How healthy do you think you are? If you're a man (presumably why you're reading this article), it's likely that you believe you're leading a healthy lifestyle. A recent Cleveland Clinic nationwide survey revealed that a staggering 81% of men said they felt that they were relatively healthy; however, the unfortunate reality is that men's self-reported daily habits paint a vastly different—and alarming—picture.
When asked about their health habits, the survey found that 83% of American men experienced stress in the last six months, 44% don't get an annual physical, 44% don't take care of their mental health, and only 50% have been screened for common cancers, including prostate, colorectal, skin, testicular, and bladder. This is particularly concerning considering that data shows that men face a significantly higher risk of heart disease, lung disease, prostate cancer, and stroke—with the latter being the leading cause of death among men—compared to women.
There are numerous lifestyle changes that men can make to improve their health, with one major area of focus being diet. The survey results also showed that 49% of men reported that they don't follow a healthy diet, which shows that there is a large opportunity for improvement.
For example, eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains while limiting your consumption of unhealthy fats and sodium can help lower your risk of developing heart disease. Another area of focus in recent years has been superfoods, which are foods known for being extremely high in certain vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants. "A superfood is a nutrient-rich food that is especially beneficial for health and well-being," says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian on our Medical Expert Board. "These can help support a man's health by fueling him with key nutrients that he needs to support various health factors."
Superfoods are helpful for everyone, regardless of sex, but the following 10 superfoods for men contain specific nutrients that may help with some common issues discussed in men's health, such as higher risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Read on, and for more healthy eating tips, check out 10 Processed Foods That Are Actually Good For You, Say Dietitians.
"While there are various superfoods beneficial for men's health, one of the most significant is the humble broccoli," says Manaker. "This green vegetable is loaded with essential nutrients like vitamins C, K, and A, and fiber."
Manaker adds that what truly makes broccoli stand out as a helpful superfood for men "is its high sulforaphane content, a compound studied for its potential to fight cancer." This can be important for anyone, but research has found that men have an overall higher chance of dying from cancer than women.
Fatty fish carries tons of health benefits, and salmon is one of the healthiest. According to Manaker, "This fatty fish is incredibly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for a healthy heart, and specifically, omega-3s are known to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and decrease risk factors for disease." Pursuing a healthy heart is important for men at any age, especially because men seem to be at a generally higher risk for heart disease.
Not only that, but "The omega 3s in salmon can help boost good cholesterol, or HDL, which is genetically low in most men," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD.
In addition to providing omega-3 fatty acids, Manaker says that salmon is also a great source of protein, "a nutrient critical for muscle maintenance and growth," as well as vitamin D, "a vital nutrient many people lack, playing a significant role in bone health and immune function."
Another health perk of eating salmon? It may help you maintain an erection. This fish is high in vitamin B12, and according to the First International Journal of Andrology, vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to erectile dysfunction.
Still focusing on heart health, eating a variety of nuts like almonds, pistachios, cashews, and walnuts can help support a healthy heart for men as they age.
"These small powerhouses are packed with protein, fiber, and essential fats, making them a highly nutritious snack choice," says Manaker. "Walnuts contain high levels of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid known for its heart-health benefits, and pistachios are packed with antioxidants and provide all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete plant protein."
According to Tom Smurr, RD, avocado is another superfood that men may want to consider adding to their diets. "Extremely versatile, avocado provides completely natural fat and is a great source of fiber and potassium," says Smurr. "This makes it a powerhouse to feel full longer, stay regular, and replenish hard-to-get electrolytes."
Manaker agrees that avocado is important for men's health, saying that "it is a powerhouse of nutrients, earning it the status of a superfood, and it is especially beneficial for men's health because the high levels of monounsaturated fats in avocados help reduce bad cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke." In fact, the Journal of the American Heart Association says that avocado consumption is known to help decrease the risk for cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol.
Knowing that men are at a greater risk of heart disease, including the superfood avocado can help protect your heart and overall health.
You may want to start adding mushrooms to your meals, whether it's sautéing them with other vegetables or adding them to your salad, because "Mushrooms are another superfood that can significantly contribute to men's health," says Manaker.
For one, "They are sources of nutrients like vitamin D, selenium, and antioxidants, which are vital for maintaining good health, and the presence of antioxidants in mushrooms aids in reducing the risk of chronic diseases by combating harmful free radicals."
"Selenium supports the immune system and thyroid function," says Manaker, and even though thyroid issues are more often looked at in women, men can also develop problems with their thyroid functioning as well.
Lastly, Manaker adds that "Mushrooms contain beta-glucans, a type of fiber that contributes to heart health by helping to regulate cholesterol levels."
According to Jim White, RDN, ACSM EX-P, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, quinoa is a delicious whole grain full of nutrients that are necessary for men's health.
"Quinoa is a great source of several essential vitamins and minerals," says White. "It is classified as a whole grain that contains several grams of protein and fiber, and despite being plant-based, quinoa is a complete protein, so I am confident that my body can utilize it properly."
Whole grains in general are helpful for your heart, and a diet rich in whole grains can help manage cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and heart disease risk—all things that are helpful for men as they age.
Tomatoes are a common superfood full of powerful antioxidants. "One antioxidant found in tomatoes, lycopene, has been associated with protection against chronic diseases such as prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease," says White.
We already know that men have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, which is why eating heart-healthy foods is so important, but incorporating nutrients like lycopene into your diet to help protect against prostate cancer is crucial too, especially because the CDC says that about 13 out of every 100 men in the U.S. will develop prostate cancer during their lifetime.
Goodson also notes that along with lycopene, tomatoes contain vitamins A, K, and potassium. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, consuming a low-sodium diet while also increasing potassium intake can help in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
As you can see, heart health and the prevention of heart disease is an important focus for men, and consuming superfoods that are high in fiber and heart-healthy antioxidants is crucial for this goal.
According to White, black beans are another great superfood for men because "they are an inexpensive source of significant amounts of fiber, protein, and phytochemicals." Phytochemicals are active plant compounds found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and other plant products, and research has shown that these compounds may aid in preventing cardiovascular disease.
The benefits don't stop there. "Black beans and other legumes have also been shown to aid in the control of blood glucose," says White. Over time, consistently high blood glucose levels can cause damage to your blood vessels and potentially lead to heart-related complications, so managing blood glucose is a valuable step in pursuing a healthy heart.
"This and the fiber content of beans make them extremely valuable and effective in the prevention and mitigation of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease," adds White.
Blueberries are a popular superfood known for their extremely powerful antioxidants, specifically a group of flavonoids called anthocyanin, which White says can contribute to a multitude of health benefits for men.
"Regular, high intake of blueberries has been linked to weight loss and maintenance, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease risk, and neuroprotection," says White, "and these results from observational and clinical studies are likely related to their high anthocyanin levels."
One report published in Nutrients shows that the polyphenols (plant compounds) found in blueberries have also been linked to lowering and managing LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), which can help in the prevention of heart disease.
According to Smurr, men should consider eating more yogurt, as this superfood "is a well-balanced, all-in-one snack or breakfast that combines fat, carbohydrates, and protein in a way few other superfoods can." He adds that "Full-fat (or whole milk) yogurt can be more difficult to find at the store but will do a better job of helping you feel full and providing long-term energy for lulls in between meals"
Eating yogurt can certainly have a positive effect on keeping you more energized and full on a daily basis, but some research also supports the longer-term benefits of yogurt as well. According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, men who consistently ate fermented dairy products (yogurt and cheese, for example) were found to have lower risks of coronary artery disease—the most common type of heart disease for Americans.
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