Men tend not to be the best at taking care of their health.
According to research, they are more likely to smoke, drink more alcohol than women, and delay regular checkups and medical visits.
They also may choose diets lower in vegetables, fibre, and nutrients required for prevention of conditions such as heart disease and colon cancer.
Improving nutrition does not need to be complicated. So how can men make food choices that keep them healthy?
Here are three ways in which proper nutrition can contribute to improved health for men.
Metabolic Management: As men age, their testosterone levels fall. This affects their muscle-to body-fat ratio over time, such that men may gain weight around the abdominal region, and lose muscle mass in their legs, arms and torso. Once muscle mass loss, accelerates, this can affect the body’s ability to manage cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Muscle is truly the currency of health, therefore men need to ensure they monitor their alcohol intake (alcohol leads to higher fat stores), include nutritious sources of protein such as lean or unprocessed meats, poultry, and fish, and to consider adding plant-based proteins for added fibre and nutrients to their meals, such as nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. As an added benefit, eating this way will help prevent injuries as men age, since injury prevention is related to muscle mass and protein type, quality, meal timing and amounts consumed.
Digestive Health and Diabetes Prevention: Eating every four to six hours is important for maintaining stable blood sugar levels and ensuring men get enough fibre, fruit and vegetables. A diet high in fibre means that the gut bacteria receive suitable nutrients to not only manage digestive health, prevent constipation and ensure good muscle integrity of the gut, but also to provide a lower carbohydrate load to the body. This is the glycemic index. Foods high in fibre have a lower glycemic index, which means blood sugars do not rise dramatically. Examples include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Including these at meals and snacks, understanding portion sizes and variety, and aiming for at least 25 grams of fibre per day, is an important preventative piece to a healthy digestive tract, and normalized blood sugar levels.
Heart Health: According to a publication in the Canadian Medical Association Journal , 74 per cent of men compared to 49 per cent of women exceed the daily recommendation for sodium. High sodium intake, a preventable risk factor, affects high blood pressure and heart health. Men can reduce dietary salt with the help of a dietitian who can review label reading, offer support in meal planning so that salt in recipes and foods can be replaced with other low-sodium flavours, and to help with meal planning during trips, holidays, and restaurant outings.
If you want to make healthier food choices, check with your doctor or a Registered Dietitian to help yourself get started.
By Dani Renouf, Registered Dietitian, St. Paul’s Hospital