By Cheryl Fagras
With so many opinions, books, fad diets and social media trends, what’s a guy to eat to maintain health, energy and longevity? The truth is there is no one magic bullet, but there are some great guidelines to live by if being healthy is the goal. Wading through clever food media campaigns that are targeted to men and boys can be difficult to block out. Genetically, men and women have different nutritional needs. Men have larger muscle mass, more bone mass and less body fat than women.
Different blood types also can create unique nutritional needs.
Men need to be their own best detective on what foods work to meet their health goals and which foods do not. In general, eating real foods that are grown or produced in a healthy way will provide the daily nutrition that is needed.
Some men do well eating a balance of meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts, while others feel great eating predominately one or the other or whatever it is that works for best them. Men need to tailor a diet that suits their needs and not follow the latest diet fad on instagram. Many of these fad diets promise miraculous results in weight loss, muscle building or vitality, but the truth is, what works great for Tom, might be a disaster for Joe.
Counting calories or restricting whole food groups may not be a good idea for most. Food should be about fueling the body and giving it the tools to function at its best. When men are meeting their unique nutritional needs, everything else will fall into place. The number one goal for men should be eating food that is full of the nutritional elements they need to feel good, sleep well, keep a sharp mind and support strength and endurance.
The reality of creating an individualized healthy eating strategy can feel daunting, but is fully achievable. The battle truly lurks with the overwhelming amounts of junk foods that are heavily marketed to men, (think flavored chips, chicken wings, fried foods, triple decker fast food burgers, etc.) These “fake foods” are not manufactured to have any nutritional value, but are full of sugar, (both real and fake) artificial flavorings, artificial colorings and synthetic chemicals that trick your brain into wanting more.
Junk foods eaten as fast food, fried foods, stadium foods, carnival foods and vending machine snacks, proliferate the landscape and are created to appeal to the tastebuds. Eating these junk foods activate the pleasure center of the brain and release endorphins, namely dopamine. The more junk food that is consumed, the more dopamine is created. As the brain adapts, it creates more dopamine receptors. This then creates a never ending cycle of needing more. The brain can then become hardwired to seek out these foods creating cravings for sweet, salty or fatty foods. It truly is like fighting a battle.
Consuming junk food can also cause inflammation of the brain called neuro-inflammation. This in turn can cause a series of events leading to more inflammation that can do damage to neurons and eventually to the hippocampus.
People with damage to the hippocampus report being hungry all the time
and have issues receiving fullness-signalling messages from the gut. Eating a junk food diet can create another detrimental vicious cycle to ones health.
Another area of consumption that can impair men’s health is consuming alcohol and sugary, chemically laden beverages. Drinking alcohol causes weight gain. Typically, men tend to show this around their middle, which is how the term ‘beer belly’ came about. Weight gain and the effect on men’s hormones can also show around the chest in men, causing ‘man boobs’.
Drinking alcohol can have many adverse affects on long term health to include, liver damage, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and several fatal types of cancer. Men should consider all of the benefits of kicking the habit. Alcoholic beverages are one of the most heavily advertised products, targeted to men, out there.
Drinks packed with sugars of all kinds along with many harmful chemicals like sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, fancy coffee drinks and processed fruit juices can wreak havoc on your physical and oral health. Just choose water with a splash of lemon, a sparkling water with real fruit, fermented drinks low in sugar or lightly brewed teas or herbs. Opt for filtered or natural spring water.
So, what’s a guy to eat? The answer is very individual. The guidelines are, eat organically grown produce, healthfully raised meat, wild caught fish and nuts grains or legumes that are not sprayed with pesticides. Avoid all junk food, alcoholic and sugary, chemical laden beverages and drink plenty of filtered water. Eating healthy is the manly thing to do.