Men's Nutrition

Eating a diet that provides all the nutrients your body needs helps you to focus more productively on your academics, maintain or reduce your weight, make a real impact on your mood, and perform better in sports. Eating well also dramatically reduces your chances of getting some of the chronic diseases that affect men at a higher rate than women.

How does a man's diet affect his risk factors for disease?

Diet, exercise and alcohol intake affect your health now and your risk for developing certain diseases in later life, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and several types of cancer.

You will immediately notice some of the payoffs of eating well and exercising regularly by how you look and feel. The long-term health benefits will be the results of health habits you make now and in the near future. Small changes you make now can add up over time to big dividends.

Of the 10 leading causes of death and disease, 4 are associated directly with diet - heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Another one is associated with excessive alcohol use (accidents and injuries, suicide and homicide).

How does diet relate to heart disease?

Heart disease is responsible for 1 out of every 4 deaths in the United States. Men's risk of having heart disease is higher than women's, until women reach the age of menopause.

Major controllable factors that contribute to heart disease are:

  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Physical inactivity
  • Increasing age
  • Family history of early onset of heart disease

Diet-related recommendations for heart health include:

  • Reduce the amounts of total fat, saturated fat (found in animal products such as meat, higher fat dairy products, butter, and eggs), transfatty acids (found in liquid oils that have been chemically hardened, such as margarine, Crisco, and most commercial cookies and baked products), cholesterol (high in shellfish, egg yolks, and organ meats), and sodium (salt) in your diet
  • With the guidance of your health provider, monitor and control blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • If you have diabetes, manage your blood glucose levels well
  • Eat plenty of high fiber foods (whole grains; fresh fruits and vegetables; legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils; nuts and seeds)
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Dietary recommendations allow 2 drinks per day for men. Drinking beyond these moderate levels raises the risk of accidents, violence, hypertension, cancer and heart disease.

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Can I reduce my cancer risk by how I eat?

Cancer can also be reduced by lifestyle changes, many of which are diet-related. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Reducing your fat intake
  • Limiting your alcohol intake
  • Boosting your fiber intake by eating plenty of beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables (especially vegetables that are deep-yellow, dark-green and leafy, or from the cabbage family).

Can guys get osteoporosis?

Yes! According to the National Institutes of Health, 2 million American men have osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and leaves them vulnerable to breaks. Men over 50 are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis-related fractures than they are of prostate cancer, the National Osteoporosis Foundation stated in 2008. By age 65, men lose bone mass as fast as women do. By age 75, 1/3 of men have osteoporosis.

Problems like hip, back, and wrist fractures may seem like something only old people worry about, but bone loss can begin in early adulthood. It is good to know some of things you can do to help keep your bones healthy and strong.

Risk factors for osteoporosis that are beyond your control:

  • Age - The older you are, the more at risk you are of osteoporosis.
  • Family history - If you have a parent, brother or sister with osteoporosis, you are at greater risk.
  • Race - You're at greater risk if you are white or Asian.
  • Thin and small - If you are a man who is exceptionally thin or has a small body frame, your risk is higher because smaller men often have less bone mass to draw from as they age.

About half of all severe cases of osteoporosis in men are caused by factors you can control. Ones that relate to nutrition and fitness include:

  • Not enough calcium in your diet - Men should get around 1000 mg of calcium every day (8 oz. of milk or yogurt contain 300 mg. of calcium).
  • Not enough vitamin D in your diet.  According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, men under 50 need 400 to 800 International Units of vitamin D per day.  There are two types of vitamin D supplements: vitamin D3 and vitamin D2.  More recent studies suggest that both types are equally good for bone health.
  • Heavy drinking - Alcohol reduces bone formation and interferes with your body's ability to absorb calcium. For men, heavy drinking is one of the most common risk factors for osteoporosis.
  • Eating disorders - Inadequate nutrition and low body weight can result in low testosterone levels that affect bone health. Men with anorexia nervosa or bulimia are at higher risk of lower bone density in their lower backs and hips.
  • Inactive lifestyle - Men who don't exercise regularly are at higher risk of osteoporosis.
  • Smoking

As is true for many chronic diseases, prevention is the best "treatment." Be sure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D (added to most dairy products, and found in most general multiple vitamin/mineral supplements). Both nutrients are essential for building peak bone mass when you are young and for preventing bone loss as you get older. Your skeleton is 99% of your body's calcium. If your body doesn't get enough calcium for its varied functions, it will steal it from your bones.

For more on good sources of calcium in the diet, and taking calcium supplements, see the information on calcium on the supplements page.

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Links you can use

Health Education's Sports Nutrition

Health Education's Men and Eating Concerns

Fruits and Veggies Matter 
This site outlines the importance of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for men. It describes what a serving is, how to get enough and why fruits and vegetables are so important for your health.

WebMD Men's Health Newsletter
This highly-rated email newsletter includes nutrition-related issues. The WebMD site has many interactive tools and has a daily update on current health topics. The format allows easy research for diagnoses, disease conditions, and health issues.

Intelihealth Men's Health Online Newsletter
This excellent series of health newsletters, sponsored by the Harvard Medical School, are available for free online subscription on a variety of topics, including Men's Health.

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