The Truth about Men’s Nutritional Needs: A Round Table Discussion with Jefferson Health New Jersey Dietitians
In support of Men’s Health Month, the Nutrition Team at Jefferson Health in New Jersey recently sat down to discuss men’s nutritional needs, breaking the common misconception that they differ from the needs of women.
Do men and women have different nutritional needs?
Lindsay Friel, MS, RDN: This is more stereotype-based than it is fact-based. Men need a balanced diet, just like women, with the same amount of fruits and vegetables, not just protein.
Lauren Falcone, RD: The only real difference is minor. Because men have a higher calorie expenditure, or the number of calories they naturally burn throughout the day, they do require a slightly higher calorie intake.
Melissa Wadolowski, RD, LDN, CHC: This also depends on the man’s body size and muscle mass. The larger the body and muscle mass, the more calories you should consume. The thought that men and women have vastly different nutritional needs derives from cultural and societal ideals, where being “manly” involves eating a lot of meat, and salads have been marketed more toward women.
Cheri Leahy, RDN, CSOWM: It’s important to note that everyone’s nutritional needs are affected by their environment and lifestyle. So, your occupation may come into play as well. Someone who works in a sedentary, enclosed environment should follow a different diet in comparison to a farm worker.
Wadolowski: Also, if you’re in an occupation that requires you to eat on the go a lot, it can really impact your diet.
What advice can you offer for someone with little time to prepare home-cooked meals during the week?
Friel: Small grocery marts and gas stops have made significant strides with hand held produce. They offer carrots, apples with peanut butter, pretzels with hummus, and drinkable yogurts. These are all made readily available (and affordable), so, there’s no real excuse to keep grabbing junky snacks.
Wadolowski: It’s important to also have a plan. If you travel, your plan should involve looking at menus and eatery options that will be available in that area. When you’re overwhelmed and overly hungry, you’re likely to make the wrong decisions.
How much exercise is a healthy amount for men?
Wadolowski: All adults in good health should try and get the same amount of physical activity. The American Heart Association recommends around 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity, or 70 minutes of high intensity activity, once a week. Strength training should also be done at least 2 days per week, for both men and women.
Friel: For men, some portion of that 70 minutes should be filled with cardio. Not all men realize that cardio is just as important for them as it is for women, but it is. On average, men are at a much higher risk for cardiovascular complications; cardio will help to lower this risk.
Do men’s nutritional needs change at all as they age?
Wadolowski: As we age, we should incorporate more nutrient dense foods into our diets, because our calorie needs go down, but our nutrient needs do not. We still require a certain amount of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in our foods.
Leahy: It’s not uncommon for men to experience low testosterone levels. This tends to be exacerbated by a high sugar and refined carbohydrate diet. An improved diet, and weight loss, can help you increase your testosterone as well as gain control over your blood sugar.
Falcone: Men over the age of 55 should pay close attention to their prostate health. Many studies show that a healthy diet and weight actually reduce the risk for prostate cancer and prostate cancer reoccurrence. Foods such as red meats, dairy products, and items high in B12, when consumed in excess, can increase the risk for prostate cancer. Foods that are beneficial for prostate health include garlic, turmeric, tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, pomegranate juice, fatty fish, and cruciferous vegetables (or “greens”).