Best Foods for Men
Research shows the right diet can help men fight heart disease (the number one killer of men over 35) as well as other top killers including prostate and colon cancer which claim the lives of far too many brothers, fathers, sons, and husbands.
Today, thanks to what we know about nutrition, it's possible to extend your life by adding more of the right foods to your diet and eating less of the wrong ones. And there's more good news: Researchers are learning that many foods previously thought to be bad for your health—like coffee, eggs and chocolate (in moderation)—aren't so harmful after all. Some foods can even give you desirable results in the bedroom, too (take aphrodisiacs separately).
David Grotto, RD, LDN, author of the forthcoming book, The Best Things You Can Eat (January 2013) recently shared some of his favorite healthy eating tips with QualityHealth. "The vast number of guys aren't cognizant of their diets throughout the day and they should be," says the expert. "Being mindful about what we put into our bodies is too important to ignore."
Here are some delicious and healthy ways to man up at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Leaving the house without a proper breakfast is a big mistake, according to Grotto. "The first meal of the day is an opportunity to do good things for your heart. Bananas, milk, and OJ are rich in potassium which helps keep blood pressure in check and is good for the nerves, too," he says.
Dairy products—such as low-fat milk and yogurt—are good sources of vitamin D. "There's an abundance of research now linking vitamin D to cardiovascular, cognitive, and reproductive health," Grotto explains. "Top the yogurt with some nuts or seeds—I like almonds and sunflower seeds myself—and you'll do your prostate some good, too."
Oatmeal is another favorite. "Smother it in light soy milk for a healthy dose of beta sitosterol—a plant nutrient which has heart benefits and improves urinary function." Increase testosterone production by eating more protein. Good sources are: Greek yogurt and whole eggs. "Eggs get a bad rap, but over the years I've counseled many men with cardiac issues and putting whole eggs back into their diets hasn't affected their cholesterol levels," claims Grotto adding that eating two eggs a day is acceptable for most men.
Wash all that nutritious food down with coffee. A cup (six to eight ounces)—or four—of joe a day keeps heart problems away! The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently funded a review of five large studies including approximately 140,000 people and found that moderate coffee consumption (up to four cups per day) protected against heart failure by as much as 11 percent. So, have another cup.
Midday Meal Options
Lean meat such as turkey, chicken, or even lean cuts of pork and beef are some of Grotto's favorite lunch proteins. "The key here is portion control. Many guys eat way more than the recommended three to four ounces which should fit into the palm of your hand," he says suggesting the meat be cut into strips and placed on top of a salad. "Augment the dish with toasted soy nuts or some tempeh crumbles."
Tempeh new to you? Look for it in the vegetarian section of your grocery store. Grotto recommends tempeh and claims men often prefer it to tofu—another soy-based food that can be used as a meat substitute. "Tofu can be a harder sell due to its spongy texture. Tempeh can be fried in a skillet or crumbled and turned into healthy croutons for salad," explains Grotto who makes a mean Reuben sandwich using tempeh instead of corn beef.
Snack With a Purpose
Many dietitians are nuts for nuts and Grotto is an enthusiastic member of the group. "Nuts fight cancer, boost the immune system, and contain protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats—which is why I'm such a fan," he says. Plus, the latest literature suggests that a portion of the fat calories in nuts stay with the undigested portion of the nut. An ounce of almonds (about 23 nuts), for example, is about 160 calories. "But the body only processes 130 of those calories."
Like pistachios? With just four calories each, they are known as the skinniest nut but that's no reason to overindulge. "Shelling pistachios slows down the eating process," says Grotto who advises limiting the amount to a woman's handful. "If you pile up the empty shells in front of you it's a visual reminder of how many you've consumed."
Another healthy plant-based snack that men like is edamame which has a whopping 13g of protein per serving. "The benefits of soy are so well known that many sports bars across the country are serving it with beer in place of peanuts," Grotto claims.
Super Suppers: Do's and Don'ts
Research shows that eating less meat and more plant-based foods goes a long way toward fending off chronic diseases. To accomplish this, Grotto recommends limiting meat to once a day. "If you eat meat at lunch, opt for fish or a plant-based meal at dinner," he says suggesting a veggie patty on a whole grain bun with all the fixings.
Or open a can of beans—any kind. "Rinse them off and put on top of salad," Grotto suggests. "Beans are satiating, slow down glucose conversion and—because they are fibrous—help the body sop up extra cholesterol. I tell my male patients that if they are going to eat a high—fat meat-such as a NY strip—add a bean salad to help block the cholesterol intake."
Adding dark greens to your diet is a healthy habit to get into. "If you can handle the slightly bitter taste of kale, it's a super healthy food that's rich in beta-carotenes which have been shown to prevent prostate cancer and fight heart disease," admits Grotto. Mix it into a salad with full-fat dressing. "The fat in olive or canola oil helps the body absorb the beta-carotenes but add no more than two tablespoons."
For heart health, salmon swims to the top of the list. "Salmon is the most nutrient dense food out there," says the nutrition guru. "It's high in omega-3s, vitamin D, and calcium." Berries are another heart-healthy food. "In fact, anything that ends in erry, (think blueberry, strawberry) has tremendous anti-inflammatory abilities which fend off heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction." Watermelon, too—especially the white rind—is a rich source of citrulline, an amino acid that benefits the immune system and promotes cardiovascular health.
Chocolate (and nuts) contain arginine, an amino acid that produces nitric oxide which dilates the arteries and is good for the heart. "Anything that improves circulation is good for the sex life, too," notes the Chicago-based father of three daughters.
With coffee, meat, and chocolate on the menu, there's just no reason you can't eat your way to better health.
Interview with David W. Grotto, RD, LDN
Author of 101 Optimal Life Foods and 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life and The Best Things You Can Eat (Jan. 2013)
President and Founder, Nutrition Housecall, LLC
Advisory Board Chicago Food and Nutrition Network
Advisory Board Benedictine University Nutrition Programs
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, former spokesman
National Institutes of Health and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
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