In honor of Father’s Day: Nutrition to keep men healthy
Women are as old as they feel and men are old when they lose their feelings.
— Mae West
While in general, dietary guidelines encompass all adults, there’s a divergence when it comes to the nutrition and health of men and women. And so, in honor of Father’s Day this year, let’s be sure that the men in our lives stay healthy.
Your Calorie Needs
Most men, being larger, heavier, and containing more muscle mass than women, need more calories. And depending on your day’s activities, you may burn more or less. Depending on your health goals, you may want to reduce your calories to lose weight (if you’re overweight), since overweight and obesity are linked to increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and even cancer. But all calories are not equal — in fact, studies show that a diet higher in healthy fats and stripping away processed, refined carbohydrates such as juices, white flour and other processed foods leads to better health, more stable blood sugar, and lower cholesterol. Best fats are from avocado, wild salmon, nuts, seeds, and coconut while the least healthful are from any hydrogenated oils: avoid all trans fat (hydrogenated oils). Recommended for cooking are monounsaturated extra virgin olive oil and organic canola oil, and to a far less extent, cold-pressed polyunsaturated oils, (soy, corn, cottonseed).
Use this Calories Intake Calculator to estimate your daily calorie range, based on your unique characteristics: gender, height, weight, age, and activity level. Then even more fun, see how many calories you need if you’re trying to maintain your current weight, or lose weight. Use an online foods tracker to see how to choose foods and stay within your calorie range — try SuperTracker.usda.gov or MyFitnessPal.com. They are both free, and are full of useful information about food, nutrition, fitness, and more. Studies show that just the act of journaling your foods and beverages, and tracking your activity doubles your weight loss.
Stay Active, Stay Healthy
The single most important factor in maintaining weight or weight loss is activity. Even the most muscular man will find a slowdown in metabolic rate as they age … it’s a universal truth, but it can be mitigated with continued activity and muscle-building strength exercises. Women know all too well the problem associated with having too little muscle mass; men may be likely to have a foundation in fitness that can be maintained over time.
This calculator from MyFitnessPal.com shows you how many calories you burn with specific activities, such as walking, hiking, or going to the gym.
Some men say they’re “meat and potatoes” guys, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Lean meats have lots of protein, Vitamin B-12, iron, and lean meat is a natural source of coenzyme Q10. Potatoes are a fine food, providing lots of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and diets containing potatoes are linked to lower blood pressure. But, we’re not talkin’ French fried potatoes or baked potatoes stuffed with sour cream and butter. A “meat and potato” dinner can certainly be delicious, so make it healthy — a sirloin or lean cut, plus a baked potato slathered with tomato salsa.
More protein is not always better, and despite all of the internet hype, eating protein doesn’t translate into more muscle, guys! In fact, muscle is built by resistance training, and to fuel that training, it’s necessary to eat healthy carbs, fats, and protein. You can be a strict vegan and still eat enough protein to stay healthy: protein is found in lots of foods including grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dairy. Vegetables have protein too.
Vegans are athletes, body builders, and healthier as a group compared to people who eat most of their calories from animal foods. If you’re avoiding all animal foods, a B-12 supplement is essential. Fortified cereals, lean meat, fish and seafood are good sources, and eggs and dairy products boost your intake too. Read more here.
A quick way to estimate your protein requirements is to divide your weight in pounds by 2.2, to find the upper limit of protein needs in grams. For example, a man weighing 180 pounds should eat about 82 grams (his weight in kilograms) daily. Check out Livestrong.com to calculate your protein requirements. By the way, most Americans eat twice as much as they need, but they are often sorely deficient in anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables. Here in Cuenca, we’re quite lucky to be able to eat fresh daily.
Less Selenium, Less Iron, More Fiber, Calcium, Potassium, and More Water!
Selenium is a mineral found in the soil, so the amount in diets varies. Some internet “buzz” that selenium prevents prostate cancer has resulted in overdosing and dire side effects. A “trace mineral”, we only need a micro-amount to stay healthy: excess can lead to diarrhea, brittle hair or nails, discolored teeth, and even kidney failure, heart attacks, and heart failure.
Whole foods are highest in selenium, and contain other beneficial nutrients, so as usual, concentrate on nutrition, not nutrients, and you’ll get all you need from your natural diet. Fresh grown, organic (without pesticides and herbicides) produce is optimal. Best food sources: nuts (especially Brazil and walnuts); fresh and saltwater fish like tuna, cod, herring, and red snapper; beef and poultry, and grains. Read more about selenium and health from LiveScience.com
Real men don’t need more iron…in fact, they need less…than women do. Less than half, about 8 mg daily. High iron stores in men are associated with higher risk for heart attack. Unless you’re a strict vegan, you’re going to get sufficient iron from a varied diet, and most fortified breakfast cereals contain 100% of the daily value for iron in one serving. Be careful if you’re taking a generic multi-vitamin since they typically contain iron. Here’s a good case for “men’s only”. Read more about iron from Livestrong.com.
Fiber is what keeps us healthy, and hands down, men who eat more fiber have a lower rate of heart disease. Fiber is found in all plant foods, in varying amounts. Fiber fills you up, without adding extra calories. Fiber keeps you regular. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Insoluble is “undigested” for the most part, and keeps the plumbing open. Whole grains, nuts, beans, and some “crunchy” vegetables such as cauliflower, wheat bran, and potatoes are good sources of insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and becomes gel-like in the digestive tract, keeping cholesterol low and stabilizing blood glucose. Oats, peas, skins of fruits like apples, all citrus (eat the fruit, don’t drink its juice and throw the fiber out), carrots, barley and psyllium are good sources. Most plant foods have both soluble and insoluble fiber. Since men need more calories than women, for the most part, they need more fiber too, a minimum of 38 grams daily.
Calcium is not only necessary for strong bones, it’s a mineral essential for normal muscle contraction, nerve transmission and regular heartbeat. Besides dairy and fortified soy beverages (buy unsweetened), fortified cereal, bok choy, blackstrap molasses, canned salmon and sardines, dried figs, white beans, almonds, kale, and black-eyed peas are good sources.
Potassium is just as important for cell structure, fluid balance, stable blood pressure, and nervous system health. Fresh fruits and vegetables are potent sources, especially potatoes (all types), beans, broccoli, oranges, and parsley…and of course, bananas. Plain yogurt, pork tenderloin and salmon are rich in potassium too.
Men need more water than women, due to their higher (on average) fat-free mass and energy expenditure. We lose water through breathing, perspiration, urine and bowel movements, and so on average, men need about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages daily…women about nine cups (2.2 liters). Adequate intakes are linked to reduced risk for kidney stones, gall stones, and some cancers. It’s not necessary to get all your fluid needs through water — food provides about 20% of your requirements, especially fruits and vegetables…some are more than 90% water by weight. Milk, juice, tea and coffee and even beer and wine can be counted as contributing water (but they, of course, also contribute calories, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol). Learn more about factors that influence water needs from Mayo.org here. And click here for a useful calculator to estimate your water needs, considering your height, weight, activity level, and the temperature outside. All important considerations.
Happy Father’s Day and To ALL Men, Stay Healthy!
Susan Burke March is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Certified Diabetes Educator who specializes in smart solutions for weight loss and diabetes-related weight management, and a Cuenca expat. Contact her at SusantheDietitian@gmail.com