June is Men’s Health Month, which means it’s a great time to check in with your health care providers and make sure you’re doing all you can to stay healthy. In addition to regular screening tests, don’t forget to give your diet a check-up. Eating well and watching your weight is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy and active as you age.
Men of all ages should include several servings of Super Foods (foods which have extra nutrients and anti-aging and disease-fighting properties) in their diets each week. Here are a few that I recommend:
Nuts and nut butters – Nuts (walnuts, almonds, or even peanuts) and seeds like sunflower or pumpkin are full of heart healthy fats, which can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Research studies indicate that individuals who eat 1.5 oz of nuts each day (about ¼ cup) have a 30-50% lower risk of heart attack and heart disease. Keep in mind that nuts are high in calories though, so keep your portion size in check.
Berries – Whether you like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, all berries are very high in antioxidants and other phytochemicals which can help fight cancer. In lab studies, the phytochemicals in berries have been shown to inhibit the growth of lung, colon, esophageal, liver, skin, and leukemia cells.
Salmon – This “fatty” fish is a rich source of omega-3 fat, which can protect the heart and reduce the risk of heart disease. Just two, 4 oz. servings of salmon (or any fatty fish) per week can reduce triglycerides and blood pressure. Omega-3 fats also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help with joint pain and possibly protect the brain. Several studies have found a link between omega-3 fats and reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes are especially high in the antioxidant lycopene, which may protect against eye problems like macular degeneration and cataracts. In addition, numerous research studies also show a link between lycopene consumption from tomatoes and a reduced incidence of prostate cancer. Lycopene is best absorbed from tomatoes that are cooked and eaten with some healthy fat – so enjoy a drizzle of olive oil on your pasta sauce!
Yogurt – Like other dairy foods, yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, which protects your bones, and protein, which maintains muscle mass. Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt and is lower in sugar. Check the food label to make sure the brand you buy has “active cultures” – these are probiotics that help your gastrointestinal tract stay healthy and boost your immune system.
For men and women alike, the type of food you eat is important to help maintain good health, but so is the amount of food you eat. It’s easy for everyone to gain extra weight as we age because our metabolism slows down a bit each year, and we need fewer calories as a result. An 18-year-old man may need 2,800 calorie each day to maintain his ideal weight, while that same man at age 78 may only need 2,100 calories. Many people are surprised to learn that overeating by just 100 calories per day will result in a weight gain of 10 pounds in a year! Consider these 100-calorie bites:
100 calories =
10 cashew nuts
1 slice or 1 square inch of cheese
10 potato chips
½ of a glazed donut
19 French fries
As we age, it becomes more and more important to fill each plate with healthy, nutrient-packed foods and to minimize high calorie “junk foods.” For a great visual guide to help you create a healthier plate, use the MyPlate guide, which recommends at least ½ of your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables, ¼ with lean meats or low fat protein (chicken, fish, eggs beans or tofu), and ¼ with starch (corn, peas, potato or brown rice).
Eating well is an important step to aging well. For additional information on nutrition for men, and a decade-by-decade guide to optimal nutrition, check out this guide from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.