Hey guys. I’m guessing Brussels sprouts are not at the top of your favorite foods list. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if greenery hasn’t graced your lips in a few days (weeks? months?). Don’t worry. I’m not here to preach about the sorry state of your diet. On the other hand, just about every health issue a man may face, from prostate cancer and heart disease to infertility and depression, has one thing in common - how well he has nourished his body.
You needn’t eat sprouts to be healthy. On the other hand, the most important diet habit you can adopt is to find a few items in the produce department you are willing to eat daily. You already know why - people who fill half of every plate with colorful vegetables and fruit significantly lower their risks for most age-related diseases, from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes to hypertension, sexual dysfunction, and cataracts. Heaping the plate with produce also helps side-step stroke, reduces symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, builds bones resistant to osteoporosis, prevent urinary tract infections and cataracts, and boost the immune system. The more colorful fruits and vegetables you eat, the lower your risk. A produce-rich diet even might help you live longer. Last, but not least, men who choose diets rich in fruits and vegetables have the greatest success at weight management. (1-18)
We’re talking about some of Mother Nature’s best. Colorful fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants. For example, watermelon is a source of the antioxidants vitamin C and beta carotene. Watermelon also is a source of lycopene, which is suspected to lower heart disease risk, possibly because of its antioxidant effects. Antioxidants block highly-reactive oxygen fragments, called free radicals, that otherwise damage the genetic code, cell membranes, and proteins, contributing to disease and aging. The fiber in watermelon also helps lower the risk for heart disease and diabetes, and helps satisfy you on few calories, while the potassium in watermelon helps lower blood pressure. (19-21)
Sorry Charlie. There is no diet shortcut here. Even if you took supplements and ate bran cereal, you couldn’t make up for a lack of produce, since colorful fruits and vegetables contain thousands of phytonutrients, most of which are antioxidants. Some do more than that. For example, citrulline in watermelon, aids in healthy blood flow, from the top of you head to ..., well you get the picture. Many of these phytonutrients are in the pigment of plants. The richer the color, such as the red of watermelon, the higher the phytonutrient content.
Here are a few man-friendly tips for sneaking more produce into your diet:
- Create an Arsenal. Make produce handy. Fill the fridge with easy-to-grab, healthy snacks, such as pre-cut watermelon chunks, baby carrots, and berries.
- Carry a Stash: Vow to never leave the house without a snack stash. Bring an apple, a container of watermelon slices, or leftover veggies with a low-fat dip.
- Use Stealth Tactics: Sneak colorful produce into your favorite foods. Add a slice of watermelon to a sandwich, grate carrots into spaghetti sauce, pile spinach on a hamburger, or blend watermelon and use the liquid for sauces, dips, and drinks.
- Pump Up the Flavor: You’re most likely to meet your daily quota of 8 colorful fruits and vegetables if they taste sinfully delicious. Brush watermelon with rum flavoring and grill it. Add watermelon to a salad or to chicken kebabs.
- Have a Strategy: Plan to include at least 2 servings of colorful produce in every meal and at least one serving at snack times. That’s as easy as berries on cereal with a glass of watermelon juice for breakfast or green peas and a side salad with steak at dinner.
- ) Double Duty It: You don’t need 8 different fruits and vegetables every day, just 8 servings. Turn one serving into two by doubling the amount you serve.
- Take a Sweet Furlough: Think of fruit as your dessert. Make a watermelon sorbet by blending watermelon with a touch of lime juice and sugar, then freeze.
(There are literally 1000s of studies to support the content in this article. Here are just a few.) 1. Jenkins D, Kendall C, Marchie A, et al: Direct comparison of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods with a statin in hypercholesterolemic participants. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2005;81:380-387.
2. Bazzano L, Serdula M, Liu S: Dietary intake of fruits and vegetables and risk of cardiovascular disease. Current Atherosclerosis Report 2003;5:492-499.
3. Akesson A, Larsson S, Discacciati A, et al: Low-risk diet and lifestyle habits in the primary prevention of myocardial infarction in men. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2014;64:1299-1306.
4. Ramprasath V, Jenkins D, Lamarche B, et al: Consumption of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol lowering foods improves blood lipids without affecting concentrations of fat soluble compounds. Nutrition Journal 2014; October 18th.
5. Joshipura K, Hu F, Manson J, et al: The effect of fruit and vegetable intake on risk for coronary heart disease. Annals of Internal Medicine 2001;134:1106-1114.
6. Ness A, Powles J: Fruit and vegetables, and cardiovascular disease: A review. International Journal of Epidemiology 1997;26:1-13.
7. Jenkins D, Popovich D, Kendall C, et al: Effect of a diet high in vegetables, fruit, and nuts on serum lipids. Metabolism 1997;46:530-537.
8. Ford E, Li C, Cunningham T, et al: Associations between antioxidants and all-cause mortality among US adults with obstructive lung function. British Journal of Nutrition 2014;October 15th: 1-12. (Esp. Lycopene and vitamin C)
9. Raloff J: Path to heart health is one with a peel. Science News 2000;November 18:158.
10. Liu S, Manson J, Lee I, et al: Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: The Women’s Health Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000;72:922-928.
11. Bazzano L, He J, Ogden L, et al: Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of cardiovascular disease in US adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2002;76:93-99.
12. Rissanen T, Voutilainen S, Virtanen J, et al: Low intake of fruits, berries and vegetables is associated with excess mortality in men: The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study. Journal of Nutrition 2003;133:199-204.
13. John J, Ziebland S, Yudkin P, et al: Effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on plasma antioxidant concentrations and blood pressure: A randomized controlled trial. Lancet 2002;359:1969-1974.
14. Tucker K, Hannan M, Chen H, et al: Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999;69:727-736.
15. Ford E, Mokdad A: Fruit and vegetable consumption and diabetes mellitus incidence among U.S. adults. Preventive Medicine 2001;32:33-39.Singh R, Niaz M, Ghosh S: Effect on central obesity and associated disturbances of low-energy, fruit- and vegetable-enriched prudent diet in North Indians. Postgraduate Medical Journal 1994;70:895-900.
16. Newby P, Muller D, Hallfrisch J, et al: Dietary patterns and changes in body mass index and waist circumference in adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2003;77:1417-1425.
17. Aleksandrova K, Pischon T, Jenab M, et al: Combined impact of healthy lifestyle factors on colorectal cancer. BMC Medicine 2014;12:168.
18. Hu D, Huang J, Wang Y, et al: Fruits and vegetables consumption and risk of stroke. Stroke 2014;May 8th.
19. Cao G, Booth S, Sadowski J, et al: Increases in human plasma antioxidant capacity after consumption of controlled diets high in fruit and vegetables. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1998;68:1081-1087.
20. Zhang P, Xu X, Li X: Cardiovascular diseases: Oxidative damage and antioxidant protection. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2014;18:3091-3096.
21. Woodside J, McGrath A, Lyner N, et al: Carotenoids and health in older people. Maturitas 2015;80:63-68.
22. Why do Fruits and Vegetables Matter to Men?