Optimizing Men’s Health
Optimizing Men’s Health
Our bodies are our vessels, they carry us from birth until last breath. Depending on what fuel we take in will determine many factors, much like the quality of fuel you put in your vehicle. Eating good, nutrient-rich food (fuel) allows for enjoying higher, stable energy levels, have balanced moods, be more productive, focus better, think more clearly, have a stronger memory and better information retention and regenerative immunity. Whereas with low quality, low octane foods- the body will suffer the consequences too, much like low-quality fuel in one’s vehicle.
As children, boys’ and girls’ dietary needs are predominantly similar. But when puberty hits, men and women develop unique and nutritional requirements with subtle differences even though we share 98,5% of our DNA. Both men and women require calories, proteins, complex carbohydrates, good fats, vitamins and minerals, but as we age, our bodies go through hormonal changes and thus our nutritional needs evolve, making it imperative that our diets continue to evolve too.
Unfortunately, men tend to draw the short end in the health stakes when it comes to mid-life onwards, with a shorter life expectancy than women and an increased risk of health issues like heart attack and strokes. Like here in South Africa, with a growing rate of Prostate Cancer, current stats show that 62 of every 100 000 men will develop prostate cancer, regardless of their population group.
Lifestyle and diet are the greatest factors that contribute towards cancer and other diseases, so this is the best place to start making positive changes. Where to start? We have to reduce and eliminate cellular damage and minimize chronic inflammation. Stop smoking and start cutting back on foods that lead to an increased risk will definitely be a first step, this includes limiting: unhealthy fast foods, refined foods filled with added sugars, saturated fats and certain colourants and additives, these may be dangerous on our bodies and can decrease our physical and mental energy and prevent optimal body and organ functionality.
So let’s start with the basics, and a general “obvious” when it comes to a “typical” ‘men’s diet”, meat- and we know, here in South Africa, we love our braai vleis and some would even defend their need for sufficient protein. Well, in a study done by Harvard School of Public Health, where researchers observed more than 37,000 men and 83,000 women, results found that one daily serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 13 percent higher risk of death; a daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 20 percent higher risk. Replacing that serving with a healthier protein such as fish, poultry, nuts, or legumes, conversely, was associated with a lower risk. Diets low in red meat and animal products, and high in plant-based foods such as vegetables and fruits may help to slow down the progression of prostate cancer and reduce tumor growth.
Before you throw out all the tjoppies, remember that moderation is key, and meat can still be part of a healthy diet. Red meat can be good for you, lean cuts of beef and pork are packed with protein and have only a little more fat than chicken breast. Red meat is also a good source of iron, zinc and of leucine, an amino acid that helps build and repair muscle. Moderation is important due to the high fat content in meat, specifically the high saturated “bad fats”. So opt for lean beef and pork, white meat from chicken, ostrich or fish- make sure you remove the skin and trimming to cut back on fat and extra calories. Portion control is also very important with meat; experts suggest a portion of 85- 155 grams of lean meat, about the palm of your hand and new studies have shown the benefits of reducing meat consumption to once per day maximum, and to select high quality, organic, free-range options.
Compared to women, men typically have more muscle and are usually bigger, thus they require more calories throughout the day, of course energy needs depend on your height, weight and activity level. Moderately active males need an average of 2,200 to 2,800 calories per day according to Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) equations.
An excellent source of long-lasting and slow-releasing energy is through whole grains such as whole-grain bread, pasta, cereal, brown rice, oats, barley, beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables. These foods are high in fiber, help manage hunger and fullness, lowers cholesterol levels, helps control blood sugar levels and help fend off certain cancers, such as prostate and colon due to their high mineral content.
Seed-like grains such as quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat are good for overall virility, high in protein and are perfect alternatives for those with wheat sensitivity too.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables, especially the colourful ones, are packed with essential phytonutrients needed to boost overall cell function, repair DNA, reduce allergies due to histamine, neutralizing free radicals in the body and detoxify carcinogens to name a few. Phytonutrients are mostly known for their antioxidant and immune-boosting properties.
Foods that are especially high in Phytonutrients:
- Leafy Greens like broccoli, spinach, kale, green tea, parsley
- Red foods like bell peppers, berries, tomatoes, grapes, pomegranates, apples
- Orange fruit and veg like, Oranges, Sweet potatoes, Peppers, pumpkin, carrots
- Onions, garlic, ginger
- Spices, like Turmeric, Cayenne Pepper, Paprika
Vegetables should fill up half the plate and make sure it is a diverse range too in order to diversify the phytonutrients you take in too. What is also great is that all of these foods also contain high amounts of other essential micro-nutrients like vitamins and minerals, needed for optimal health. Men should especially stock up on veg specifically rich in the phytonutrient, Lycopene, as mentioned before, the mineral- zinc, which may increase sperm motility and sperm count. Zinc can be found in foods like avocado, dates, pumpkin seeds, oysters, mushrooms, seeds and nuts.
A lot of the nutrients require some assistance in order for the body to absorb and increase bioavailability, here is a major factor for us to take in good fats. Fat is essential for cell support and to provide the body with energy, organ protection and insulation (body warmth). Saturated fats like through butter, animal fat, lard and fried foods is best to limit or greatly reduce. Too much saturated fats can lead to high LDL cholesterol levels which can lead to a myriad of heart diseases and stroke.
It is important to choose good products that are GMO-free too, we love the B-well Pure Canola oil and B-well Canola-based products like the B-well Mayonnaise and Cooking/Baking spray. It’s a great way to get in those essential Omega-3 fatty acids and are naturally cholesterol-free.
Foods that are especially high in Phytonutrients:
- Olive oil, we love the B-well Extra Virgin Olive oil, B-well Canola & Olive Blend or B-well Cooking Olive oil.
- Nuts like cashews, macadamias, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and almonds
- Seeds like flaxseed, chia, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, hemp seeds
- Avocado, coconut, olives
- Fatty fish, like salmon, trout, pilchards, tuna
There are plenty of other herbs and superfoods that assist in male health, especially with balancing hormones, enhancing fertility, aiding erectile dysfunction and libido.
- Maca – especially Black Maca powder
- Goji berries
For overall health and wellbeing, foods mentioned throughout this article can supplement the body for good energy and function, but lifestyle is a big factor too. High levels of stress, overconsumption of alcohol, lack of exercise and smoking are all detrimental to favorable health.
By eating nutrient-rich foods to fuel the body and bringing awareness to your diet, staying active and watching your mental health and stress levels, optimal wellbeing is accessible and reachable, the body will do the rest.