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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine
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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - June 2008

Guys' Guide to Smarter Eating
When it comes to nutritional needs, men and women are not always created equal.

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Guy and Carrots

Men, we need to talk. Seriously. About what you're eating and not eating, and why it matters. First, you've got to ditch the idea that it's manly to live on steaks, french fries and deep-fried cheese-stuffed jalapeños. It's not doing your arteries any good.

Then you need to know how to make a hearty meal out of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and the occasional bit of tofu. With that in mind, we've pulled together some up-to-the-minute nutrition information just for you.

Gender Divide
Men and women may be from different planets, but in most respects they have similar nutritional needs. However, there are some important differences. In general "men are bigger and have more lean tissue, so they burn a lot more calories than women," says Michael Jensen, M.D., professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic. While a moderately active 125-pound woman needs 2,000 calories a day, a 175-pound man with the same level of activity requires about 2,800 calories.

On a pound-for-pound basis, men and women can get by on the same amount of protein. But with a man's larger body size, the average guy needs 56 grams of protein a day compared with 46 grams for a woman. According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, men also need more vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, fiber and some B vitamins. On the other hand, they don't require as much iron as women, who lose the mineral during their menstrual periods.

Contrary to what you may think, calcium is as important for men as for women. Both need 1,000-1,200 mg a day, depending on age, to keep their bones strong. While women may benefit from more, men should stick to the recommended amount. "Some research suggests that too much calcium increases the risk for prostate cancer," says Harvey Simon, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and editor of the Harvard Men's Health Watch newsletter.

Guy and Burger

Three Rules to Thrive By
These smart eating strategies are especially important for men:

  • Consume healthy fats. Limit saturated fat to keep arteries healthy. That means cutting back on red meat, cheese and whole-fat dairy products. And it's best to avoid trans fats entirely, says Simon. Trans fats are found in processed foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, such as stick margarine, bakery goodies, fried foods and snack foods. Instead, favor heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. One particularly beneficial group of polyunsaturated fats is the omega-3s found in fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, albacore tuna and mackerel.

  • Be choosy about carbs. Make a gradual switch to fiber-rich whole grains instead of sugary or white-flour foods. Eating whole grains lowers the risk for diabetes, obesity and heart disease. A healthy diet gets half or more of its calories from carbohydrates, so choosing healthier versions can have a big impact.

  • Go easy on alcohol. In moderation, alcohol can be good for a man's heart. "The benefit comes from polyphenols, which enhance the flexibility of blood vessels," says Doug Kalman, R.D., a spokesperson for the International Society of Sports Nutrition. "But if you're not physically active, the benefit could be negated by the extra calories in alcohol." Regardless of activity level, men should limit alcohol consumption to two drinks a day. Kalman also notes that the majority of heart-healthy alcohol research has been on red wine, with pinot noir being the richest in health-promoting chemicals such as resveratrol.

Beer-Belly Blues
You've heard it called a beer gut, spare tire, potbelly and love handles. While women tend to store extra fat on their hips and thighs, men tend to pack it on around the middle. In scientific circles it's called abdominal obesity, and it's bad news for more than just your pant size. Having a waist that's 40 inches around or more increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes in men.

"We don't really know why men and women are shaped differently," says Jensen. But evolutionarily speaking, there's a speculative yet plausible explanation. "If men are the hunters, they have to be able to sprint," he says. "Leg fat would get in the way."

But what about modern males, who are apt to spend their days chasing after computer bugs or new sales instead of antelope?

"Many men are gaining two, three or four pounds a year," says Simon. There aren't any magic bullets to stop a ballooning waistline. You have to take in fewer calories, burn off more calories or both, he says. "It's the only thing that works."

Ken Keller knows that firsthand. An Alabama firefighter with the City of Mobile Fire and Rescue Department, he's 45 pounds lighter today than he was two years ago.

"I was just overeating, and overeating bad foods," says Keller. After a health educator gave a talk to Keller's fire department, the 36-year-old was inspired to change his diet. Instead of snacking on 540-calorie fast-food burgers, he kept fruit and yogurt in a cooler. A big bread eater, he replaced white bread with whole wheat and switched to a no-calorie sweetener in his iced tea.

"It was just tiny changes that did it. If you make the change, it becomes a habit," Keller says.

Three Rules to Lose By
If you need to shed some weight, pay attention to these areas where men tend to load up on calories:

  • Trim the meat. Are those meat-and-potatoes meals sticking to your waistline? With a whopping 51 grams of fat in an 8-ounce T-bone steak (that's 460 calories from the fat alone), it's easy to see that trimming meat portions is the quickest way to a healthier meal. To have your steak and eat it too, select dishes where beef shares the limelight with vegetables—beef fajitas, stir-fry or stew. Or top a medium-size baked potato with Stroganoff. For a quick and easy version, stir-fry 3 ounces of cubed round steak and ¾ cup mushrooms. Then stir in ¼ cup fat-free sour cream and season to taste.

  • Prune your portions. Are you a supersize kind of guy? The chart at right offers handy rules of thumb that can help you gauge portions so you don't overdo a good thing.

  • Balance your plate. Man cannot live by bread alone—or burgers or fries, for that matter. To get all the nutrients you need, choose a variety of wholesome foods. An average-size, moderately active 30-year-old guy needs about 9 ounces of grains, 3½ cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruits, 3 cups of dairy and 6½ ounces of meat, poultry, fish or beans every day. To find out more, visit

Real Men, Real Changes
It's easy to think that a certain food or supplement is the answer to all your nutritional dreams, but that's not realistic. "You need to look at your whole dietary pattern," says Kalman. In a study of nearly 45,000 men, researchers at Harvard identified a dietary pattern that puts men at risk for heart disease. It involves eating a lot of red meat, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, french fries, refined grains and sweets. In contrast, an eating pattern that was found to protect men emphasized fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and poultry.

Joe Mikol made the right changes, and they paid off. The 27-year-old from Helena, Alabama, used to be a traveling salesman. While on the road he would skip breakfast, grab fast food, then wine and dine his clients on an expense account. In restaurants, "the portions were pretty crazy," he says. Since trading in his sales job to become assistant supervisor of child nutrition for the Hoover City school system, he has dropped 15 pounds. Now that he's not traveling, the fast food and heavy restaurant meals are gone, replaced by more healthful home cooking.

"High cholesterol runs in my family," says Mikol, "so I'm trying to prevent that." He shops for and prepares plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. An added bonus: "My energy level's a lot better. I wake up feeling refreshed."

There you have it—real men eating healthful foods and loving every bite. So a little less grease isn't such a bad thing after all.

LEARN MORE: Bone up on men's health issues at (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

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