Men’s Health: Building a Healthy Diet
These days, it’s not always easy to follow a healthy diet. There are so many fast food and junk food options out there, a guy is tempted to just shrug, eat what he likes, and leave his health up to fate.
But that’s not the smart way to go. Eating a nutritious diet with proper portions can improve men’s health and help them maintain a healthy weight. There are also specific foods that don’t just improve men’s health generally, but also help stave off cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease, and boost overall energy.
Men’s Health: Building a Healthy Diet
Eating right for men’s health means putting together a daily diet with these choices:
- Five or more servings of fruits and vegetables. They’re high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and low in calories. Be sure to eat a variety of vegetables of all different colors — think green, orange, yellow, red, even purple. Avoid vegetables cooked in fat, like fried zucchini or onion rings.
- At least six servings of whole grain breads, cereals, and starchy vegetables. Whole grains contain added fiber to help lower your blood cholesterol and make you feel full. Choose unrefined whole-grain breads and cereals over those that contain refined white flour. Starchy vegetables include peas, corn, potatoes, and dried beans like pinto or kidney. If cooked without a lot of added fat, these vegetables will help you feel full with relatively few calories. However, if you are trying to lose weight or have a history of prediabetes or diabetes, you may need to limit your intake of starches in general.
- Two or three servings of low-fat dairy products. Choose skim milk, fat-free or 1 percent yogurt, and low-fat cheeses.
- Two or three servings of lean meat, chicken, and fish. You should pick cuts of meat with little to no visible fat, and remove the skin from chicken and other poultry. Avoid fried or breaded dishes.
- Cut back on sweets. To optimize your health, cut back on sugary foods full of refined carbohydrates like pastries, other desserts, and sweetened cereals. They are high in calories, but provide little or no nutritional benefit.
- Limit your sodium intake. Use herbs to season your food instead of salt and minimize your intake of packaged foods.
- Skip the saturated fats. Butter, cheese, and lard can lead to clogged arteries and heart disease. On the other hand, unsaturated fats like olive oil, walnuts, and avocados, in moderate amounts, can actually help raise your level of the “good” cholesterol (high density lipoprotein or HDL) that protects against heart disease .
Men’s Health: Healthy Diet Portions
Another key to maintaining your health as a man is eating the right amounts of foods. Use this list of single-portion measurements as your guide:
- 1 cup of fresh vegetables or fruit
- 1/2 cup of starchy vegetables or dried beans
- 1 slice of bread
- 1 cup of dry cereal or ½ cup cooked cereal
- 1/3 cup of rice or pasta
- 1 cup of low-fat milk
- 3 ounces of lean meat, chicken, or fish
After just a few days of measuring portions, you’ll be able to eyeball the various sizes, but if you need to estimate a portion on the run, remember these visuals:
- ½ cup is about the size of half a tennis ball
- 1 cup is about the size of a baseball
- 3 ounces of protein is about the size of a deck of cards
Whether you want to lose weight or maintain your weight, you also need to keep track of calories to make sure you burn more energy in a day than you take in. According to the American Heart Association:
- Men between 19 and 30 years old should limit daily calorie intake to 2,400 if sedentary, 2,600 if somewhat active, and 3,000 if very active.
- Men between 31 and 50 should limit daily calorie intake to 2,200 calories if sedentary, 2,400 if somewhat active, and 2,800 if very active.
- Men 51 and over should limit daily calorie intake to 2,000 if sedentary, 2,200 if moderately active, and 2,400 if very active.
Men’s Health: Foods With a Purpose
A few special foods may provide additional health benefits:
- Cancer fighters. Following the guidelines above will go a long way toward limiting your risk of cancer by providing essential nutrients and keeping you at a healthy weight. One food in particular, tomatoes, has been linked to reduced rates of prostate, lung, and stomach cancer. Tomatoes are an excellent source of the cancer-fighting nutrient lycopene. Just keep in mind that our bodies process lycopene best when tomatoes are cooked or stewed. Also, consider replacing your morning cup of joe with green tea, believed to contain important antioxidants that may prevent cancer as well.
- Heart health. To further boost heart health. eat fish twice a week. Studies have found that fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, and trout contain omega-3 fatty acids that can help keep your arteries clear.
- Energy boosters. Carbohydrates produce lots of energy, but be careful: Simple carbohydrates like sugar burn fast, giving you a temporary energy boost. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, burn slowly to provide energy over a longer period of time. Whole grain breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, and peas all contain complex carbohydrates. Foods rich in protein are also crucial since they help control the release of energy from fats and carbs.
And finally, make sure you don’t skip a healthy breakfast — it really is an important start to a healthy day.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Men’s Health Center .
Last Updated: 3/5/2012