By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
June is Men’s Health Month and Father’s Day is right around the corner, so this week we’re talking nutrients to keep you men and fathers out there healthy. Although our bodies are all relatively similar, the male and female bodies have slightly different nutritional needs, so it’s important that we understand what we need individually to help keep us strong and healthy. When it comes to men’s health, it’s particularly important as we age to nourish the body and to help protect it from common health issues like heart disease and other common chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and obesity.
Here are the 5 key nutrients for men:
Vitamin D is involved in so many key roles in the body including bone health, cancer prevention, nerve and immune health and more. Many of us don’t get enough vitamin D because it’s almost impossible to obtain from food. Supplements tend to be the source of most of our vitamin D (other than the sun), and because of that, it’s a good idea to get your blood levels checked so that you know how much you really need.
How to get more vitamin D: Sun exposure (be careful not to get a sunburn!), mushrooms, fortified orange juice and milk, supplements. Learn more to find out if you’re getting enough vitamin D.
Getting adequate fiber can help to keep us regular and also decrease risk for colon cancer. Additionally, it’s also key for heart health too (especially soluble fiber which you can find in your fresh juices, chia seeds, and some fruits and vegetables). Fiber comes in many different shapes and sizes and is relatively easy to find, especially when we aim to eat mostly unprocessed or minimally processed foods.
How to include more fiber: Fiber is found most in fruits and vegetables like kale and apples, and it’s also found in nuts and seeds as well as whole grains that are minimally processed. This is the kind of fiber that remains in your fruit and vegetable juices too.
Omega 3 fatty acids are another key nutrient for you men out there. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential, which means that the body cannot make this nutrient on its own and relies on us consuming it to ensure we are getting enough. Omega 3 fatty acids have incredible anti-inflammatory properties that can help protect blood vessels, and joints. They also play a key role in brain health, aid in lowering triglyceride levels in the blood that can over time damage blood vessels.
How to eat more Omega 3’s: Fatty fish (mackerel, salmon), enriched eggs, flaxseed and flaxseed oil (plant-based source), walnuts (plant-based source), chia seeds (plant-based source), supplements.
Potassium is another key nutrient especially for men as it acts in the body to help promote balanced blood pressure (this is key for decreasing risk for elevated blood pressure and thereby heart disease) and is also key for muscle contraction and relaxation. Potassium also plays an important role in promoting fluid balance and is key for proper hydration.
How to get more potassium: Potassium levels are high in fruits and vegetables that are red, orange and yellow including sweet potatoes, oranges, bananas, and beets, but all fruits and vegetables contain some potassium. Even better, potassium-rich fruits and vegetables are also good sources of other nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and anti-inflammatory compounds.
B vitamins are often referred to as the energy vitamins because, well you guessed it, they are key for your energy! Beyond energy B vitamins also play a key role in many other processes:
How to get these B-vitamins: