While taking care of their family, work responsibilities, and cars come naturally to men, they often don't pay as much attention to their own health as they should. On top of that, men are more likely to engage in habits such as drinking, smoking, and putting off seeking medical help until things get really bad.
But taking good care of yourself means you can take care of others and the best place to start is to pay attention to what you eat. What foods you eat can help you live longer and lower the risk of many health concerns such as heart disease, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and low testosterone. Foods fuel your body, not only with energy but also with all the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. But it is not a one-size-fit-all scenario for life because nutrient needs change in response to physiological changes that occur with age. What this means is that you need to change your dietary habits to ensure that the foods you are eating meet the changing nutritional needs for your age.
However, it is important to remember that regardless of age, a healthy balanced diet full of nutrient-dense foods can help you meet your body's demand for nutrients at all ages. So let's look at what are the best foods for men at each age.
Best Foods for Men in Their 20s
As a young adult, transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, your life is full of changes in every aspect of your life. It is the time when you start being independent, form new habits, and develop the foundations of a lifestyle that will become part of the adult you.
This includes eating what you want, when you want and where you want. But you need to watch what you eat. If you find yourself making frequent trips to fast food restaurants because it is convenient and easy, you are not alone. A survey found that as many as 57% of young adults between the ages of 18 to 29 eat at fast food restaurants at least once a week. Breaking up the numbers, the survey found that more men than women were likely to eat fat food on a weekly basis.(1) However, this is not a habit you want to form as these high calorie diets will not fulfill your nutrient requirements. Fast foods are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, refined grains and added sugar that contribute towards high calorie intake. Frequently eating fast foods may lead to weight gain, higher body mass index or BMI and an increased risk of preventable diseases such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes. (2,3)
There are some things you can do if you go out to eat fast food like making small changes to your order. Opt for cauliflower crust pizza, lettuce buns, grilled meat, and getting a side order of salad or vegetables instead of fries. But better still, instead of rushing off to the first fast food restaurant, take the time to plan your meals ahead of time. Healthy meals will provide you with much needed energy and nutrients that will pull you through a long day of studying, working, exercising and relaxing.
Here are some nutrients men should focus on getting at this age.
Protein:Ensure that you are getting sufficient amounts of proteins as they are vital for maintaining and regulating body functions in addition to forming the major part of your lean body mass. There is a lot of choices for protein sources and it is easy to consume the amounts you need from a typical diet. The Recommended Daily Allowance states that adults require 0.8 g of protein/ kg of body weight per day. Go for free-range white protein sources such as skinless poultry, turkey, wild-caught fish and seafood, eggs, cuts of organic pork and grass-fed beef, beans, nuts, seeds and full-fat dairy. (4,5)
Calcium and Vitamin D: It is vital to get these two nutrients in sufficient amounts at this age as bone mass or amount of bone tissue continues to grow until you are in the late 20s, when they reach their maximum strength and density known as peak bone mass. Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which helps make your bones strong and healthy. Although your body is able to make vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, it is a good idea to eat foods rich in vitamin D to ensure you get sufficient amounts of this essential nutrient. Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, and fortified foods such as milk and eggs are good sources of vitamin D. Also include dairy and dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, and green leafy vegetables to your diet to meet your needs for calcium. (5,6)
Potassium: The heart and muscles require adequate intake of potassium for normal functioning. However, potassium is a nutrient that is not consumed in sufficient amounts by most Americans even though it is found in common foods. To ensure you get your daily requirement of potassium simply include foods such as avocado, sweet potato, coconut water, white beans, butternut squash, broccoli, spinach and beet greens to your diet.(5)
Best Foods for Men in Their 30s
Now that you are in your 30s, your thinking has changed, maturity has set in and you are probably a partner or a parent or both! On top of that, you are busier at work with more responsibilities and probably less active than you were before. You might notice a decrease in energy levels, lower stamina, some muscle loss, and maybe an increase in weight! There is a gradual decline in testosterone levels after the age of 30, so you may even notice a loss of interest in sex as well.(7) While these changes may be subtle, they call for change in eating, fitness and lifestyle habits as well.
Best foods for men to eat at this age should focus on maintaining health for years to come.
Magnesium: Studies show that supplements of magnesium, an essential trace mineral, have a positive impact on free and total testosterone levels,(8) while also being beneficial for patients with type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease when taken with supplements of zinc.(9) It is, however, easy to get magnesium from almonds, cashews, peanuts, spinach, and black beans. (10)
Omega-3 fatty acids: Intake of omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial for heart health by reducing the clotting of blood, decreasing triglycerides, and decreasing the risk of stroke and heart failure. Making omega-3 fat foods such as eggs, salmon, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds a part of your daily diet may benefit your heart health in the long run.(11)
Best Foods for Men in Their 40s
While your body still needs all the nutrients it needed when you were in your 20s and 30's, your top priority as you enter your 40s is preventing disease. This is the age when your risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer increase and your focus should be on eating foods that reduce your risk for these diseases.
Antioxidant Rich Foods:Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin C and E. These antioxidants do not only protect against cell damage from oxidative stress and prevent cancer but may also slow down aging, prevent changes in DNA and ward off heart disease. All kinds of colored fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, carrots, green pepper, spinach, kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, walnuts, sunflower seeds and even a little bit of dark chocolate provide these much needed antioxidants.(12)
Selenium:Selenium is a trace mineral that carries out many functions in the body and is important for reproduction and synthesis of DNA. As a strong antioxidant, selenium may play a role in preventing prostate cancer in men and may also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Some of the good sources of selenium include seafoods, Brazil nuts, eggs, and dairy products.(13)
Best Foods for Men 50s and beyond
This is the age when vision problems, heart disease, bone fractures and other health issues may arise. Now is the time to step up and take even better care of your diet to make sure you are healthy. It is important to keep eating the best foods for men at each age in addition to paying particular attention to foods that provide other nutrients that will keep you in good health.
Calcium: Keeping your bones strong and healthy at this age is critical so that you don't lose bone mass and prevent the onset of diseases like osteoporosis that increase risk of fracture. Make sure you are getting sufficient amounts of calcium, needs for which increase after 50. Calcium rich foods include dairy and dairy products, salmon and leafy vegetables. Also, include vitamin D in your diet to increase calcium absorption. Look for vitamin D rich foods like fatty fish, milk and cheese and spend some time in the sun if you can so that your body can synthesize some vitamin D. (6,14) Try to include weight bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, playing tennis and resistance exercises like weight lifting a part of your daily routine as exercise can help prevent bone loss.
Fiber: Dietary fiber carries out many functions in the body such as maintaining normal bowel movement, lowering cholesterol levels, controlling blood sugar levels, and may even help you in losing weight. All these actions of fiber may help reduce the risk of colon cancer, diabetes, and even heart disease. Make sure to include food sources of fiber such as fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, and nuts in your diet and consider taking a probiotic supplement to promote gut health.(15)
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is important for blood formation, nerve function, and synthesis of DNA. However, your body's ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases with age, making it more important to include vitamin B12 rich foods in your diet as you grow older. You can get vitamin B12 from foods such as clams, poultry, fish, meat, milk, and milk products. (16)
The take-home message is that men at all ages should avoid processed foods as much as possible, cut back on snacking, stay away from sugary drinks like soda that only provide empty calories, and limit alcohol intake. The best foods are those that are nutrient dense, rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants but low in calories. When all is said and done, you have to remember that no matter what your age, eating a healthy balanced diet, getting enough physical activity and a good night's sleep are key to good health.