Nutritional Support for Men
A good, wholesome, well-balanced diet provides a spectrum of vitamins and minerals in addition to the basics of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Even when eating well, a quality multi-vitamin formula can act as a nutritional insurance policy. Other beneficial nutrients may be difficult to obtain from food sources alone. The following list provides details on many important nutrients. Check out the ones appropriate for everyone and then look over the additional needs for your specific age group.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These are "essential" fatty acids, meaning the body does not make these necessary fats on its own so you must get them from the food you eat.
Omega-3s provide many wonderful benefits including the promotion of mental2 and immune health, and they can also be good for your heart. Researchers have found that those who consume fatty fish one or more times a week have a lower risk of having a fatal heart attack.1
Two important Omega-3 fatty acids include DHA (docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), both of which are found in fatty cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna. Another Omega-3 fat, called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found in dark leafy greens, flax seed oil, and walnuts. Consider supplementing if fish or flax seed is not a regular part of your diet.
Antioxidants are becoming popular as more and more research points to their ability to protect your body against damage from free radicals (unstable oxygen molecules). Every day, people are exposed to free radicals from such varied sources as air pollution, sunlight, smoking, exercise, poor diet, and stress. All of this can cause damage to cells.
Antioxidants can provide needed protection from free radical molecules.
The body can regenerate its own antioxidants, and you can get them from food — they are abundant in colorful fruits and vegetables. Many health professionals recommend adding an antioxidant supplement to your daily regime, especially if you're at risk for certain diseases.
Vitamin C is critical to immune function and is an important antioxidant.
Vitamin C is necessary for the synthesis and maintenance of collagen, the primary protein found in connective tissue.
Dietary sources of C include citrus fruits, berries, green and leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and green peppers. It can be difficult to obtain adequate levels through food sources alone because Vitamin C is sensitive to light, air and heat; certain conditions, such as smoking and stress, increase the need for Vitamin C.,
The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is 60 mg per day.
This powerful antioxidant lends carrots their deep orange color, and the body turns it into Vitamin A.
Vitamin A enhances the health of the skin's epithelial tissue and is essential for the production of mucous membranes and the respiratory tract. This vitamin is also an important component for the production and activity of certain types of white blood cells. Studies show that maintaining high levels of Vitamin A enhances many immune system processes.2
Good food sources include green plants, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, spinach, and apricots.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that may help to protect the body's cells from oxidants, such as smoke and pollution.
In addition to its antioxidant properties, Vitamin E is also crucial for a healthy immune system, and it may help lower risk for heart disease as it may prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.3
Although nuts, seeds, whole grains, avocados, sweet potatoes, egg yolks, and green leafy vegetables are all food sources of Vitamin E, supplementation may be necessary since the protective levels used in most studies (100–800 I.U. per day) cannot be obtained through food sources alone.
The RDI is 30 I.U. per day.
This trace mineral works in conjunction with Vitamin E.
To protect the body's cells from oxidation.
Selenium is found in many foods, including shellfish and liver as well as vegetables, grains, and nuts that are grown in selenium-rich soil.
The RDI for selenium is 70 mcg for men; doses higher than 200 micrograms per day are generally not recommended.
No Added Iron
Most men get enough iron from food and should not need to supplement as too much iron can be harmful.
The concern is high circulating iron levels, since excessive amounts can increase the risk of certain diseases.
If blood test results show your iron level is in the upper half of normal range or higher, switch to a vitamin supplement with no added iron and consider donating blood several times a year, as well as reducing your intake of red meat.
In addition to the previously mentioned nutrients, the following are important additions to men ages 20 to 39:
Reproductive health and sexual function depend on a healthy diet with adequate nutrient intake, including sufficient amounts of protein.
Protein builds and maintains muscle tissue and helps the body to heal and repair itself.
Protein is found in abundance in fish, beef, poultry, wild game, eggs, dairy products, soybeans, and legumes.
Zinc is found in high concentrations in both the testes and the prostate gland, and a zinc deficiency can reduce testosterone levels and sperm count. Supplementing with this mineral may be particularly important for vegetarians because zinc is found in highest quantities in animal products.
Zinc is also vital for immunity, growth and development, and prostate health.
Food sources include pumpkin seeds, oysters, mushrooms, dairy products, whole grain cereals, and beef.
The RDI for zinc is 15 mg for adult men.
Clinical studies indicate that eleuthero improves athletic performance and stimulates the immune system.4
Eleuthero helps the body adapt to stress by supporting healthy adrenal gland function.
Eleuthero is available as a supplement.
In addition to the previously mentioned nutrients, the following are important additions to men ages 40 to 59:
This type of carotenoid is thought to play a role in the maintenance of prostate health.
Lycopene is found in abundance in tomatoes. A 1995 study found that men who ate more than ten servings of tomato products a week had a 35 percent lower risk of prostate cancer than men who ate fewer than 11/2 servings.5
While there is plenty of lycopene in fresh, raw tomatoes, cooking appears to make the lycopene more readily available for your body to absorb and utilize. Studies also show that adding some good quality fat like olive oil can make the lycopene more easily absorbed.
Coenzyme Q10 (also called CoQ10)
This powerful antioxidant occurs naturally in the human body, with abundance in heart tissue.
Added as a supplement, CoQ10 may help people with heart disease, who tend to have lower amounts of this compound in their bodies.6 If deficient, the heart muscle may weaken and become less efficient at pumping blood.
Since obtaining enough CoQ10 through dietary sources alone is extremely difficult, it's important to add this supplement to your diet.
Vitamin B6 may help protect against heart disease.
Taken with folic acid and Vitamin B12, it helps the body to process homocysteine, an amino acid that can be indicative of heart disease risk at elevated levels.
It is generally available in a multivitamin formula or a basic Vitamin B complex, although good dietary sources include meats, eggs, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds.
The RDI for Vitamin B6 is 2 mg per day.
Critical to the formation of healthy red blood cells, Vitamin B12 is also crucial to adults with Crohn's disease or other gastrointestinal problems in addition to strict vegetarians who don't eat any meat or animal products. Symptoms of deficiency include muscle weakness, tingling and numbness in the extremities, low energy, fatigue, depression, and confusion. Consult your health care provider if you suspect a deficiency.
Vitamin B12 also contributes to a healthy immune system and may be useful for maintaining heart health.7
Sources of Vitamin B12 include eggs, meat, fish, liver, and cheese. While only a very small amount is necessary, many older adults may have difficulties absorbing Vitamin B12.
The RDI for Vitamin B12 is 6 mcg per day.
Folic Acid (folate)
This B vitamin is very heart-friendly.
Folic acid helps protect your heart and arteries by keeping homocysteine levels in blood from rising. Excess homocysteine has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.10 Heavy consumption of meat and dairy products increase homocysteine levels.
Foods rich in folic acid include leafy greens, citrus fruits, beans, and wheat germ.
The RDI for folate is 400 mcg per day.
Nourish Your Heart
Heart disease is a leading health concern for men. In addition to regular exercise and keeping blood pressure low, consider adding such heart healthy herbs as hawthorn berry, lemon balm, and garlic to your diet on a daily basis.
Used by Native Americans as a food and medicine, saw palmetto today leads the way for help with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This well-studied herb has been shown in clinical trials to keep BPH symptoms in check with few side effects.8
The following are important additions to men ages 60 and beyond. For men who have not yet added nutritional focus to support prostate and heart health, see the "Ages 40 to 59" section for additional recommendations.
While antioxidants are important for all age groups, men over 60 should place an extra focus on adding these to their diet since damage from free radicals builds over time. Refer to the entries on antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Beta Carotene in the earlier section for details on these important nutrients.
Many health professionals recommend adding an antioxidant supplement to your daily regime, especially if you're at risk for certain diseases.
Vitamin D is critically important for bone health.9, 10 It facilitates the absorption of calcium from the intestines. Unfortunately, many American adults do not get enough Vitamin D. Levels may especially be low in the elderly, in those who are housebound or inactive, and in those who live in northern climates. If you suspect you do not get enough sunshine and Vitamin D, talk with your doctor about adding a supplement.
Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin from exposure to sunlight, and is also found in eggs, butter, liver, fatty fish, and milk. Being exposed to 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight just a few days a week without wearing sunscreen can help to meet your Vitamin D needs.
Supplementation is safe and effective if taken within a dosage of 400 I.U. (the RDI) to 800 I.U. per day.
Murray M. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing, 1996.
Whitney E, Cataldo C, Rolfes S. Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition. St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Company, 1987.
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