Compared to women, who have unique nutritional needs throughout different stages of life, men’s nutritional needs do not change much during adulthood. But, with 34 percent of American men now obese or overweight, maybe it’s time men started paying more attention to diet and nutrition. Following are some basic guidelines to help men maintain their health as they age.
Calories: Men need more calories than women do, simply because they tend to be larger and have more muscle mass. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for the extra muscle. But, many men consume way too many calories, fat and sugar. Moderately active males should eat 2,000 to 2,800 calories a day, but your individual energy needs depends on your height, weight and activity level.
Protein: Men need more protein than women do, especially if they are active. That makes sense because they have more muscle and need more calories. Many men believe that eating more protein will help them build more muscle. This is only true if exercise is part of the equation. Eating the majority of your protein in the evening helps rebuild muscle tissue overnight. How much protein? Weight divided by 2.2 gives you a good estimate of grams of protein needed per day. However, excessive meat eating is linked to heart disease and colorectal cancer in men. Choose lean meats, low-fat dairy products and vegetable sources of protein, like nuts and beans.
Age: After about age 50, a man’s metabolic rate slows down and physical activity typically decreases, resulting in less muscle and more fat. Calorie needs also decline. You can no longer eat like you did when you were 20. Choose foods that are nutrient-dense, meaning lots of nutrition without a lot of calories, like more fruits and vegetables and less sugary foods.
Exercise: Only 52 percent of men meet the recommended physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes or more each week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To maintain muscle mass, most men need to add weight training to their exercise routine.
Nutrients: Calcium and vitamin D deficiencies often are overlooked in men. Osteoporosis is not just a woman’s disease. One in four men older than age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. If you don’t drink milk, ask your doctor about a calcium supplement.
Fiber is good for your heart and digestion, it helps prevent hemorrhoids and it helps fend off prostate and colon cancers. Men should aim for 30 grams of fiber daily. Choose whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Potassium, along with a low-sodium diet, can help lower blood pressure. Potassium is found in fruits and vegetables and you should have 5-9 servings daily. Men should include tomato products at least weekly as the lycopene in tomatoes helps with prostate health.
Page 2 of 2 - Essential fatty acids are important to include in your diet to help lower your risk of heart disease, lung diseases and hypertension. These are the omega 3 fats that come from fish. Eat fish at least twice a week or consider taking an omega 3 or fish oil supplement.
Folic acid is usually thought of as an essential nutrient for women of child-bearing age. But men need it, too. Low levels of folate may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Folate-rich foods include fortified cereals, dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus and citrus fruits.
Belly fat: Men tend to gain fat in their bellies because testosterone. This is the kind of fat that is especially unhealthy because it is buried deep around your organs. This increases your risk for diabetes, heart disease and dementia. If your waist is more than 40 inches, you need to lose weight.
Tobacco and alcohol: Twenty-five percent of men in Missouri use tobacco. Smoking is the most preventable cause of disease, disability and death. Smokers tend to have lower bone density, so your risk for fractures increases. Healing a broken bone might take longer if you smoke.
Vitamin C needs are also increased for smokers. One to two alcoholic drinks a day can actually be good for you, by reducing your risk of kidney stones and improving heart health. But, more than that can cause a multitude of health problems, not to mention extra calories that can lead to weight gain.
Men are less likely than women to receive regular health checkups. But, it is important to have basic screenings done routinely, such as cholesterol checks, blood pressure readings, diabetic screenings, and after age 50, screening for colorectal cancer. Often, these basic screenings are offered free or at reduced costs at health fairs.
Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the cardiac rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.