When it comes to men’s health and nutrition, many factors come into play. Because men tend to burn through calories a lot faster than women do, it can be tempting to assume that as long as a man isn’t overweight, all is well and good.
Body weight, however, is only a part of the picture and shouldn’t be used as the sole metric of health. How much body fat you have, where that fat settles on your frame, along with the overall quality of your diet – all contribute to your wellbeing.
In this guide, we’ll go over a checklist of nutrients men need, what to eat, as well as lifestyle choices that can lead to better health and wellness.
MEN’S HEALTH: What Your Weight Won’t Tell You
Let’s say you don’t exercise much, but your weight is reasonable. Did you know you could still be carrying around way too much body fat?
And while excess body fat is a concern for everyone, guys are more likely to carry that excess weight around the middle, which is much more damaging to health than the fat that women tend to accumulate on their hips and thighs.
So, while keeping your weight down is key, you need to do it the right way. Simply eating less only works when the nutritional quality of your diet is above par. Eating less of a poor diet may cut calories, but you’ll still be selling yourself short on nutrition.
Here are four nutrients men should eat more of daily:
Nutrient density is all about packing the most nutrition you can into each bite. You can do this by keeping your focus on healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Most men only get about half the 38g of fiber they need every day. High fiber foods help you feel full, which can help keep weight in check. Soluble fiber also helps lower cholesterol levels – good for protecting your heart.
Place an emphasis on these high-fiber heart-healthy foods, such as:
- Fruits (berries and plums)
- Vegetables (broccoli and carrots)
- Whole grains (oats and barley)
Magnesium is a mineral that’s important for literally hundreds of functions in the body. By supplementing or consuming more magnesium-rich foods, you may be able to improve bone health and heart health.
Good sources include leafy green vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
Many men also do not get enough potassium, which is important for nerve, heart, and muscle function. This mineral supports healthy blood pressure and is abundant in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Here are some recommended potassium-rich foods:
- Leafy greens
Finally, try to get more vitamin D, which helps to keep your bones and immune system strong. Vitamin D is found in fortified dairy products, fatty fish, egg yolks, and seafood. Brief sun exposure a few times a week is another way to get your vitamin D.
Look for seafood that’s low in fat and calories yet rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These should be on your menu at least a few times a week.
MEN’S HEALTH: How to Take Charge of Your Wellbeing
One of the biggest barriers to taking care of yourself is time. You may find yourself so busy that it becomes too easy to skip meals or grab something on the go. But skipping meals usually backfires, and you just wind up overeating at your next meal.
Here are a few practical tips to get started:
Get your health checked regularly.
With our hectic lives, it can be easy to put off health needs, but prevention is key, and health screenings become more important as you get older. Schedule routine checkups with your doctor, and don’t forget dental and vision exams as well.
Develop a weekly exercise plan.
The CDC recommends about 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week, which is roughly 30 minutes of activity, five times per week.
There’s a cascading effect if you don’t take the time to exercise:
You’ll gain more weight, especially belly fat.
Your sleep may suffer, too, since exercise helps induce better sleep.
As a result, you might find yourself turning to sugary foods and drinks to boost your flagging energy – which just puts more weight on you, and the cycle continues.
Former Olympian Samantha Clayton provides tips on how to build a custom workout that works for you.
Don’t skip breakfast.
If you’re a breakfast skipper, set a goal of having a healthy meal a few mornings a week. If you don’t have time to sit down for breakfast, grab a carton of yogurt and a piece of fruit, or whip up a protein shake with some milk and fruit and take it with you.
Take control of your diet.
If you tend to grab meals on the run during the day, think about packing your lunch a couple of days a week or preparing a home-cooked meal once or twice a week. It will give you a lot more control over what you eat and how much.
If you tend to grab chips or other unhealthy foods the moment you’re hungry or stressed, learn to practice mindful eating instead and think about putting more nutrient-dense foods into your body. Whether you’re wanting something sweet, creamy, crunchy, or savory, there are healthy snack alternatives that can satisfy any craving.
Take note of your eating patterns.
Lastly, try writing down what you eat for a couple of days. It’s the best way to come face-to-face with your eating habits – for better or for worse. There’s nothing quite like a good hard look at the skipped meals, the salty snacks, or a severe shortage of fruits and vegetables to spark a diet makeover.
Also, don’t forget to take note of small wins and milestones as you get closer to your wellness goals.
MEN’S HEALTH: Anyone with a health condition or using medication should talk with their health care provider about their nutritional needs and restrictions.
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