Men’s nutritional needs differ slightly from women’s nutritional needs. Men usually require more calories than women, but the diversity of nutrients required is also slightly different. As outlined in our Men’s Health facts article, men are built for speed, strength, and size. Specific nutrients will not only help promote a strong body physically, but will also help men recover from exercise, and help decrease the risk of developing specific diseases. Here are the 5 important nutrients for men’s health.
Fibre is sometimes seen as the 5th macronutrient (protein, carbs, fats, and water are the common 4). It plays a vital role in our digestive system, despite the fact that we cannot digest fibre. Soluble fibre dissolves in water and creates a gel-like substance. This helps to slow down the breakdown of carbohydrates, allowing for a steady release of insulin, and can even help with blood cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre helps keep things moving throughout the digestive tract.
For men, colon cancer is one of the leading causes of death, so the health of the colon is very important. Having regular bowel movements, and not causing any unnecessary stress to this area is one of the best ways you can reduce your risk of colon cancer.
You should be consuming 25g of fibre per day as a woman and 38g of fibre per day as a man. Over the age of 50, this should decrease to 21g and 30g, respectively.
Here are some great sources of fibre you can start adding to your diet today:
- Citrus fruit
- Green beans
Vitamin D is a critical vitamin in the lives of both men and women. When looking at the importance of different nutrients in our lives, science will sometimes look to what happens in the case of a deficiency to determine its importance.
In the case of vitamin D, when we are deficient in vitamin D our bone density suffers. In children, vitamin D deficiency can result in rickets. In adults, it can lead to osteoporosis, and a deficiency in calcium and potassium as vitamin D helps facilitate the absorption of these nutrients.
Vitamin D is also an important vitamin to protect against certain diseases and cancers. Men are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Researchers have observed that individuals with low blood levels of vitamin D are at a higher risk of developing these diseases.
The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun. In the early summer months, exposing the legs and arms for just 5-10 minutes can produce up to 3000IU’s of vitamin D in fair-skinned individuals. Darker skin requires more exposure to the sun to develop the amount of vitamin D.
You can also get vitamin D from different food sources, such as:
- Cod liver oil (this offers the most vitamin D for just 1tbsp!)
- Wild salmon (cooked, dry heat)
- Mackerel (Canned, light)
- Tuna (canned in oil)
- Sardines (canned in oil)
So if you enjoy eating fish, you are probably getting plenty of vitamin D in your diet.
Magnesium is like a secret weapon in your diet. For men, it can greatly improve your athletic performance through a number of different mechanisms.
Studies have shown that men who supplement magnesium into their diet increases the secretion of growth factor 1, and increases the bioactivity of testosterone. All of this simply means that the natural hormones in your body that help you be better, faster, and stronger are given a boost when you consume magnesium.
Worried about brittle bones? Well, magnesium can also help you with that! This is because magnesium helps regulate an enzyme in the body called calcitonin. Calcitonin is partially responsible for regulating the amount of calcium in the bones.
Magnesium is also crucial for a good night’s sleep, which is one of the easiest ways to improve your health. A study published in 2012 found that supplementing with magnesium increased sleep time, improved sleep efficiency, increased melatonin, and decreased cortisol levels.
If you are exercising then you definitely want to be including more magnesium into your diet. Magnesium is an important electrolyte, and when you workout you decrease the volume of these electrolytes in your body. If you do not replace electrolytes after a workout, then you risk poor recovery and injury in the future.
Here are a few ways to add more magnesium into your diet:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Raw cocoa
- Flax seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Chia seeds
- Swiss Chard
Zinc is another sneaky nutrient. It has a wide range of effects on the body, and its importance to your health can mainly be seen when you don’t have enough zinc. For men, zinc is vital for the production of testosterone. So important that they are now finding a link between zinc deficiency and erectile dysfunction.
A study in the journal of reproductive science found that providing rats with 5mg of zinc improved their sexual behaviours significantly. Humans do not always respond to supplements the same way as rats, but a study of humans who were given 40mg of zinc/day showed significant improvements in the function and health of the male reproductive system.
You can read more about the many health benefits of zinc here.
The B-Vitamins are a group of vitamins that have several important roles in your day-to-day functions. As Men’s Health puts it they are “like your own personal Formula 1 pit team.” If you are eating a balanced, whole-food diet you are likely getting enough b-vitamins to keep you healthy.
These vitamins are responsible for energy production, keeping the brain sharp, and maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails. As we mentioned before, men are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and specific types of cancer. Niacin (vitamin B3) will help increase good cholesterol (which helps breakdown bad artery-clogging cholesterol), repairs DNA, and protects your skin from sun damage.
These are a very powerful group of vitamins, so you’ll want to make sure you are eating plenty of the following:
- Chicken breast
- Dark leafy greens
This list is not exclusive, but it does highlight some of the nutrients for men’s health that may not first come to mind. Men should also aim to eat adequate amounts of potassium and omega-3’s, as well as a variety of other vitamins and minerals to help keep them in optimal health. Remember, the fuel we give to our bodies determines how well the body performs. Make sure you are giving your body the best fuel possible so that you can look and feel your best.