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Top Ten Food Choices for Men's Good Health

By Beth Sumrell Ehrensberger, RD, MPH

With all the so-called health foods to eat out there, it can get confusing as to what you should pick. Besides making healthy choices using no-brainer criteria like “low in fat” (especially saturated) or “high in fiber”—as well as sticking to minimally processed choices—there’s still a lot of room for interpretation. And if you wanted to elevate the quality of your diet while making sure you’re eating some of the biggest nutrition superstars for men, what would you choose? Though there are hundreds of great top picks, we’re highlighting ten of the best of the best that are easy to find, tasty to eat—and great for your health!

1.) Greek Yogurt
For active, athletic men, protein is key. It plays a key role in the repair and maintenance of body tissues like lean muscle, especially when it comes to weight loss and exercise. Plus, protein acts as a requisite for body structures, many hormones, and lots of enzymes to do their jobs. And since protein has the highest satiety value of the macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate), foods heavy on protein can help keep you satisfied. You already know that food like meats and seafood, nuts and beans supply a good dose, but people often forget that dairy does the duty, too. And if you’re already a yogurt eater, super-sock the nutrition with Greek-style yogurt, which has about twice the protein as the regular, run of the mill stuff. Slightly more tart, it’s best with fruit or a bit of honey swirled in, depending on your tastes (and sweet tooth propensity). Best of all, the thick, creamy texture of even the 0% fat variety is sinfully delicious.

2.) Leafy Greens
Recent Japanese research shows that men who eat the most dietary folate and vitamin B6 (read: not supplements) are significantly less likely to die from heart failure. And since heart disease is the number one cause of death for American men, it’s definitely a good idea to add more foods to the menu that feature these nutrients. So, add kale, mustard greens and spinach to your weekly meal rotation. Other great sources of folate include broccoli, beans and lentils, orange juice and avocados.

3.) Almond Butter
Good old peanut butter is a great choice, but if you want to take your nutrition up a notch, give this creamy nut butter a swirl. Almond butter has more fiber, calcium, and vitamin E than peanut butter—plus less saturated fat, too. So for men looking to keep a healthy heart and prostate, as well as strong bones, this spread will get you a little closer than peanut butter will. And no worries about the taste—almond butter still has that rich, roasty flavor that pleases even the most die-hard peanut butter lover (plus, you can find it in creamy and crunchy, too). And to reduce cholesterol to cut heart health risk, exchange your meat once a week and opt for a vegetarian main dish. What could be easier than an almond butter sandwich?

4.) Lycopene Foods
You may be young, but it’s never too early to think about the health of your prostate, especially if you have a family history positive for cancer. And though the research is encouraging, there is still not full consensus for lycopene’s link to prostate cancer. But how can you go wrong with adding more brightly-colored fruits and veggies to your diet? Red-colored fruits and veggies are lycopene (a carotenoid antioxidant) superstars. Tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and guava are the best sources. But interestingly, some research suggests that cooked versions (like pasta sauce instead of fresh tomato) that contain a little fat are best absorbed by the body. Yet another reason to make it a pasta night!

5.) Whole Grains
So if you’re doing yourself a favor by eating lycopene-rich pasta sauce, go ahead and double the health punch by using whole wheat pasta with it. Whole grains can help your health for a number of reasons. They can help regulate blood sugar if you’ve got diabetes, lower heart disease risk and if you’ve got the scale on your mind, can help you keep a handle on your weight. In fact, research shows that people who eat more whole grains weigh less than those who don’t each much. But don’t stop with whole grain pasta—make sure the bread you’re eating is 100 percent whole grain (like whole wheat, for example). Plus, there are great whole grain subs for ho-hum white rice: bulgar, quinoa, barley, and brown rice. And don’t forget, popcorn is a whole grain, too—just hold the butter and salt!

6.) Fat Free Skim Milk
For a cheap and easy health fix, look no further than good old milk. Not only can a little moo juice build bone mass (yes, men can get osteoporosis, too) and strong teeth, but studies show that it can also cut the risk of hypertension, obesity, kidney stones and colon cancer. Plus, because dairy products contain a good amount of protein, drinking milk can keep hunger at bay. Milk is also a great for rebuilding muscle tissue post workout, and the minerals it contains can prevent muscle cramping. On average, adult men need 1000 milligrams of calcium per day—and if you’re not ready to get it all from milk, other dairy products like low-fat cheese and yogurt can help you reach your goal, too.

7.) Oysters
You’ve probably heard about aphrodisiac quality of oysters (and some research does suggest that’s actually true, by the way). But oysters can help men’s overall reproductive health, too. That’s because they are packed with zinc, a mineral that can also help ward off prostate cancer. But in addition to your health below the belt, the zinc that oysters supply also encourages a healthy immune system, too.

8.) Berries
Besides being the perfect way to satisfy a sweet tooth (guilt-free), berries are packed with nutrition. Typically the peel or skin of fruits and vegetables is where you’ll find loads of fiber and concentrated antioxidants—and since berries have a high skin-to-fruit ratio, they give your diet a power punch. A cup of raspberries has eight grams of satisfying fiber, which is around a quarter of the daily recommendation for most people. Blueberries are near the top of the list in terms of antioxidant content, and believe it or not, a serving of strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange! Though there’s no way to rid yourself of cancer risk, you can do everything possible to cut your risk—and since cancer is the second leading cause of death for men, you’ve got good incentive to load up on antioxidant-rich foods like berries.

9.) Olive Oil
As Rachel Ray would say, “add a little EVOO”—that’s extra virgin olive oil for you Food Network non-junkies. Why? Olive oil, especially that which has not been processed extensively (hence, the extra virgin) is packed with antioxidants and good, monounsaturated fat which can help bring down your LDL (bad) cholesterol and may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol. And when you use it in place of butter or other saturated fats, it can help bring down your total cholesterol profile as well. Since you know that heart disease is a major threat to men’s health, this is one way to do something more to keep your ticker happy.

10.) Fish
But not just any fish. Try those that are packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fats like wild salmon, lake trout, mackerel, and albacore tuna—they’re more likely to help keep your heart healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially those from fish, can help reduce heart rhythm problems which could lead to sudden death, as well as may help reduce triglycerides and plaque buildup, and also inhibit vascular blood clotting. Most health experts agree that it’s best to shoot for two servings of fish per week.

Enjoy these men’s nutrition superstars, but don’t stop here…keep your eyes (and your palate) open to try new foods that can add a boost to your health!