In celebration of International Men's Day on November 19th, we'll be sharing a series of blog posts discussing men's health. We will focus on dietary, emotional and physically supportive measures to promote optimal health in men.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), 12% of males over the age of 18 are in fair or poor health, while 36.6% of males over 20 are obese, and 33% of males over 20 have hypertension (high blood pressure). The leading causes of death in males are heart disease, cancer and accidents or unintentional injuries.
While many males may be active and healthy in their younger years, as the responsibilities of work and family take their toll, many men focus less on healthy practices and lifestyles, often eating a poor diet, engaging in minimal-to-no exercise and activity, and having no stress-relieving activities. They often turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with everyday stress.
Over the years, these lifestyle choices take their toll, resulting in a number of complaints or illnesses that men see arising out of nowhere but, through careful examination, reveal the downside of not being interested in their own health.
Diet is one of the most important and foundational aspects of health, delivering nutrients and building blocks which optimize cellular functioning and allow bodily systems to operate with efficiency and keep one healthy. However, in the Western world, many eat a diet high in heavily processed foods, highly refined grain-based products, excess carbohydrates and sugars, pro-inflammatory fats, meat and animal products from animals raised in factory farmed operations, excess calories, and excess alcohol, along with non-organic, GMO produce foods with their burden of chemicals that add toxicity and stress to cells. These diets are often poor in adequate fiber, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, humanely raised, grass-fed or pastured animals and animals' products, unprocessed whole foods, grains and legumes, and purified water.
How do we encourage men to eat healthier, especially when our advertising on various media formats encourages these convenience foods devoid of proper nutrition, and when there is an attitude of ignorance, complacency or downright feeling it's not "manly" to focus on health?
At the same time, many males avoid talking about symptoms that may arise in their body to their loved ones or primary care providers, or downright ignore these concerns, as they don't want to show signs of weakness to their ego. How do we get them to open up?
We need to change the dialogue around men's health and encourage them to talk to their care providers and family when they have concerns and ensure that the messaging reminds them it is not a sign of weakness but messages from the body that it needs some attention and changes in lifestyle to get back to a state of balance.
Education about healthy food choices is paramount. Men need to know what foods work best for them and what ratios of macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) are best for their given age, their goals, lifestyles and activities. It won't be the same for everyone.
We need to emphasize the importance of increased vegetable intake (preferably organic), which should make up at least 40-50% of each meal. Additionally, men should avoid processed and fast foods as much as possible and choose whole, minimally processed foods. Also, keeping carbohydrates to a minimum and avoidance of added sugars in foods and beverages will help to balance blood sugars.
While meat can have a place in a healthy diet choosing meat that has been raised on a natural diet with access to outdoors spaces will improve the nutrient and fat profile within the meat and be healthier when consumed. A focus on fish and seafood will provide healthy omega-3 polyunsaturated fats which help to balance inflammation in the body. And, lastly, men should add to their diet healthy fats from extra virgin olive oil and olives, avocados and avocado oil, nuts and seeds, grass-fed dairy products (in those who aren't sensitive to dairy), coconut and coconut products.
Getting men to work with a Naturopathic Doctor, Functional Medical Doctor or other naturally focused, nutrition-based health care provider can provide a more detailed eating plan and approach to optimize health and wellness. Additionally, ensuring that loved ones and friends are supportive of men making healthy, positive changes can go a long way to encourage males to stick with these behaviors.
Stay tuned for our next blog on men's health where we'll look at emotional factors and what can be done to help men support their emotional health and deal effectively with stressors.
Dr. Shawn Manske attended the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, one of seven accredited four-year, post-graduate Naturopathic Medical schools in North America, and received his Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine. He practiced as an ND for five years in Ontario, Canada, before moving to Colorado. He's currently a Territory Accounts Manager and Senior Educator at WishGarden Herbs.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.