Foods That Help Men Stay Healthy  Recipe
Foods That Help Men Stay Healthy

By Doug Cook

Men are notoriously oblivious to their own health care. They often resort to posturing when trying to defend their ignorance: they're not weak -- they can handle whatever is thrown at them. Despite the facade, men have a lot at stake when it comes to their health.

Men face health risks particular to male physiology, but fortunately there are a few foods and nutrients that can be used to reduce or control them. Men need to remember that knowledge and prevention are the strongest medicines. Pride is not worth the risks you may take by ignoring your health and well-being.

Soy and Prostate Health

The role of testosterone in the development of prostate cancer is no longer in doubt. Prostate cells get a little out of control as men age, and some degree of "dysplasia" or uncontrolled growth is inevitable. In fact, 30 percent of 50-year-old men have latent prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the consequence of male sex hormones known as androgens docking on prostate cells, triggering uncontrolled cell growth. This docking can be blocked by the isoflavones in soy (whole food soy), which take up residence on the testosterone receptors in prostate cells.

Soy is a great source of other nutrients that act in concert with each other, or with the isoflavones, resulting in its anti-cancer properties. It only takes several servings of soy products per week (such as soy nuts, whole food soy protein powder, tofu, miso, edamame or soy beverage) to harness its anti-cancer properties. Beware, however, that soy isoflavone supplements have actually yielded negative results. If choosing a soy beverage, avoid those that contain isolated soy protein. Go for one that uses the entire (organic, non-genetically modified) soybean.

Tomatoes, a Man's Best Friend

Tomatoes are the best source of lycopene, a very powerful anti-oxidant. In studies, lycopene has reduced LDL cholesterol oxidation (when cholesterol is oxidized, it becomes damaged and more likely to lead to plaque formation). Most tomato products are a convenient way to reap any potential benefits relating to this effect.

Tomatoes also help reduce cardiovascular disease as part of a lower-sodium, higher potassium diet. One cup of tomato juice has more potassium than a large banana.

Of special interest to men is research linking higher intake of tomatoes to lower rates of prostate cancer. It was once believed that lycopene was responsible, but studies using lycopene supplements didn't find the same results. When studies using whole-food tomato supplements (essentially dehydrated tomato juice in capsule form) were reviewed, anti-cancer effects where again seen.

Lignans, vitamin D and omega-3s

Lignans are a type of phyto-estrogen (estrogen-like compounds found naturally in foods) and a powerful ally in prostate cancer prevention. The best source lingans is flaxseed, but they're also found in sesame seed, rye, wheat and oat bran. Flaxseed needs to be ground and eaten to obtain the nutrients inside (not just lignans, but the alpha-linolenic acid as well). Flax oil is devoid of lignans and, in my opinion, should not be consumed.

The vitamin D that you get in a supplement or that the body produces via the sun is converted into a hormone called calcitriol. Many tissues in the body, including the prostate, have receptors for vitamin D. These tissues can convert vitamin D into calcitriol, which has been shown reduce precancerous cells in the prostate. Calcitriol has a direct effect on these microtumors and also may exert its anticancer effect by boosting the immune system, whose job it is to seek out and destroy cancer cells.

Omega-3 fats are found in two forms: EPA/DHA (from fish) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, found in plant foods). Both have been associated with preventing heart disease and prostate cancer and may help to reduce the occurrence of colon cancer. Omega-3 fats are beneficial to men's health on two fronts: lowering inflammation and keeping cell operations in line. Only small amounts of ALA is needed for health; avoid flax oil, as it provides too much. Good sources, without getting too much, are canola oil, walnuts, ground flaxseed, chia seeds and organic soybeans.

Easy Eating Habits That Improve Men's Health

-- Include a small handful of mixed nuts/seeds everyday (try soy nuts, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds).

-- Aim to have two servings of fatty fish every week. Alternatively you can choose a good quality fish oil supplement, aim to get 1000-1500mg of EPA/DHA combined per day.

-- Get Vitamin D daily, either by supplements or by getting some responsible sun exposure during the summer months. Regardless, come October, you'll need supplements to reap the benefits of this superstar nutrient year-round.

-- Try alternating your protein powder with a whole soy food powder. Avoid soy protein isolates.

-- Have a couple of servings of organic edamame (boiled or steamed soybeans) each week.

-- Boost your lignan intake by having several tablespoons of ground flax each week. Add to smoothies, oatmeal, applesauce, fruit salad with yogurt, or even in a glass of juice.

-- Have 3 to 4 servings of low-sodium tomato products like juice, spaghetti sauce or vegetable cocktail each week.

-- Try having green tea daily if you can (replace some of your coffee or water with it). There is promising evidence that it benefits the prostate.

-- Eat several servings per week of crucifers like cabbage, broccoli, radishes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and collard greens. They are very anti-cancer. Eat at least half your servings raw.

-- Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. While excess body fat can increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and osteoarthritis, obesity is a leading risk factor for cancer, something most don't associate it with.

-- Get an annual check-up with your family doctor. If you're getting up there in age (45ish), be a man and accept the fact that this will include a digital rectal exam and a colonoscopy.

Article: Copyright © Mayo Clinic

Health: "Foods That Help Men Stay Healthy"