Nutrition plays a major role in all aspects of men’s health. It is the fuel that all humans use for physiological functions, therefore, diet essential for survival.
And it is so much more than that!
Nutrition is important to us all, it can be a big part of what makes us individuals because we literally ‘are what we eat’! What we eat reflects our culture, we use food to celebrate with friends and family. No doubt about it, we have an emotional attachment to food. So nutrition fulfils us both physically, mentally and socially – three key components of healthy human functioning.
Very few people I come across see food only as fuel for survival – males and females alike will often ask to tailor their diet to reach certain goals. So, when I say nutrition plays a major role in our health, I mean health in the broader context.
The science behind diet and men’s health in a broader context
As we’ve said, physical health is one aspect that diet will affect, as having a balanced diet certainly keeps our bodies strong and contributes to our ability to fight illness and prevent disease.
Recently, studies have investigated how a good quality diet can improve mood, mental health and cognitive ability. These are key topics that are being raised in Men’s Health week and as such, I consider diet to play a significant role in supporting men to improve their overall health and wellbeing. From a scientific perspective we know that when food is digested, smaller nutrient particles absorb into the bloodstream and affect the chemical balance in our body. We also know that the body and mind require the right balance of chemicals to maintain homeostasis (stability), so that we can function to our full potential.
Good nutrition starts from birth, from the moment a baby is born, an infant’s nutritional needs are provided in the first instance from his mother’s breast milk. Historically, in Australia, our cultural norms have resulted in the provision of meals being primarily the role of a woman in the household. But times have changed and men are now playing a leading role in the maintenance of a healthy diet in most households.
As a dietitian, I see many boys and men that come for advice to either optimise their sporting ability, for general health or to use diet to manage a chronic condition. Doctors now recognise the value of nutrition in disease prevention, particularly cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Men’s nutrition – what is the recommended diet for men?
There is no simple diet routine that applies to everyone. However, a good starting point is to look at variety and balance. The more you vary the types of foods you eat, the better your chances are of obtaining the right nutrients your body and mind needs.
Let’s start with vegetables, have lots of different colours and types because this food group is the most important and research suggests that a diet high in vegetables contributes to preventing disease and maintaining a healthy weight.
Now, I know you are all thinking protein… What’s the truth about protein?
Yes, men generally need more protein than women, but not in the amounts we are led to believe. The majority of Australians eat more protein rich foods than they actually require (meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy, nuts and beans). As a starting point, men between the ages of 19-50 years can get sufficient protein in one day by eating the following:
- A piece (100g) of fish or small tin of tuna
- A small palm size piece (100g) of chicken breast
- 2 eggs
- 300mls of milk and a small tub of yoghurt.
Optimal men’s nutrition – sample meal plan for an active male aged 19-50
Two eggs with one cup of baby spinach and two slices of toast
½ cup of cooked oats, topped with berries and walnuts
|Two tuna and salad wraps and a piece of fruit||Baked chicken breast with roast potato and 2 cups of steamed vegetables||
200g yoghurt with ¼ cup of muesli
One piece of fruit
30g of nuts
2 litres of water
2 glasses of milk
Limit alcohol and caffeine