Did you know that June is Men’s Health Month? Across the country, health advocates are reminding men and boys to take care of their health—and good health starts with good nutrition. Healthy nutrition choices are especially important for men because good nutrition impacts heart health, mood, and energy levels, along with supporting wellness goals like increasing strength and maintaining a healthy weight. Learn about the latest nutrient and calorie recommendations for men and whether today’s diet trends are good or bad for men’s health.
Nutrients of Public Health Concern
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 have identified four nutrients of public health concern for all Americans—calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and dietary fiber.1 A nutrient of public health concern is one that is underconsumed by the population and has health risks associated with its underconsumption.
Men’s Health Month is the perfect time for men to reassess their nutrition habits, with a particular focus on these nutrients. Men should pay careful attention to preventable, diet-related diseases that can affect them. Fortunately, the new nutrition label regulations require all of the nutrients of public health concern to be listed on the nutrition panel, making it easier than ever to make smart food choices.
Macronutrients for Men
Macronutrients include protein, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber. Adequate fiber intake (28-33.6 grams per day, depending on age) is especially important since it helps reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Many men have insufficient dietary fiber intakes due to low consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
In addition, they are often exceeding the daily recommendations for protein (56 grams) and added sugars (<10% of total calories), which tends to displace fiber-rich foods. Men should strive for carbohydrate intakes of about 130 grams and total fat intakes of 20-35 grams per day.
Men’s Estimated Daily Macronutrient Needs by Age2
|Age||Protein (g)||Carbs (g)||Dietary Fiber (g)||Added Sugars (% cal)||Total Fat (% cal)||Sat. Fat (% cal)|
Micronutrients for Men
Men’s needs for micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals, remain fairly consistent throughout the lifespan. Some exceptions include an increased need for vitamin B6, vitamin D, and magnesium as they age.
Daily targets for the micronutrients of public health concern are 1,000 mg of calcium, 4,700 mg of potassium, and 600-800 IU of vitamin D (depending on age). Calcium and vitamin D are essential for maintaining bone density during aging, while potassium helps control blood pressure by balancing out the effects of sodium. Sodium should be limited to 2,300 mg per day, which is a challenge for many Americans.
Men’s Estimated Daily Mineral Needs by Age for 6 Key Minerals3
Men’s Estimated Daily Vitamin Needs by Age for 6 Key Vitamins4
Without a diet that supports a high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, along with some plant-based oils and dairy products, it can be difficult for men to meet the micronutrient recommendations. A nutrition supplement is a way to ensure nutrient needs are met, especially for calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Some men may also consider a nutrition supplement of magnesium, a mineral involved in maintaining muscle strength.
Men’s Varying Calorie Needs
The Dietary Guidelines also provide calorie estimates for men, based on age and activity level. Since the metabolism slows with age, it’s important to gradually reduce calorie intake to prevent gaining excess weight. For example, an active 20-year old man needs about 3,000 calories per day, compared to 2,600 for an active 60-year old man. And men who are sedentary require 400 to 600 fewer calories per day, depending on their age.
Men’s Estimated Daily Calorie Needs by Age and Activity Level5
Men should keep in mind that calorie-dense products (especially those high in refined carbohydrates like sweet baked goods and sodas) can easily lead to exceeding daily calorie limits, while displacing micronutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. As appetite decreases with age (due to a reduction in hunger hormones like ghrelin), nutrient-packed meals become even more important for preventing deficiencies.
Recent Diet Trends: Good or Bad for Men?
A number of alternative dietary patterns are trending today, ranging from gluten-free to vegetarian to keto. Let’s look at which of these diets are actually beneficial to men seeking a healthy lifestyle through good nutrition and which ones fall short.
With consumers' interest in protein and the proliferation of protein-fortified products (including such products as breakfast cereals and ice creams), high protein diets are becoming the norm for many Americans. IFIC’s 2018 Food & Health Survey found that Americans are overconsuming protein, at the expense of adequate fruit intake.6
Men should understand that excessive protein intake without exercise doesn’t lead to muscle mass, just to weight gain. Consumption of red meat in pursuit of protein is a particular problem for men since excessive intake is linked to heart disease and certain cancers, including colorectal and prostate cancers. Protein intake should be kept within recommended limits and come largely from plant and fish sources.
Vegetarian and Mediterranean Diets
As one of the Dietary Guidelines recommended healthy eating patterns, the vegetarian diet is a trend worth embracing. Men can meet their protein needs through legumes and grains, while reaping the benefits of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals from a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and nuts. A vegetarian diet can also include dairy, which provides calcium and vitamin D (both nutrients of public health concern for Americans).
Another recommended healthy eating pattern is the Mediterranean Diet. This diet also provides an abundance of plant foods, while including some dairy and fish. Fish is an excellent source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids for men. For men adhering to a strict plant-based (i.e., vegan) diet, it’s important to take a nutrition supplement for vitamin B12, an essential nutrient not found in plants. They may also wish to supplement with calcium and vitamin D.
Current evidence supports that gluten-free diets are only important for the approximately 1% of the population affected by celiac disease. Since gluten-free eating requires eliminating fiber-rich grains like wheat, barley, and rye from the diet, men are cautioned against jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon if they don’t have an allergy or sensitivity to gluten.
Reduced Sugar and Sodium
The trend in reducing sugar and sodium in the diet is positive and aligns with the Dietary Guidelines. Reducing sugar intake can help men meet their fiber and micronutrient targets, while reducing their risk of obesity. The IFIC survey found that 77% of consumers are trying to limit or avoid sugars and are taking steps such as replacing caloric beverages with water and eliminating sodas and candy from their diets.
Reducing sodium in the diet is especially important for men since excess sodium consumption can increase blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart failure. Certain people are more sensitive than others to the effects of sodium. Until this is better understood, public health recommendations will continue to call for moderating sodium consumption.
Keto and Low Carb
Weight loss diets, such as keto and low carb, can produce short-term weight loss benefits, but also create a risk of nutrient deficiencies due to their restriction of fruits, grains, and legumes. Men who want to use these diets over the long term should consider taking a multivitamin/mineral nutrition supplement.
Happy Men’s Health Month!
IFIC’s survey found that while consumer confusion due to conflicting nutrition messages remains a problem, trust in government agencies and their nutrition recommendations is on the rise. Hopefully, Men’s Health Month will help spread the word about the importance of good nutrition for a healthy life.
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