A poor diet isn’t just bad for your waistline—it can be detrimental to your health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than 1 in 10 American adults (and adolescents) consume enough fruits and vegetables while also consuming far too many added sugars, sodium and saturated fats.
Over the long term, this can lead to such conditions as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancer. Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death among men in the United States, while an estimated 40.5 percent of men ages 20 and over are considered obese, according to the CDC.
A balanced diet starts with small steps. For those letting their nutrition slide, “It’s never too late to start to make healthy habits,” says Zachary Collins, a physician assistant at ChristianaCare. And dietary changes are often the gateway to other healthy lifestyle choice, like exercise. Since men typically have more muscle mass and are bigger than women, they require more calories—between 2,200 and 2,800 for those who are moderately active. The more active you are, the more you need. But not all calories are created equal.
“Foundations of good nutrition are really simple. I like to start off with just staying well hydrated—drinking plenty of water throughout the day,” Collins says, noting that urine color is a good indicator. “If it’s clear or pale, then you’re good to go.”
Most men should be consuming a variety of low-sugar fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen are both OK), as well as foods high in fiber (whole grains, legumes), healthy fats (avocado, extra-virgin olive oil) and lean proteins (wild-caught salmon, tofu, nuts).
“Find a food that you’re going to like that’s going to be easier for you to get to,” Collins says.
Just 5 percent of Americans get enough fiber, according to data from the U.S. News & World Report, with most consuming only 50 percent of the daily recommended amount. Inadequate fiber, Collins warns, can lead to “constipation and other abdominal issues.”
“Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death among men in the U.S., while an estimated 40.5 percent of men ages 20 and over are considered obese, according to the CDC.”
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends men under age 50 consume between 25 and 34 grams of fiber daily, while those over 50 should aim for 28 grams; at least two cups of fruits like berries, apples and persimmon, and 2.5 cups of vegetables daily; two to three servings of wild-caught fish per week; and 3,400 milligrams of potassium weekly (sweet potatoes, spinach, white beans). As with all things in life, there are no shortcuts when it comes to a healthy diet. So stick to “real foods rather than supplements,” Collins says. “In general, the average person doesn’t need any supplements. The foundation of nutrition is where you’re going to get everything from.”