A quick look at global data from the United Nations is all it takes to realise that in all of the countries in the world where humans tend to live the longest, men generally live around three to six years less than woman do1.
Now there are a vast number of occupational, biological and behavioural factors that separate men and women that might explain this difference in life expectancy.
What interests me most as a dietitian, however, is the consistently observed gender disparity between food choices and diet quality.
The data seems to suggest that modern women in western cultures tend to have healthier diets than men do4.
Guys, I know we can do better.
That’s why in this three part series, I am going to systematically discuss each of the biggest men’s health concerns and teach you a few key foods or nutrients that will help you take your diet, and your health, to the next level.
Reproductive and Sexual Health
The first thing I’m going to say about sexual health from a nutrition perspective is that if you take care of your heart, it will take care of the rest.
What do you think pumps blood down there anyway?
Jokes aside, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction are the two most significant topics in this realm that are heavily modifiable by nutrition.
Although not nearly as fatal, prostate cancer sits just behind lung cancer as the second most common cancer in males globally8.
While research into the dietary prevention of prostate cancer is ongoing, there is some evidence to suggest that the compound lycopene, which is found in tomato-based products, watermelon, guava, grapefruit and red bell peppers, may have a protective effect9.
Hundreds of millions of men worldwide are affected by erectile dysfunction, also known as ED, each year10.
Having one or more of diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure greatly increases your risk, and since we’ve already discussed the later let’s take a brief moment to talk about diabetes and sexual health11.
About 90% of diabetes cases globally are type 2, which is often milder and occurs later in life than type 1.
As their blood sugar control worsens with time, many people who end up with type 2 diabetes will progress from pre-diabetes before being fully diagnosed.
It’s this high blood sugar levels that damage the sensitive nerve endings of the male reproductive system and increase the risk of ED.
So, what can you do from the dietary perspective to help prevent this from happening to you?
Increase your soluble fibre intake!
Soluble fibre is a specific type of dietary fibre that is particularly good for your blood sugar levels because it slows down the transit of food through your digestive system and extends the amount of time before the food you eat ends up in your bloodstream.
The single greatest source of dietary fibre is the legume family of foods which includes all types of chickpeas, lentils and beans like soy, navy and kidney beans.
As far I am concerned, legumes are the most underrated food for men’s health, period.
On top of this, foods such as broccoli, sweet potato, pears, apples and figs are also a source of soluble fibre.