Men’s health: Nutrition
Keeping yourself healthy as you traverse manhood should be simple. And your nutrition is no different. Food is the fuel that powers your daily activities – be it training for a sporting event, working towards a promotion, or energising you as a new sleep-deprived dad. Your menu doesn’t have to be complicated; just make sure it’s up to the job.
A new take on five-a-day
In a meta-analysis of 95 studies, scientists at Imperial College London reported that eating upwards of five portions of fruit and vegetables daily might cut the risk of premature death by a third.(4) However, in the 2018 Health Survey for England, data revealed fewer men than women fail to meet even the five-a-day guidelines.(5) Increasing your intake of these plant foods doesn’t mean grazing on lettuce leaves or loading up on boiled sprouts (which, we can all agree, isn’t the most inspiring activity, right?). Fruit and veggies are actually tremendously versatile, not to mention delicious. Try setting yourself the goal of surpassing the five-a-day mark.
Eat more plants
- Keep frozen fruit and veg in the freezer for smoothies
- Snack on veg – try cucumber with hummus or celery sticks with nut butter
- Leave visually appealing fruit and veg on your desk and kitchen counter
- Roast trays of vibrant vegetables for lunches and dinners
- Add two servings of fruit and veg to every meal, including breakfast
- Combine veggies with healthy fats, like an avocado salsa or tahini dressing
- Keep diced onion and garlic in the freezer for soups, stews and curries
Reduce red meat
By and large, men tend to eat more meat
than women, especially when it comes to red meat.(6) One explanation for this phenomenon is that eating red meat – namely steak – is often perceived as more ‘masculine’. You only need to look at the slew of fast-food ads to know they unapologetically target hungry men. The problem is red meat is high in saturated fats, which may affect your heart health when consumed regularly. If you’re a meat-lover, can you try to cut down on your consumption?
Meat us halfway?
- Enjoy meat-free Mondays
- Make meat the condiment of your meal
- Eat more plant protein – seitan, beans, lentils, soy-based foods, and quinoa
- Could you go one step further and try ‘Veganuary’ (giving up all animal products in January)?
Think like Blue Zones
Blue Zones are hotspots of longevity around the world – wondrous enclaves, like Loma Linda, California and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, where the population of centurions is almost ten times higher than average. Strangely enough, these Blue Zones don’t share One True Diet. Some are vegan; some eat meat; some feast on high-carbs. What unites them, however, are the following principles. To channel their vitality, can you incorporate some of these mantras into your diet and daily life?
Blue Zone guiding principles
- They all sit down to eat their meals together
- They eat seasonally
- They don’t eat processed food
- They allow for occasional treats – at Christmas or Easter, for instance
Variety is the spice of life
Try to cram as many different coloured fruit and veggies into your diet. Diverse plant foods feed the bugs that live in our gut, collectively known as our microbiome. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that a healthy gut means a healthy body and healthy mind.
Men’s health and alcohol
In 2017, 24 per cent of men reported they consumed more than 14 units of alcohol a week, compared to 11 per cent of women.(7) Amongst other things, male-oriented advertising has also lead to a growing gap in the amount of beer consumed by men and women, with 53 per cent of men drinking beer at least once a week, compared to only 17 per cent of women.(8) But guzzling brews and other alcoholic beverages comes at a cost – a calorific one (enter the infamous ‘beer belly’). Of course, you can still enjoy a tipple; just remember moderation is key.
Did you know?
There are around 208 calories in a pint (the same as a Mars bar!)
In recent years, micro-fasting – also known as intermittent fasting or time-restricted feeding – has become increasingly popular. This eating style is purported to improve blood sugar control, appetite signalling, and even immune function.(9) Micro-fasting is also believed to complement the body’s internal circadian rhythm, which governs the sleep-wake cycle. Put simply, restricting your eating window means eating in sync with your natural rhythms. It makes intuitive sense.
Overindulged? Milk Thistle is a traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms associated with occasional overindulgence of food and drink.
A 12-hour eating window
Try eating your meals within a twelve-hour window, starting from the beginning of your first meal to the end of your last meal. If you miss a day, don’t worry. Just try again when you feel ready.
- Wighton, K., T. and Campus, S., (2020). Eating More Fruits And Vegetables May Prevent Millions Of Premature Deaths Imperial College London. [ONLINE] Imperial News. Available at: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/177778/eating-more-fruits-vegetables-prevent-millions/
- 2020. Health Survey For England 2018 [NS] - NHS Digital. [ONLINE] NHS Digital. Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/health-survey-for-england/2018
- Daniel, C. R., Cross, A. J., Koebnick, C., & Sinha, R. (2011). Trends in meat consumption in the USA. Public health nutrition, 14(4), 575–583.
- Drinkaware.co.uk. 2020. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/research/research-and-evaluation-reports/alcohol-consumption-uk
- Beer Today. 2020. Why Isn't Beer Industry Engaging Better With FemaleDrinkers? • Beer Today. [ONLINE] Available at: https://beertoday.co.uk/beer-industry-female-drinkers-0518/
- Collier R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 185(9), E363–E364.