, Target, Spotify, SheaMoisture, etc.
Courtesy of Shakyna Bolden
I’ve co-produced our signature events like ElevateHER and Pajamas & Lipstick while conceptualizing, selling, building, and distributing our original video and podcast content and podcast. The list goes on and on. I’ve helped build this small but brilliant company into what it is today, all while running my own small family. And that is not an easy feat.
In all truth, trying to be the best mom and partner I can be while also leading in my job has felt at times like a whirlwind where the rest of my life is passing me by. I don’t quite know where or when it happened, but I swear somebody pushed the fast-forward button in life, and I’m losing my edges trying to keep up.
My mind and body get so preoccupied with the management of life that my soul sits on the sidelines, waiting to take the reins and intentionally live it.
So many facets of my life, from my health and well-being to my hobbies and passions, have been placed on the back burner while tending to my young family and growing in my career has taken center stage. And for the longest time, I’ve wanted to flip the switch, but the pace of life just hasn’t let me restack my priorities.
That is, until now.
Courtesy of Shakyna Bolden
When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter last year, I couldn’t imagine adding more to my already full plate. Simultaneously, I was also relieved to know that my upcoming maternity leave would force me to press pause and catch my breath. Her birth in January 2023 was a much-needed reset, to say the least.
My maternity leave was the first time since 2019 that I had a second for dreams that were buried in the back of my heart to bubble up to the surface of my reality. I got a taste of what it was like to solely focus on my well-being and my home life. And I liked it a lot. My healing. My recovery. Sitting and really taking quiet time with God to search the unattended areas in the garden of my life.
I was cooking homemade meals on the regular and actually sitting down with my family at the table to eat. As grueling as those first newborn weeks can be, I was enjoying the long-awaited shift in my priorities; and I wanted that shift to stick. I didn’t want it to fade away after my maternity leave.
I want to build my work around my life and not my life around my work.
As a leader of an organization that speaks to millions of women every day about their well-being (and also in leading a team of majority women), I feel it’s my responsibility to carry this shift forward boldly. This is why I’m launching a new column here at xoNecole: Chief Mom Officer!
As I return to work full-time this month from my maternity leave, I want to regularly share my experience of trying to harmonize work and life. As an audience, you all share your raw, unfiltered journeys with us. For years, they’ve undoubtedly inspired me. I want to show up and do the same because I know this shift in my life will be quite the journey.
So for all my Chief Mom Officers—those of us who are constantly merging the imperfect and chaotic worlds of leadership in the office and wearing our crowns at home—I invite you to come on this journey with me and celebrate the ebbs and flows in how we show up for each.
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Featured image courtesy of Shakyna Bolden