Men are less likely than women to get medical attention, often have poor habits and dangerous jobs. As such, they live sicker and die younger than women. This can be remedied with a better focus on the importance of health, and lifestyle changes that include increased physical activity and a healthy diet.
Getting active has tremendous benefit both mentally and physically. People who exercise about seven hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active less than 30 minutes per week. Even 150 minutes per week (about 20 minutes a day) of activity can reduce the risk of dying young. Exercising can be as effective for mild to moderate depression as anti-depressant medication and psychotherapy, and even for severe depression it can provide benefit along with other treatments. Being physically active keeps the heart and blood vessels healthy, can reduce the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers, and improves your quality of life.
Diet plays a huge role in health. Eating a more plant-based pattern of food can significantly reduce the risk of chronic illness, and generally improve wellbeing. This can be done by eating more vegetables and fruit, nuts, legumes and whole grains, while cutting down on the amount of meat eaten.
Vegetables and Fruit
While all vegetables provide important nutrients, there are specific ones most relevant for men’s health. Tomatoes, especially when concentrated into a sauce, are a terrific source of lycopene, which is associated with a reduced risk of developing men’s cancer. Garlic, onions, and other vegetables in the allium family are also protective against chronic illness including some cancers , and should be included in the diet. Vegetables of all colors should be included regularly for healthy eating patterns. Vegetables are high in phytochemicals that are associated with lower rates of heart disease and cancer, and fiber that assists with lowering cholesterol. To ensure that you’re getting adequate variety, try incorporating two different colored vegetables at each meal.
Fruit is also an important addition to healthy eating. Fruits provide fiber, potassium (important in regulating blood pressure), many vitamins, and are an easy snack to enjoy. Additionally, increasing fruit intake can lower the risk of some cancers. While it is important to incorporate whole fruits into the diet, there is evidence that pomegranate juice is effective in promoting men’s health by controlling inflammation and reducing oxidative stress.
Nuts, Legumes and Soy
Besides the benefit of cutting down on meat consumption by adding these foods to your diet (thus lowering the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease), legumes and nuts have added benefit to your health. In my last column, I discussed the benefits of eating nuts for heart health; and legumes — beans and lentils — can also protect against heart disease, as well as cancer and diabetes. Legumes are high in fiber, and can thus lower cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar while also improving digestion. Soy products, including tofu, edamame and soy milk, are also very beneficial to your health, as they are protective against cancer and diabetes, and prevent fractures in men with type 2 diabetes by improving glycemic control and insulin resistance.
Small lifestyle additions can make large, long-lasting health improvements that can keep men living healthy, long lives.
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Bracha Kopstick is a Registered Dietitian in Toronto and owner of BeeKay Nutrition. She takes the “diet” out of dietitian, and wants you to take it out of your life! As a nutrition expert, Bracha promotes eating home-prepared foods more often and taking time to enjoy what you eat without any associated guilt. She is available for in-person and on-line counseling. Contact her at Bracha@beekaynutrition.com