Healthy Eating for Men

Written by Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N | Published on August 11, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on August 11, 2014

Healthy Eating for Men

We are all human, but men and women have slightly different needs when it comes to fueling their bodies. Men have more muscle mass than women, for one thing, so their need for protein is somewhat greater. Men also require more fiber. Here are some guidelines to help you maximize your nutrition.

The Good

Protein

Men have proportionally more muscle mass and less body fat than women. As a result, men need more protein to maintain their greater muscle mass. Protein provides amino acids, which are the building blocks the body uses to repair and build muscle. Proteins are made of about 22 "standard" amino acids, nine of which are essential. An amino acid is considered essential if it is required for growth and development of the organism but the organism is unable to make the particular amino acid itself. The body obtains them from the diet. Protein sources that contain all the essential amino acids are called complete, or whole, proteins.

Focus on: 

  • lean meats like lean beef
  • white meat poultry without skin
  • lean pork
  • whey (from dairy)
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • egg whites
  • low-fat dairy
  • beans
  • soy


Fluids

It’s important for both men and women to drink enough water each day. A good general guideline is eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily.

Drinking zero-calorie or very low-calorie fluids can help control calorie intake. Consumption of sugared soft drinks has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Potassium

Potassium is an essential element that helps lower blood pressure, among other effects. Studies suggest that most people get too much sodium and too little potassium in the diet. Some fruits and veggies that are high in potassium include: 

  • bananas
  • apricots
  • oranges
  • grapefruit
  • berries
  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • carrots
  • green beans
  • leafy greens

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. It is also crucial for proper regulation of the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency have been linked to numerous conditions and chronic diseases. Some foods high in Vitamin D include:

  • fish
  • milk
  • fortified foods
  • egg yolks

It may be difficult to get enough vitamin D in the diet, though, so consider taking a supplement of 1000 IU vitamin D3 or more. Get your blood levels checked to determine the correct dose for you.

Fiber

Dietary fiber is an important, indigestible component of most plants, Although most people think of fiber as a single thing, in truth there are many different types of fiber with different and varying effects on an individual. Some varieties of fiber contribute to blood sugar regulation by affecting absorption of small carbohydrates from the intestines. Fiber can help control weight by making you feel full longer, and helps keep the bowels moving. Higher fiber intake is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Get your fiber from:

  • whole grains, including oatmeal
  • beans
  • fruits and vegetables
  • ground flax seed

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s help reduce inflammation and protect the heart and brain against disease. The foods highest in omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fishes like:

  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • herring
  • albacore tuna
  • sardines

If you do not like fish or do not eat it often, consider supplementing with at least 1000 mg of DHA + EPA omega-3 daily. Plant sources of an omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, are present in foods such as walnuts and flaxseed. ALA is not readily converted to the forms of omega-3 the body needs, however. Vegetarians may need to consider fish oil supplements, or omega-3s derived from marine algae.

The Bad

Saturated Fat and Trans Fat

These "bad" fats can increase inflammation and "bad" LDL-cholesterol levels. Note that trans fats are considered toxic. Although largely removed from the food supply, they still appear in some prepared baked goods, and things like ready-made frostings. Try to limit your intake of:

  • whole milk
  • high-fat cheese
  • butter
  • hydrogenated oils
  • fried foods
  • high-fat meats
  • packaged baked goods

Simple Sugar and Refined Grains

These two types of simple carbohydrates can cause rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar. They may also increase inflammation. Avoid foods in these groups, such as white flour and sugars added to foods. These sugars include:

  • sugars added to foods
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • cane sugar
  • rice syrup
  • molasses
  • sucrose
  • maltose
  • dextrose
  • sugared beverages

Excess Calories

Eating more calories than you burn in a day causes weight gain, which can increase your risk of numerous chronic diseases. Limit your meal portions and aim to spread food out throughout the day instead of eating large amounts at one time.

Excess Caffeine

Too much caffeine can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Try to stay below 300 mg per day by limiting:

  • regular coffee
  • energy drinks
  • tea
  • caffeine-containing soft drinks
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Article Sources:

  • Bhardwaj, S., Passi, S.J., Misra, A. (2011). Overview of trans fatty acids: biochemistry and health effects. Diabetes Metab Syndr., 5(3), 161-164. 
  • Brown, C.M., Dulloo, A.G., Montani, J.P. (2008). Sugary drinks in the pathogenesis of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Int J Obes (Lond), 32(Suppl 6), S28-34.
  • Candow, D.G. et al. (2012). Effect of nutritional interventions and resistance exercise on aging muscle mass and strength. Biogerontology, 13(4), 345-358.
  • Churchward-Venne, T.A. et al. (2012). Supplementation of a suboptimal protein dose with leucine or essential amino acids: effects on myofibrillar protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in men. J Physiol., 590(Pt 11), 2751-2765.
  • Drewnowski, A, Maillot, M, Rehm, C. (2012). Reducing the sodium-potassium ratio in the US diet: a challenge for public health. Am J Clin Nutr., 96(2), 439-444.
  • Forbes, S.C., Little, J.P., Candow, D.G. (2012). Exercise and nutritional interventions for improving aging muscle health. Endocrine, 42(1), 29-38.
  • Hu, F.B., Malik, V.S. (2010). Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes: epidemiologic evidence. Physiol Behav., 100(1), 47-54.
  • Satija, A., Hu, F.B. (2012, August 8). Cardiovascular Benefits of Dietary Fiber. Curr Atheroscler Rep., 14(6), 505-514.  
  • Slavin, J.L., Lloyd, B. 2012. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv Nutr., 3(4), 506-16.
  • Tang, J.E. et al. (2009). Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J Appl Physiol, 107(3), 987-92.

 

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