Guest Column: Small changes make a difference in men’s health

Published 4:31 pm Friday, September 8, 2017

By Caitlin Larson

Caitlin Larson is a registered dietitian at Albert Lea Hy-Vee. She enjoys trying new restaurants and loves doing anything outdoors.

Nutrition for most adults is relatively simple; eat a variety of foods, keep your plate colorful, practice moderation and mindfully eat when you’re hungry. Some recommendations, however, are more gender-specific to ensure men and women are maximizing their nutrient intake and taking preventative measures for their health.

Caitlin Larson

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The leading cause of death in the United States for men of all race and ethnicities is heart disease — about one in every four deaths. So when you think of men’s health — think about protecting the heart. Several medical and lifestyle choices may put people at higher risk for heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, overweight, poor diet, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use). The good news is that several of these risk factors may be influenced by simple changes in lifestyle, such as what you choose to eat. Consider these dietary recommendations for optimum men’s health.


Dietary cholesterol does not appear to influence blood lipid levels — this means eggs can be part of a healthy diet.


Eating a low-fat diet doesn’t work to decrease heart disease if the fat is replaced with processed carbohydrates and added sugar. A low-fat diet made up of beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables is on the heart-healthy track. At the same time, including heart-healthy fats such as fish, nuts, avocado and olive oil may be beneficial.

Saturated fat is quite complex. While saturated fat may increase bad LDL cholesterol, it may simultaneously raise good HDL cholesterol — thus possibly having somewhat of a neutral effect. While we may not have a clear answer for saturated fats, it may be more beneficial to focus on adding heart-healthy food into the diet: soy protein, nuts, soluble fiber (found in oats and apples) and fish. Eat more of these key items: soynuts, edamame, pecans, cashews, almonds, pistachios, fruits, vegetables, seeds, beans, vegetable oils, salmon, tuna, trout and herring. Aim for a wide variety of healthy fats from many sources.


Men need more fiber than women! If under age 50, aim for 38 grams of fiber per day. If over 50, aim for 30 grams per day. Fiber can aid in a healthy heart, helps digestion and decreases colon cancer risk (especially in men).


We often think — men, muscle mass, protein. The truth is, most Americans get enough protein in their diet. Protein should comprise about 20 percent of total daily calories (more for athletes or very physically active men). Increasing protein without increasing activity will lead to excess calorie consumption and eventual weight gain. Protein is a vital nutrient with many benefits — just have a realistic monitor of consumption.

Bone health

Being proactive about bone health is not just for the ladies. The keys to men’s bone health is getting enough calcium (1000 mg/day; 1200 mg/day if over age 70), adding in the appropriate amount of vitamin D (600 IU if under 70; 800 IU if over 70), avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol to two drinks per day and engaging in weight bearing exercise. So what does this mean? Eat more of these key items: fatty fish, eggs (the whole egg), milk, mushrooms, low-fat and fat-free dairy, and dark leafy greens like spinach and collards.

Health is a true balancing act, whether you are a man, woman, child or infant. Strive to hit the right balance by making more healthy choices throughout the day than unhealthy choices. Eat in the company of friends and family and savor the food you consume. Take a few tips at a time and incorporate them into your daily routine. And always remember — small changes can make the difference, gentlemen!