Men and women: one of these things is not like the other
The internet makes it easier than ever to find out anything and everything you need to know about health, wellness, and any medical condition you’ve ever heard of.
It often seems, though, that everything we read online is aimed largely at women. While most human bodies have most things in common, there are some distinct differences between male and female physiques (obviously), and their health needs.
That’s why, in honour of Men’s Health Month, we thought we’d take a look under the hood and see just what makes a man the healthiest version of himself he can possibly be.
Four top tips for men’s health
In much the same way that women need particular nutrients and supplements during pregnancy or menopause, men have unique nutritional needs, too.
A recent article on MedicineNet shares this insight by leading American Dietetic Association spokesperson, Christine Gerbstadt:
“Any food that is good for the cardiovascular system is also good for erectile function in men. “Nutrients that are good for the heart improve circulation to all parts of the body, and these same nutrients provide a layer of protection against cancer and other chronic diseases.”
Unfortunately, the top food choices most men make don’t always include the ones that are best for their health. You probably know that the Big Mac & coke you love to treat yourself with on the way home from a hard day at the office isn’t really going to support your long-term health plans.
But avoiding foods that are bad for you is only a start.
You also need to fill your body with foods that are good for you.
Best foods for men’s health
Zinc is key to a number of human health processes, including vitamin C uptake, skin repair, and immunity. <American Dietetic Association spokesperson Dave Grotto says this potent mineral has some specific benefits for men:
“Research shows that adequate zinc may protect against cellular damage that leads to prostate cancer,” says Grotto. “Sexual functioning of the male reproductive system, including increased sperm counts, is also enhanced with zinc.”
Zinc can be found in oysters, shellfish, lean beef, pork, or legumes.
Potassium regulates blood pressure, reduces anxiety, regulates the nervous system and promotes a healthy heartbeat. Bananas are an excellent source of potassium. As an added bonus, bananas pack a vitamin B-6 punch and aid immunity and the formation of red blood cells. Best of all, they support protein metabolism, making the 6-pack a whole lot more achievable.
If you’re not a fan of the portable fun-factory food that is the humble banana, other sources of potassium can be found in fresh orange juice, milk, tomatoes, and beans.
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
Omega 3 fatty acids are earning a legendary superfood status in the health and wellness community – and with good reason! These unassuming food oils are the body’s first line of defence against inflammation, making them champions in the war against aging, arthritis, and brain diseases. Omega 3s also support healthy circulation and immunity, and reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Joy Bauer, MS, RD, author of Joy Bauer’s Food Cures and Today Show nutrition expert, says, “Omega-3 fatty acids are potent anti-inflammatory foods that can help lower triglyceride [blood fat] levels, reduce aches and pains in athletes, and offer relief with certain kinds of arthritis.”
Yes, we know. Broccoli is not a vitamin or a mineral. This is not a typo. Broccoli is a powerhouse packed with vitamin c, beta-carotene, potassium, and sulphoraphane, a cancer fighter shown to reduce the likelihood of both prostate and colon cancer. In fact, all the cruciferous vegetables share these accolades, and should definitely form part of everyone’s healthy diet. Don’t bunk the broccoli! Your body needs it.
Those deep, beautiful colours that make berries so appealing are also the reason why they’re just what you need if you want to stay healthy. The violet, red, and blue pigments in berries and cherries are created by flavonoids, powerful cancer fighters in their own right.
In fact, Gerbstadt explains that berries have stronger antioxidant properties than vitamin C, while Bauer explains that adding berries to your daily diet can reduce the negative effects of aging. “Large studies show the more produce you eat the better, but specifically berries (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, and cherries) can enhance brain function and keep your brain healthy,” he says.
Just as the colours in berries make them both beautiful and nutritious, the bright reds and oranges in vegetables like peppers, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and beetroot are essential nutrient sources for a healthy body. These colours are loaded with antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene. In fact, just one bell pepper has around 300% of the vitamin C your body needs each day, based on the World Health Organisations prescribed nutritional guidelines.
The fact is, all vegetables should be on the list of your daily food sources. For instance, a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that dark, leafy greens can help reduce the risk of developing an enlarged prostate. It looks like Popeye was onto something after all!
The bottom line is that what you put into your body is at least as important as what you don’t – maybe even more so. As Men’s Health Center MD Steven Lamm puts it:
‘Eat to thrive. Getting enough nutrition is crucial. “It’s more important than anything else except maybe sleep. Focus on nutrients rather than calories,” and eat a variety of healthy foods. “You can’t achieve optimum nutrition with limited choices.”’
Best exercises for men’s health
Sadly, just eating right isn’t enough to build a strong, toned, healthy bod, as any of us who have tried that route will know. We need to get moving if we want to stay well. In fact, sitting has been described as the smoking of the new millennium: it’s that bad for your health.
- Strengthen your core
A toned core is the key to physical health. A strong core will protect your back, improve your posture, reduce stress-related injuries, increase your speed when running, and boost your performance power in all your other workouts.
Pilates’ well-known ‘Hundreds’ routine is an excellent starting point for a strong core. Pair it with a comprehensive Pilates workout for a full body fitness regime that works wonders.
- Tabata Protocol
Men’s Health magazine describes this hard-and-fast workout plan as the quickest way to burn fat and build fitness. The article describes this approach as ‘a Japanese exercise technique that involves bursts of intense activity and short rests. It works with body-weight exercises, sprints, or exercise bikes. Less time, better body.’
- Mix it up
When you keep doing the same workout programme, your body soon gets very comfortable. Eventually, your fitness progress will stagnate. Try different things and remember to balance cardio and strength training in your regimen – as well as regular stretching exercises.
Ideally, find a fitness instructor or personal trainer who can work with you to create a fitness plan structured around your age and fitness level.
Sleep is the most important weapon in your fitness arsenal. We men tend to imagine that we’re machines, and that sleep is a sign of weakness. This is not an area in which you can afford to compromise, though. While many guys believe they can compensate for sleep deprivation with coffee, exercise, or energy pills, these rarely work. And they never work forever.
The US Center for Disease Control says that sleep deprivation has become recognised as a public health problem. Some of the symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
- Mood Changes
- Concentration difficulties
- Impaired Performance
- Memory and Thinking Problems
- Hallucinations and Paranoia
The Sleep Foundation explains that driving while drowsy can be at least as dangerous as driving while drunk … which means that it’s not just your life at risk when you do it.
Lack of sleep has been linked to lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. People who sleep too little gain weight more easily than their well-rested counterparts. And performance of every kind plummets when we don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can harm a person’s ability to do their job, and significantly reduce chances of being promoted – no matter how good all those extra hours look on a performance review.
Getting too little sleep can also impact sexual performance in men.
If you want to achieve your career and personal potential, and live the longest, healthiest life you possibly can, make sure you eat what’s good for you, (and avoid the fast food), get enough of the right kind of exercise, and get at least seven hours of sleep every single night.