7 foods men should eat for a longer, healthier life

A dietitian discusses the foods that are most likely to support men’s health — and the ones they should avoid.
Cuisine - D?coupe de poisson, saumon
The omega-3s in salmon help lower the risk of heart disease, the leading killer of American men, according to the CDC.Capelle.r / Getty Images stock

Eating a diet that's mainly focused on meat and potatoes isn’t the best way for men to stay healthy and strong, even though both foods can be part of a healthy diet. Many men have a tendency to zero in on protein foods and pay less attention to other options like veggies and fiber-rich foods. But to fuel good health, men need more than protein; they need a minimum of 2 1/2 cups of veggies, 2 cups of fruit, and 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day — nutrition targets that few men achieve. Here are seven foods that can help men stay healthier for longer.

1. Blueberries

Whether fresh or frozen, blueberries contain potent antioxidants that help counter the DNA damage that contributes to the development of cancer. Beyond their anti-cancer potential, blueberries are also one of the best foods to eat to help preserve memory and thinking skills over time. Plus, a cup of berries supplies about 4 grams of much-needed fiber.

Try: Blended into smoothies, as a whole-grain cereal topper or by the handful.

2. Salmon

The omega-3s in salmon help lower the risk of heart disease, the leading killer of American men, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Salmon and other types of seafood are also rich in lean protein. By choosing to eat seafood twice a week, you’re not only scoring beneficial omega-3s, iron and zinc, but also limiting other types of less healthful protein, like red meat and processed meats, that guys often go for.

Try: Canned pink salmon as an alternative to canned tuna and grilled, baked or broiled wild or sustainably raised farm salmon.

3. Spinach

All leafy greens are good for you, but spinach has a milder flavor than a lot of other greens, which may make it more appealing to men who don't like strong or bitter tastes. Spinach is rich in carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Lab studies suggest these compounds might deter cancer from developing and progressing. Lutein and zeaxanthin also play a part in protecting your vision from blue light — the type of light emitted from digital devices like your mobile phone and tablet. Plus, in a study among older adults, the participants who ate one serving of spinach (or any leafy green) per day showed less cognitive decline than those who shunned greens — their cognitive abilities were similar to those of folks 11 years younger than them.

Try: Mixed into whole wheat pasta, as a side salad, as a sandwich fixing or sautéed with garlic in extra virgin olive oil.

4. Nuts

Adding a couple of handfuls of nuts to your daily diet may help improve your sex life, according to Spanish researchers. In the study, nut eaters reported better orgasms and stronger sexual drive compared to those following the typical American diet, which is much lower in nuts. Other research found that nuts improve sperm quality, which may lead to better fertility. In both cases, the type of healthy fat and high antioxidant levels in nuts are thought to provide these benefits.

Try: Stirring into yogurt, adding to oatmeal, using as a topping for salads and sautéed greens or as a standalone snack.

5. Avocado

Despite being high in fat and calories, avocados may help you manage your weight over time. According to a recent study, avocado eaters who were normal weight to begin with gained significantly less weight over an 11-year period compared with those who avoided avocados. The healthy fat and fiber in avocados makes them a filling addition to a meal, and other research suggests meals rich in avocado help curb your desire to eat and might blunt post-meal insulin levels, which could translate to better blood sugar control.

Try: Mashed as a sandwich spread or as guacamole served with veggie sticks.

6. Edamame

Prostate cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer among men, and a recent meta-analysis found that soy foods, like edamame, may lower your risk of getting this disease. A cup of edamame in the pod supplies 11 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and numerous other nutrients, including magnesium, folate, iron and potassium.

Try: Pureed into a dip, shelled and tossed into mac and cheese and as a quick side or snack.

7. Plain Greek yogurt

A study that tracked over 180,000 people over the course of 20 to 30 years found that those who were regular yogurt eaters had a 16% lower risk of high blood pressure compared to those choosing to eat yogurt less than once a month. When yogurt was included in a DASH dietary pattern, which encourages a healthy intake of fruits and veggies, along with whole grains, participants experienced a 30% lower risk of high blood pressure. It should be noted that in the study, yogurt eaters had healthier diets in general, with less red and processed meats and sugary beverages, but since yogurt is rich in blood pressure lowering nutrients, like calcium, researchers suggest it likely provides added benefits.

Try: As the base of a dip for fruit or veggies, as an alternative to sour cream atop baked potatoes and tacos or stacked with fruit in parfaits.

What to Limit

In addition to understanding which foods are the healthiest ones for men, it's also important to highlight the foods and drinks that — when consumed regularly — can contribute to health problems. Here are four that men should only eat or drink in moderation, if at all.

Red and processed meat

Numerous studies have linked high intakes of these foods to a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. If you eat red meat, consider eating it less often — and aim for smaller portion sizes.

Sweets and sweetened drinks

High amounts of added sugar can increase inflammation, which can eventually lead to heart disease and other illnesses. Men should aim for less than 36 grams of sugar per day.

Refined grains

Unlike whole grains, these grains lack fiber and the full spectrum of nutrients found in whole grains. Studies on heart disease and Type 2 diabetes suggest that replacing refined grains with whole grains lowers your risk for these conditions.

Alcohol

Men are more likely than women to drink excessively (excessive drinking for men is defined as regularly consuming more than 15 drinks per week or tossing back more than 5 drinks in a two-hour sitting), according to the CDC. Overdoing it exposes men to a higher risk of injuries and death as well as a higher risk of cancer. It’s also linked with male infertility, so there are lots of good reasons to keep your drinking in check.