On Your Health

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The Five Nutrients Men Miss the Most

Men eat more meat and bread than women. This might sound like stereotyping, but it’s true. One recent study found that men and women actually do eat differently.  While men are more likely to choose red meat, poultry and bread, women are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables.

So, what does this mean for men’s health?

While there are health benefits to eating meat and poultry, a diet lacking fruits and vegetables may mean that men are lacking some key nutrients to overall health.

Benefits of a manly diet

A manly diet isn’t all bad. There are some health benefits to eating a diet rich in red meat and poultry. One of the more obvious benefits of meat is protein, but more importantly, complete proteins. Animal proteins are the only one-stop-shop for complete proteins, which are essential macronutrients that promote cell growth and repair, digestion and hormone production.

Most red meat is also high in zinc, which supports the immune system, prostate health, testosterone levels and overall sexual health. Iron is also found in meat, which boosts hemoglobin formation and improves muscle function. 

What is bad about a manly diet?

Diets high in meat and cheese contain large quantities of saturated fats. Saturated fats raise cholesterol and can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

In addition to meat, men are more likely to eat bread than women. While whole grain breads can offer nutrient-dense complex carbs, baked goods high in sugar like white bread or sweet breads are considered simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs are broken down in the body quickly to be used for energy, but lack vitamins, minerals and fiber, offering very little nutritional value. Any excess carbs not used for energy convert to glycogen and are stored as fat. 

man grilling ribs

What nutrients are men missing?

While the manly diet isn’t all bad, there are a few key nutrients that men tend to miss out on more than women. Why? Because men are less likely to incorporate enough fruits and vegetables in their diets.

These are the top five nutrients men most commonly miss. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all men, but is based on research that tells us men are more likely to eat meat and starches, and less likely to consume fruits and vegetables.

Fiber

Dietary fiber is essential for digestive health, maintaining a healthy weight and lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease. When most people think of fiber, they think of relieving or preventing constipation, but it has many more benefits than that.

  • Regulates bowel movements and improves overall bowel health
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Controls blood sugar levels for people with diabetes
  • Helps maintain or achieve a healthy weight

Fiber is found primarily in fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, legumes and whole gains. High-fiber foods include carrots, peppers, apples, bananas, black beans and oats.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, also called polyunsaturated fatty acids, are essential fats that the body cannot create, and therefore needs to get from food. These fatty acids are crucial for brain function and can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered an anti-inflammatory and may lower the risk of chronic diseases like arthritis, asthma and cancer.

Omega-3 fatty acids are most commonly found in fish like salmon, lake trout, mackerel, herring and tuna. They are also found in flax seed, walnuts and leafy green vegetables. It’s recommended that you try to consume omega-3 fatty acids through diet when possible, but you can also obtain these healthy fats from fish oil supplements.

Potassium

Potassium is an essential mineral for muscle contraction and regulating blood pressure because it can counteract sodium in the body. A diet high in potassium can have the following benefits.

  • Reduce hypertension
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • Promote healthy digestion

Potassium is found in bananas, avocados, nuts, citrus fruits, leafy greens, milk and potatoes. Boiling foods can decrease their amount of potassium, so consult a dietitian if you have questions about how to prepare high-potassium foods.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral for healthy blood pressure, strong bones and heart health. Magnesium is considered an anti-inflammatory and may help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Magnesium deficiencies seem to increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Foods high in magnesium include black beans, peas, soybeans, whole grain cereal, leafy greens, nuts and seeds.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants protect the body from harmful molecules called free radicals and may prevent cancer, macular degeneration and some arthritis-related conditions. Antioxidants include some vitamins, minerals and flavonoids.

The best sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average adult should consume 1½ to two cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables daily.

While a diet high in red meat and poultry can help men consume enough complete proteins, these foods should be paired with daily fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Making sure you consume a balanced, healthy diet will guarantee you are getting all the nutrients necessary for good health.

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