Few of us eat enough fruit and vegetables, but especially men don’t get around to getting their five a day. In every analysis of fruit and vegetable intake, including the National Diet and Nutrition Survey conducted every three years, women routinely eat more servings than men each day, and in every health survey for England conducted since 1994, men continue to behind.
“It’s a story that doesn’t change,” says Dr Linia Patel, a dietician and spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association. “Fruit and vegetable intake over the years remains low for all adults, but it is well known that women get more fiber and nutrients from fruits and vegetables than men.” And new evidence suggests it’s crucial for men’s health, which affect immunity and sex life and significantly increase their risk of heart disease and cancer.
“Men are statistically more likely to have cardiovascular disease and colon or colon cancer than women,” says Eli Brecher, a registered nutritionist. “A high intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of all these and more health problems.”
Leafy green vegetables provide a whole range of vitamins and minerals
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A recent study in the US of 79,952 men found that those who ate the most plant foods – fruits, vegetables and legumes – were 22 percent less likely to develop colon cancer than those who ate the least. There was no such association for the 93,475 women who participated in the study, suggesting a clearer association for men.
Brecher says even five a day — preferably a ratio of three vegetables to two fruits — may not be enough for men. “Research has suggested that men should aim for well above recommended intakes to get the nutrients that may be protective against these diseases,” she says. “Some studies have shown that at least seven servings a day results in a 33 percent lower risk of premature death from any cause compared to less than one serving a day, and that’s the amount I try to tell all my male clients. let’s eat.” .”
Findings from the University of Oxford last year, where researchers surveyed 472,377 participants from the UK Biobank database – all in good health at the start of the study – about their fruit and vegetable intake over just over a decade, indicated that men who had a vegetarian or low-meat diet were 31 percent less likely to get prostate cancer. And vegetarian men were 43 percent less likely to get colon cancer than meat eaters. Cody Watling, a researcher in the Oxford Department of Cancer Epidemiology and one of the paper’s authors, says that “it may be that men who regularly eat meat tend to be less health-conscious than men’s other food groups.” But the recommendation remains that “they, along with all other individuals, should try to maximize their intake of fruits and vegetables to ensure they eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.”
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This followed a pair of studies from the US, one involving 47,239 men showing that the more fruit and vegetables consumed by men under 65, the lower their risk of fatal prostate cancer during a 28-year follow-up, and another from the University of Texas, which reported that men with localized prostate cancer had a reduced risk of it growing or progressing to a point where they would need treatment if their diet included more fruits, vegetables and legumes.
Patel says differences in men’s and women’s gut microbiomes are “another powerful argument for men to up their game” nutritionally. “Studies show that women naturally have a more diverse microbiome than men and that the X chromosome – doubled in women – contains many immune-related genes. All this means that women’s immune systems respond more strongly to an infection than men’s, and underscores why gut- and immune-healthy fruits and vegetables are so crucial for men to consume.” Variety, says Patel, is key, but there are certain fruits and vegetables that all men should consider adding to their diet:
Eat 5-6 prunes a day for bone health
A 30g serving of dried fruit counts as one of your five a day, and men should consider eating more prunes. Not only are they rich in fiber, which benefits gut health and digestion, but the prunes are also a good source of vitamin K2, which is known to increase bone density.
A 2021 study showed that prunes can benefit the bone health of men over 50, helping to protect against osteoporosis, a condition that affects one in five men in the UK. Eating five to six prunes every day for a year led to a decrease in biomarkers of bone breakdown, while no changes were observed in a control group that did not eat the dried fruit.
Add an avocado a week for your heart
Reducing animal products, including bacon and cheese, and substituting two servings of half an avocado per week was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease in a study involving more than 110,000 participants, including 41,701 men ages 40 to 75. Avocado eaters were 16 percent less likely to have cardiovascular disease and had a 21 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease over the course of the 30-year study compared to those who never or rarely ate avocado. “As a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados are important for men to include in their diet,” says Patel.
A few servings of berries and cherries a week can improve erectile dysfunction
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Eat a bowl of dark berries and cherries every day
Berries are rich in beneficial plant flavonoids, particularly anthocyanins, which give the fruits their red and purple hue and have powerful antioxidant properties, which help protect against dementia and heart disease. A daily intake of blueberries has been shown to improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels in men with type 2 diabetes, and just a few servings a week of berries and cherries to improve erectile dysfunction by 14 percent, with the greatest benefit for men under 70 .
A serving of cranberries could improve cardiovascular function in men, according to a study by Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, an associate professor of nutritional sciences at King’s College London, who found that an increase in beneficial polyphenols in the bloodstream after eating the berries improved blood vessels. function. “The fact that these improvements in cardiovascular health were seen with an amount of cranberries that can reasonably be consumed on a daily basis makes the fruit important in preventing cardiovascular disease,” she says.
A bowl of mixed berries is recommended by the nutritional therapist and author of Men eat Ian Marber. “A polyphenol called resveratrol has been shown to offer some protection against dementia. Red wine is the best known source, but dark berries are a healthier, non-alcoholic way to get your supply.”
Eat 45g a day of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy or cauliflower for healthy blood vessels and blood sugar
Sulforaphane, an active component of cruciferous vegetables, has been shown to help lower blood pressure, and 45 g per day can reduce the buildup of harmful calcium levels in the aorta, the body’s largest artery.
In trials at the Quadram Institute in Norwich, a center for food and health research, a sulforaphane-rich broccoli-based soup once a week helped lower and control blood sugar in people at risk for type 2 diabetes.
In another study, the same team asked 39 men with slow-growing or localized prostate cancer to take either a broccoli-based supplement or a placebo for four weeks. Those taking the supplement had much more sulforaphane in the prostate gland. According to Tracey Livingstone, lead author of the study and a urology registrar, “there is a wealth of evidence suggesting that nutritional components in cruciferous vegetables reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression.”
Improve prostate and brain health with more mushrooms
A large study involving more than 36,000 Japanese men between the ages of 40 and 79 over nearly three decades found that eating a variety of mushrooms resulted in a lower risk of prostate cancer. The benefits were especially strong in men age 50 and older, believed to be a result of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in mushrooms (they are a source of B vitamins, potassium, chloride and copper, as well as selenium). An antioxidant found in mushrooms, L-ergothioneine, is believed to reduce oxidative stress that leads to the chronic inflammation in the body responsible for diseases such as cancer.
Another study, using data from 663 participants aged 60 and over and reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that those who eat just one 150g serving of mushrooms per week may lower their risk of mild cognitive impairment. decrease as they get older.
Eat tomatoes four times a week for prostate protection
Dozens of studies have shown that tomatoes and tomato-based products contain high amounts of the plant compound lycopene that gives tomatoes their color and has powerful antioxidant properties. The amount of lycopene is higher when tomatoes are heated or cooked, especially with a little oil.
Studies by Gary Fraser, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Loma Linda University Health – some of which were funded by the World Cancer Research Fund International – have shown that the risk of prostate cancer decreases by about 10 percent when at least raw tomatoes are eaten. four times a week, but that protective element rises when they’re cooked. “We found that men who ate canned and cooked tomatoes five to six times a week had a 28 percent lower risk of prostate cancer compared to men who never ate these foods,” says Fraser.
Eat a serving of spinach and kale for strong muscles
A serving of these leafy greens a day is a source of nitrates, compounds in the vegetables that are converted by the body to nitrite, which relaxes and widens blood vessels to boost blood flow to the muscles. A study of 3,759 Australians published in the Journal of Nutrition found that a diet rich in nitrates, mainly from vegetables, led to better leg muscle function. Indeed, those with the highest nitrate consumption from leafy greens had 11 percent stronger leg muscles than those with the lowest intake, and the vegetable eaters recorded walking speeds that were 4 percent faster.
“It’s better to eat nitrate-rich vegetables as part of a healthy diet than to take supplements,” said Dr. Marc Sim of Edith Cowan University’s Institute for Nutrition Research, the study’s lead author. “Leafy green vegetables provide a host of essential vitamins and minerals that are critical to health.” Another study at that university showed how a daily serving of leafy greens helped “significantly reduce the risk of blood pressure and cardiovascular disease” in 2,933 participants.
“Leafy green vegetables, including lettuce, spinach, kale, and beets, have a profound effect on heart health in men,” says Patel.