Did you grow up hearing the phrase “you are what you eat”? As it turns out, it’s true! The food you eat at every meal and snack on throughout your day has an impact on your body’s ability to function and thrive. Healthy eating and knowledge of nutritional requirements are vital to feeling your best throughout your life. June is National Men’s Health Month, and there is no better time to talk about what nutritional requirements a man should not be missing out on, no matter what his age.
Healthy eating doesn’t just keep you from gaining excess weight. Your body will feel physically better, yes, but that’s because eating the right foods improves your immune system function, digestion, skin health, cardiovascular health and the health of every other body system. Getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals through diet is like purchasing the best insurance plan you can buy.
The obesity epidemic
About 74% of U.S. men are overweight, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Unfortunately, as much as being at a healthy weight can increase your overall health and wellness, being overweight can do the opposite. A man’s risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as a host of other chronic and acute diseases increases with weight gain.
The good news? A really easy way to make sure you are doing your best to live a healthy life is watching what you put on your plate. This means eating foods from all of the food groups: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, protein and dairy. Men need approximately 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight and metabolism.
Men in childbearing years should plan to get plenty of zinc on their plates, as this helps maintain reproductive health. Oysters, red meat, shellfish, and pumpkin seeds are good sources of this vitamin. It is also important to take in sufficient amounts of fiber, which you can acquire by eating about 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. Whole grains are also a good source of fiber and other vitamins and minerals, and anywhere from 4 to 8 servings should be sufficient. Make sure to check serving sizes on the back of your pasta or rice packages, as most people tend to eat more than one serving without realizing it.
Adding plenty of legumes to the diet increases fiber as well as protein. Make sure to get your protein from multiple sources, not just animals. Fish is a great option as it provides omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for brain function, vision, heart health and artery health. Favor lean proteins such as poultry to keep saturated fats to a minimum.
Healthy fats are a must for people of all ages. Fat has gotten a bad rap in the past because of its association with being overweight or causing an increased risk of disease. However, it is important to note that there are fats to be avoided, such as trans fats and saturated fats, as well as fats that are necessary for bodily functioning. These healthy fats come in the form of seeds, nuts, avocados and plant-based oils, and they are an important part of any whole-foods diet.
The key to staying healthy as you age is getting the most bang for your buck nutritionally. Your calorie needs may decrease as you age, but you still need plenty of vitamins and minerals. Therefore, eating nutritionally dense foods — foods that are lower in calories but still offer a wide variety of nutrients — is vital.
You should be going for the same whole foods, eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Protein can come from leaner sources now, such as tofu, poultry, and fish, and red meat should be eaten only occasionally. Getting plenty of fiber from these sources is incredibly important as you age.
Men older than 70 could be at risk for calcium or vitamin D deficiency. Talk to your doctor about taking a supplement to make sure you are covering all of your nutritional needs. However, getting the right vitamins and minerals from real, fresh foods can be an easier way for the body to absorb these nutrients. Some excellent sources of calcium include low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli, tofu, almonds and kale. Phosphorus is another important nutrient and is found in dairy as well as sardines and peanut butter or other nut butters.
Men’s nutritional needs change a bit with age, but no matter which phase of life you are in, it is important to eat nutritionally dense, whole foods. By treating your body right, you will stave off common diseases associated with aging, such as heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle will also help you stay active longer, which may increase longevity. Follow these guidelines as a simple way to get more nutrition into your diet and feel your best so that you can live your best life!