Food for Men: 10 Foods to Boost Male Health
Foods men should include in their diets to improve health and prevent disease.
By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
Men are different from women in all kinds of ways -- including their nutritional needs. Just as women need particular nutrients during pregnancy or for protection from breast cancer, men need nutrients that can help them maintain muscle mass, prevent prostate cancer, and more.
Many foods that tend to be favorites among men are not the best choices for good health. Yet a healthy diet and regular physical activity can help prevent heart disease and cancer, the No. 1 and No. 2 killers for men over 35. They can also enhance performance, from the board room to the bedroom.
Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, notes that any food that is good for the cardiovascular system is also good for erectile function in men.
"Nutrients that are good for the heart improve circulation to all parts of the body, and these same nutrients provide a layer of protection against cancer and other chronic diseases," says Gerbstadt, a Florida-based physician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Quality nutrients are also critical for maintaining immune function and preventing bone loss, muscle loss, and oxidative damage from the environment, Of course, any one (or 10) foods can't do the job alone. An overall healthy lifestyle, which also includes not smoking and getting regular physical activity, is what's really important for health, say the experts.
"It is not about one single food or even a handful of foods. What is more important is the pattern of regularly consuming a diet rich in a variety of essential nutrients," says Joy Bauer, MS, RD, author of Joy Bauer's Food Cures and Today Show nutrition expert.
Still, adding nutrient-rich super foods to the diet, as well as taking a daily multivitamin designed exclusively for men (for nutritional insurance), can give men's nutrition a boost, says Dave Grotto, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokesman.
With the help of the experts, WebMD came up with this list of 10 disease-fighting foods that can be a good start to improving health:
Food for Men No. 1: Oysters
Could there be something to the legend that oysters are the food of love? Well, it's true that just a few oysters each day will deliver a full day's supply of the antioxidant mineral zinc. Zinc is involved in hundreds of body processes, from producing DNA to repairing cells.
"Research shows that adequate zinc may protect against cellular damage that leads to prostate cancer," says Grotto. "Sexual functioning of the male reproductive system, including increased sperm counts, is also enhanced with zinc."
You can also get your daily recommended dose of 11 milligrams a day by eating other shellfish, lean beef, lean pork, or legumes.
Food for Men No. 2: Bananas
Bananas are a great portable source of quick energy and are rich in potassium, which is needed to regulate nerves, heartbeat and, especially, blood pressure. Diets rich in potassium and magnesium (which is also found in bananas) can reduce the risk of stroke.
As a super source of vitamin B-6, bananas can also aid your immune system, help form red blood cells, ensure a well-functioning nervous system, and assist protein metabolism. So enjoy a banana each day, at breakfast on your whole grain-cereal or before your workout at the gym.
Not a banana fan? Orange juice, milk, tomato products, and beans are other good sources of dietary potassium.
Food for Men No. 3: Fatty Fish
No list of superfoods would be complete without the healthy fat, omega-3 fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fats are the preferred form of fats in your diet for many reasons. They can benefit the heart, circulation, and immune system and reduce the risk for prostate cancer, among other things.
"Omega-3 fatty acids are potent anti-inflammatory foods that can help lower triglyceride [blood fat] levels, reduce aches and pains in athletes, and offer relief with certain kinds of arthritis," says Bauer.
Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, herring) are the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact the American Heart Association recommends that everyone eat fish twice weekly.
You can also get omega-3s in plant-based foods, like flaxseed, walnuts, soy, canola oil, and fortified products such as eggs. But there are other good reasons to eat fish.
"Fatty fish are also a good source of vitamin D, a nutrient that tends to be deficient in our diets and [which] in adequate supply can help prevent cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and bone disease," says Bauer.
Food for Men No. 4: Broccoli
While virtually all vegetables deserve a place on the superfoods list, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are helpful in the prevention of heart disease and cancer. It's loaded with vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, and a phytochemical called sulphoraphane, which has strong anticancer (prostate and colon) properties.