Healing Kitchen

Men's Diet Scorecard
Most men tend not to go to the doctor because they are embarrassed, they just can't bother, they are very fearful, or they simply do not want to face being told that they may have an illness. (Women, by contrast, tend to go to the doctor much more frequently, and it is this preventive approach that helps to prolong their lives: Women tend to live about seven years longer than men.) Along with going to the doctor and getting regular check-ups, disease prevention can take other forms as well, including eating the right foods and being more aware of the healing power of nutrition. Now is the time for men to become more aware of their health and well-being and to take dietary action against disease.

As for anyone of any gender, a healthy diet for men includes eliminating foods high in saturated fatty acids and assuming a low-fat diet by eating whole grains, legumes, fish, poultry, lean meats, vegetables, and fruits. But in addition, there are certain foods that men should make a special effort to add to their diets. These are foods that contain natural compounds that target men's health problems, including benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), prostate cancer, impotency, faltering libido, heart disease, stroke, obesity and osteoporosis.

Listed alphabetically, from allicin to zinc, the following substances found in food have particular benefit for men's health. If you are a man concerned about your health or a woman concerned about a man's health, print this list out and stick it on the refrigerator. Try to incorporate more of these foods into your diet.

Allicin, Allylic sulfides: found in chives, garlic, leeks, onions, shallots. Benefit: active sulfur compounds may inhibit development of prostate tumors.

Beta-carotene: found in cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes. Benefit: studies suggest that consuming beta-carotene may be effective in reducing the risk of prostate cancer in men who have low blood levels of beta-carotene.

Beta-sitosterol: found in corn oil, soybeans, wheat germ. Benefit: may decrease symptoms associated with BPH, and may also help to increase urine flow. Studies have linked beta-sitosterol with a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Calcium: found in leafy green vegetables (collard greens, kale), low-fat dairy products. Benefit: helps to protect against osteoporosis, which strikes more than 2 million men in the U.S. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, one in five victims of osteoporosis is male and one in eight men over age 50 will suffer from an osteoporosis-related fracture.

Catechins: found in chocolate, grapes, green tea, wine. Benefit: studies suggest that a particular catechin found in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), may be good for the prostate by suppressing growth of tumors as well as inhibiting enzymes that are involved in the spread of cancer cells.

Complex carbohydrates: found in beans, breads, cereals, grains, legumes, pastas, potatoes, whole grains. Benefit: promote energy and are particularly good for athletic types because complex carbohydrates are stored in your muscles in the form of glycogen, the storage form of energy that is used when your body requires it.

Daidzein: found in soy products (with isoflavones). Benefit: preliminary studies show that daidzein may help to maintain muscle mass.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs): found in fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts. Benefit: reduces symptoms of BPH such as painful and frequent urgency to urinate; may also improve blood flow to the penis; possibly may help to prevent prostate cancer.

Fiber-both soluble and insoluble: found in fruit, oatmeal, vegetables, whole grains. Benefit: fiber helps your digestive system to run smoothly and may be helpful in managing diabetes; most men in the U.S. (according to the ADA, 50% of men) do not eat enough fiber.

Flaxseed oil. Benefit: flaxseed oil seems to have cancer-fighting properties and may reduce the risk of prostate cancer; the oil has also shown promise against male infertility and prostate problems. In addition, flaxseed oil protects against heart disease by lowering cholesterol and may prevent angina and high blood pressure.

Folate: found in dried beans, okra, peas, spinach. Benefit: helps to protect against heart disease and stroke.

Genistein: found in soy products (with isoflavones). Benefit: good for prostate health by reducing PSA levels in men; believed to inhibit tumor growth.

Indoles: found in cruciferous vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, rutabaga, turnip greens, and turnips). Benefit: good for maintaining prostate health by blocking enzymes that may produce changes in cells that lead to cancer; a recent study found that men who consumed a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables had a significantly lower risk of prostate cancer.

Isothiocyanates: found in cruciferous vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, rutabaga, turnip greens, and turnips). Benefit: good for lowering prostate cancer risk because they boost the immune system and deactivate carcinogens.

Lentinan: found in shiitake mushrooms. Benefit: because it may activate and raise cancer-fighting immune cells, lentinan may have an anti-cancer effect against prostate cancer. Clinical studies are assessing its efficacy as a prostate cancer treatment in larger doses.

Lignans: found in berries, cereal bran, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grain cereals, and fibrous vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, squash, whole legumes (including soy). Benefit: by exerting a mild phytoestrogenic effect upon hormone metabolism, lignans may be helpful in combating the onset of hormone dependent prostate cancer.

Lutein: found in collard greens, corn, egg yolks, kale, spinach, yellow corn. Benefit: may be protective against prostate cancer because studies suggest that lutein and zeaxanthin work together as antioxidants, blocking damaging free radicals and carcinogens.

Lycopene: found in apricots, guava, pink grapefruit, red peppers, red watermelon, tomatoes (cooked). Benefit: studies suggest that lycopene may be a helpful dietary agent that protects against prostate cancer.

Magnesium: found in almonds, beans, peas, seafood, spinach, sunflower seeds. Benefit: helps to maintain energy production and muscle activity.

Manganese: found in egg yolks, leafy greens, legumes, nuts, pineapples, pumpkinseeds, whole grains. Benefit: some studies have shown low levels of manganese in men who are impotent.

Omega-3 fatty acids: found in halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, tuna, walnuts. Benefit: improve cardiovascular health by lowering triglyceride levels, blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Parsley (leaf, root). Benefit: used traditionally for diseases of the prostate.

Phytoestrogens: found in soy products. Benefit: may reduce risk of prostate cancer by blocking or reducing testosterone levels. Asian men experience lower rates of prostate cancer than do their Western counterparts. Researchers speculate that it may be the protective compounds such as phytoestrogens in soy products that may be responsible for lower prostate cancer rates in Asian countries.

Protein: found in amaranth, egg whites, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, quinoa, skinless chicken, soy products. Benefit: due to their greater muscle mass, men need adequate amounts of protein; the amino acids that form protein are required to form muscles.

Resveratrol: found in peanuts, red grape juice, red grapes, red wine. Benefit: preliminary research suggests that resveratrol may inhibit the cancer causing activities associated with androgen receptors. Resveratrol may reduce androgen-stimulated cell growth and gene expression associated with prostate cancer.

Selenium: found in Brazil nuts, grains, poultry, pumpkinseeds, seafood. Benefit: may protect against benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) as well as heart disease; may prevent oxidative damage to lipids, vitamins, hormones, and enzymes involved in normal prostate functioning; preliminary studies have shown that pumpkinseeds (high in selenium) may reduce hormonal damage to prostate cells, thus possibly reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer; the linolenic acid in pumpkinseeds may help to prevent hardening of the arteries, reducing risk of atherosclerosis. Scientists believe that the phytosterol content of pumpkinseeds improves urine flow among men with enlarged prostate glands. Selenium is also believed to be good for sperm motility and mobility; nearly 50% of the selenium in a man is in the testes and seminal ducts; men lose selenium in their semen.

Silymarin: found in artichokes. Benefit: may protect against prostate cancer because studies suggest silymarin may inhibit tumor formation.

Sulphorophane: found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, turnips. Benefit: boosts the immune system's ability to detoxify carcinogens that may cause cancer; sulforaphane increases synthesis of cancer-fighting enzymes and helps fight tumors; studies are underway to assess its effectiveness against prostate cancer.

Vitamin B6: found in bananas, corn, eggs, lean meat, nuts, peanuts, wheat germ, potatoes, seeds, whole grain cereals and breads. Benefit: helps to metabolize protein and essential fatty acids, important for the maintenance of almost all of the body's functions; recent surveys show that men in the U.S. do not get proper amounts of vitamin B6.

Vitamin C: found in cabbage, citrus fruits, peppers, potatoes. Benefit: may lower blood pressure according to clinical studies; because of its antioxidant and immune-boosting properties, vitamin C may be useful for prostate cancer and prostate problems.

Vitamin E: found in eggs, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, vegetables oils, whole grain breads and cereals. Benefit: recent surveys show that men in the U.S. do not get proper amounts of vitamin E; vitamin E may also protect against prostate cancer.

Zinc: found in lean red meat, legumes, oysters, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grain foods. Benefit: helps to maintain semen volume and adequate levels of testosterone; helps to maintain sex drive and keeps sperm healthy, good for the libido; the prostate gland contains the highest concentration of zinc in the body; foods high in zinc may relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Author: Maureen Mulhern-White and Patricia Kaupas
Date Published: 06/05/2000
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