Should men eat differently? As a man, maintaining good health means eating mostly what's good for anyone—more plants and fewer ultra-processed foods. But there are some subtle differences between healthy diets for men and healthy diets for women, even though we share nearly identical DNA.
Through nutrition research, we now know there are specific foods that don’t just improve men’s overall health, but also help stave off cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease, and boost overall mental health. Not to mention make their diet overall more flavorful and exciting. Here are five superfoods that any man can form a healthy diet around to eat better every day.
For: Better Heart Health
Eat More: Chia Seeds
Heart disease remains the biggest cause of death for men in America, so they must make it a point to try to eat more high-fiber foods like chia seeds.
The findings of a large study review published in the journal The Lancet show that men who are high-fiber eaters have a 15 to 30 percent lower risk of heart attack and cardiovascular-related death compared to those who eat much less fiber. Those whose diets contained at least 25 to 29 grams of fiber daily also had significantly less risk for type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer as well lower body weights, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. The data suggested that pushing past 30 grams could be even more beneficial. Improvements in blood sugar control, blood lipids, inflammation and the microbiome are reasons why going big on fiber can improve heart health. With three grams of fiber in each tablespoon serving, incorporating chia seeds into your diet is a great way to help get enough. As a bonus, you'll also get a healthy dose of heart-benefiting omega-3 fat.
For: Better Mental Health
Eat More: Turmeric
It’s been a tough couple of years for our mental health, and more men than ever are experiencing signs of mental illness—including depression and anxiety. Perhaps an ancient spice could help you keep your spirits up!
A meta-analysis in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition determined there is enough evidence to suggest that a greater intake of curcumin, the plant compound that lends turmeric its vibrant golden hue, can help improve depressive and anxiety symptoms in men with depression. It’s thought that curcumin works to lower inflammation in the brain, which can lower the chances of developing certain neuropsychiatric disorders.
Regular consumption of curcumin is likely necessary for mental health benefits to occur. Luckily, there is a bounty of ways to work more turmeric into your diet including warm drinks, soups, curries, roasted vegetables, and cooked grains.
For: Better Prostate Health
Drink More: Matcha
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among males, affecting one in eight males in the United States. To help defy the odds, men can start supporting their prostate health by adding more matcha into their dietary mix.
Evidence suggests that a variety of compounds in green tea with antioxidant properties, including catchens, may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by influencing tumor growth, cell death and hormone signaling. Since you are consuming the whole tea leaf with matcha, you’ll be exposed to even higher levels of these prostate-protecting plant compounds. And, as a powder, you can go beyond sipping it as a warm tea and work the verdant superfood into everything from smoothies to yogurt to baked goods like cookies.
For: Better Erectile Functioning
Eat More: Maqui Powder
If erectile dysfunction (ED)—defined as the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex—is an ongoing issue, it can cause mounting stress, impact self-confidence and contribute to relationship problems. And, for men, having issues down below is certainly not uncommon. Erectile dysfunction may affect as many as 75% of men at some point in time with prevalence increasing with advancing age. Perhaps eating more brightly colored fruits including berries can help some men overcome erectile dysfunction and stay in the game.
Using data from 25,096 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, researchers reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that men who had the highest intake of certain fruit- and berry-based antioxidants— mainly anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones—had a lower risk for ED over 10 years. Total intake of fruit, a major source of these compounds, was associated with a 14% reduction in the risk of ED. Since the major etiology of erectile dysfunction is vascular, these antioxidants may reduce the risk for the condition by lowering oxidative stress and inflammation, thereby improving your circulatory system and, in turn, allowing more oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to flow to the penis.
Made from South American maqui berries, maqui powder is jam-packed with these antioxidants to help out below the belt. Blend it into smoothies, stir into oatmeal and yogurt, and whisk into salad dressings.
For: More Muscle
Eat More: Hemp Seeds
More muscle doesn’t just look good on a man’s frame, it’s also important for injury prevention and maintaining a healthy metabolism. In fact, evidence suggests that having higher amounts of muscle mass can be protective against premature mortality.
One of the best ways to support building and maintaining muscle is by eating adequate amounts of protein-rich foods. These supply the necessary amino acids to kickstart muscle protein synthesis and limit the breakdown of muscle. When it comes to plant-based protein, hemp seeds are a heavyweight. A three-tablespoon serving supplies about eight grams of protein, making it a higher protein source than most other seeds and nuts. You can also try hemp protein powder in your smoothies or protein bar recipes. One serving contains 13 grams of protein! What’s more, hemp contains a full arsenal of essential amino acids, which we must obtain from our diets and are especially important in building muscle mass. Hemp seeds also contain omega-3 fats and magnesium to support heart health.
So, there you have it—five of the most powerful plant-based superfoods that can support your health for the long haul. Which one will you incorporate into your diet first?