Men tend to bury their heads in the sand about their health, so dietitian Joel Feren goes back to basics — man–to–man!
As a man, I can attest our most important pieces of machinery are our bodies — not our bank balances or our CVs. But strangely, our caring–for–ourselves scorecards show we’re not that good at it. We often take a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. However, that approach is just not working.
Here’s the deal: four men die every hour from conditions that are largely preventable. So let’s talk about men’s health. It’s a topic we tend to shy away from — but our lives depend on it! And ladies, you may need to give the men in your lives a helping hand.
Why your health matters
It’s clear that some gender imbalances show up in men’s health. For example, more men than women die from heart disease, lung cancer and suicide. The good news is many conditions men suffer from are related to lifestyle and diet, which men can change.
High saturated fat and salt intake, inadequate fibre consumption and drinking too much booze increases your risk of heart disease and other nasties. But don’t despair, blokes — you don’t have to deprive yourself of your favourite foods. It’s simply a matter of getting the balance right. You’ll have to eat more fruit and vegies, and minimise your intake of ‘extras’ like chips, doughnuts, sausage rolls and pies. There’s certainly no need to cut out sugar, fat, dairy, carbs, gluten, the occasional brew, or to turn to supplements, liquid diets or South American herbal tonics.
The following five steps will help you improve your overall health, lose excess weight and ensure that your most important machinery is in tip-top shape.
1 Enjoy your vegetables!
There are no big secrets here. Vegies are good for you … like, they’re really good!
They come with a raft of nutrients, antioxidants and fibre. Yet only7 per cent of Australian men and women eat enough vegetables on a daily basis. Poor vegetable intake is clearly not just an issue confined to men.
Studies show that people who eat more vegetables experience less incidence of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, and are also more likely to be a healthier weight.
So, how can we men boost our vegie intake? Start by teaming up your morning eggs with spinach, baked beans or a side of roast tomatoes. Tomatoes contain a compound called lycopene that reduces the incidence of prostate cancer. If you’re having a cheese toastie or omelette for breakfast, include a few mushrooms.
Remember to bulk up your lunchtime sandwich(es) with different-coloured salad veg like tomato, carrot, rocket, capsicum and beetroot. Include a few serves of veg with your evening roast (yes, roast spuds count!), BBQ, fish or chicken stir-fry. And, when you’re peckish, try snacking on roasted chickpeas — the perfect alternative to chips or pretzels.
2 Cut back on booze
At a hefty 29 kilojoules (7 calories) per gram, alcohol is runner-up only to fat in the ‘kilojoules per gram’ stakes. They don’t call it a beer belly for nothing!
You don’t have to abstain from alcohol altogether, but it pays to play it smart. Aim for a maximum of two standard drinks per session, and no more than five nights a week, with at least two alcohol-free days per week. Any further reductions will be a bonus.
When you do drink, you might consider including a non-alcoholic spacer between hard drinks to cut your overall alcohol and kilojoule intake. Your liver, waistline and hip-pocket will love you for it.
3 Go with the grain
Whole grains are mighty nutritional powerhouses that are packed with protein and fibre, plus plenty of essential vitamin sand minerals. People who regularly eat whole grains as part of their diet have lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure rates, and are less likely to develop diabetes and certain cancers. The high fibre content of these grains can help you keep your weight in check by increasing your stomach’s feeling of fullness.
Whole grains tick almost every nutritional box. They’re brimming with B vitamins, vitamin E, folate, and low-GI carbs for sustaining energy, iron and fibre. Choose from whole wheat, rye, barley, quinoa, brown rice and oats.
To boost whole grain intake, swap the refined stuff for brown rice, wholemeal pasta, grainy bread and wholegrain cereals.
4 What’s up, doc?
You don’t ‘wait and see’ if your car’s oil leak will resolve itself. Yet most men don’t have a maintenance schedule for their bodies to ensure they’re in tip-top working order. Too often we wait until it’s too late, or until the damage has been done, before we see the GP. Heart disease, diabetes and some cancers can often be picked up in their early stages, when treatment is almost always more effective.
Gentlemen, we’re no different to that other piece of machinery in our garage — the one we take such good care of with servicing and maintenance.
Maintaining our health doesn’t have to be onerous, but it’s critical. A regular service and top-up with the right kind of fuel can have a profound effect — on our cars and our bodies.
5 Make fibre your friend
Fibre has been shown to reduce your risk of chronic diseases as well as certain types of cancers. People with a higher intake of cereal fibres have a reduced risk of premature death from chronic conditions like cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and diabetes.
Fibre also plays an important role in gut health, but men today typically fall well short of the recommended intake. Make fibre your friend. It’s the kind of mate who will always have your back— and truly love your guts.
51% of Australian men under 65 don’t exercise enough
Fit + fertile
Trying for a baby? It’s not just women who need to make dietary changes to boost fertility. Nutrition is vital for dads-to-be, so blokes, you need to be careful what you eat during this important time, too.
Prioritise fresh fruit and veg, nuts and omega 3-rich fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. Include soy foods such as edamame, tofu, tempeh or soy milk to increase sperm quality and numbers. Soy foods benefit hearts and prostates too.
Weight loss after 40
Slower metabolism often causes middle-age spread after 40. Juggling career and family responsibilities can make it difficult to prioritise healthy eating and exercise. But don’t despair!
If you make time to move your body, you’ll help fight the battle of the bulge and improve mood, bowel health and overall well-being. Get moving as often you can — playing beach cricket, footy with the kids, or even pumping weights in the gym. Whatever floats your boat — just do it!
Playing sport with the kids is a win-win for you and your family!