Dietary guidelines differ between men and women with regard to energy needs, total calorie intake, and amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals they need. With so many differences, it only makes sense that nutrient sources and consumption recommendations would also differ.
According to the USDA, men should consume between 2,400 and 3,000 calories per day, depending on age, height, weight, and physical activity level. You can enter your personal info into this daily food plan calculator to find out how many calories you need each day, based on USDA guidelines.
When it comes to vitamins and minerals, some recommended daily allowances differ between men and women as well. This chart from the Institute of Medicine shows recommended allowances as well as upper limits for 24 nutrients.
You can also take it a step further and consider bio-individuality—the concept that we are all individuals, and no one diet works for everyone all the time. In Ayurvedic medicine, this individual constitution or mind-body type is called a dosha. You can determine your type by taking the dosha quiz.
Knowing recommendations on your daily vitamin, mineral, and general caloric intake levels, along with your dosha type, you are better able to make healthy decisions on the foods you eat. Here’s a look at some specific foods that will best support different functions of the male body.
Bone and Joint Health
Proper levels of Vitamin D and Omega-3s are critical for supporting healthy bones and joints, as well as supporting your immune system. It’s estimated that most people in North America and Northern Europe don’t get sufficient vitamin D from the sun, so it’s important to eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin D and Omega-3 if you live in these areas.
These foods include coldwater oily fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon, and herring. Eating the bones in canned fish like salmon and sardines provides great nutrients for your bones as well. Walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds are also high in Omega-3s.
Many fruits and vegetables also contain bone and joint supporting nutrients. Spinach, kale, collards, and other dark, leafy greens are high in calcium and vitamin K, while bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, and artichokes are high in magnesium and potassium. Turmeric is also an excellent anti-inflammatory spice that can be very beneficial in relieving arthritic joint pain.
A day of meals to support bone and joint health could include:
- Buckwheat groats with sliced apple, dried apricot, and chia seeds for breakfast
- Grilled salmon with lemon and dill for lunch
- Lentil soup with turmeric for dinner
The human brain is about 60 percent fat and needs healthy sources of dietary fat to remain healthy. Healthy fats that nourish your brain include olive oil (ensure it’s pure olive oil not adulterated), walnut oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
Antioxidants found in blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries all promote brain health as well. Check out the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 lists to ensure you buy the healthiest options. Even dark chocolate (with a minimum of 70 percent cocoa content) is high in antioxidants and can help protect the brain.
Water is also a huge component in brain health. All of your cells need water to stay hydrated, but your brain is one of the first places to show signs of dehydration. In fact, clumsiness—a trip, a stumble, or running into a desk or wall—is one of the first signs of dehydration. A good rule of thumb is to drink a half-ounce of water for every pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 170 pounds, you would aim to drink 85 ounces of water per day to maintain healthy hydration.
A brain-healthy day of meals might include:
- Rolled oat granola with banana, pumpkin seeds, and berries for breakfast
- Coconut salmon curry for lunch
- Zucchini pasta with pesto, tomatoes, kalamatas, and anchovies for dinner
Since heart disease is the number one cause of death in men, cardiovascular health is particularly important. There are many factors contributing to cardiovascular health including sedentary lifestyle and stress, which can be mitigated with exercise and meditation. But diet also plays a huge role in heart health.
Heart-healthy foods are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and phytonutrients, including fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy-fats. Many of the foods mentioned above are also beneficial to your heart such as salmon, walnuts, blueberries, almonds, spinach, tomatoes, and dark chocolate, as well as oatmeal, beans, broccoli, asparagus, squash, oranges, and papayas. Even a cup or two of green tea per day have been shown to benefit heart health.
A heart-healthy day of meals could include:
- Oatmeal with berries and nuts for breakfast
- Spinach salad with salmon and blueberries for lunch
- Baked squash with black beans, peppers, and garlic for dinner, along with a glass of red wine
Research suggests that 70 percent of the immune system is in the intestines. Considering that only 10 percent of the cells in the body are human cells, while the other 90 percent are bacteria and microbiota, including those that live in our gut, what we eat may be critically important to our digestive health as well as our immune system and overall health.
Eating as little sugar and processed foods as possible is the first step to a healthy gut. Sugar is one of the most inflammatory foods you can eat, and unhealthy gut microbes thrive on sugar. Many processed foods contain artificial colorings and flavorings which can also cause havoc on gut bacteria. Beyond that, other foods that can help promote a healthy gut microbiome include:
- Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables
- Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented pickles
Look for fermented foods in the refrigerated section of your market and ensure the label says “live cultures.” Pickles and sauerkraut found on the grocery store shelf aren’t actually fermented.
A day of digestive healthy meals may include:
- Quinoa with flax meal and sunflower seeds, berries, and yogurt for breakfast
- Turmeric-cumin chicken with sweet potatoes for lunch
- Carrot-coconut soup for dinner
Lung cancer is currently the leading cause of cancer deaths in men. Of course not smoking and wearing a respirator around toxins are the best things you can do for lung health. But there are also some excellent foods that support lung health as well.
Flavonoids, Vitamin C and other antioxidants, beta-carotene, and magnesium are all lung-healthy nutrients. Good sources of these nutrients include avocados, broccoli, flax seeds, carrots, cantaloupe, apples, mandarin oranges, and garlic.
A day of lung-healthy meals could be:
- Oatmeal with apricots, apples, and flax seeds for breakfast
- Curried chicken and walnut salad for lunch
- Salmon and broccoli for dinner
Prostate and Reproductive Health
Prostate and reproductive health are two of the biggest concerns for men, and with good reason. Prostate cancer is now the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., after lung cancer.
And the rate of infertility is on the rise in men as well. Eating soy products has been linked to increased infertility, as has a diet high in trans fats. And men who consume low amounts of antioxidants have less viable sperm than those who consume higher amounts of antioxidants.
So what foods help protect the prostate and increase fertility? Turns out some of the traditionally known “aphrodisiac” foods are actually good for the prostate. Foods high in zinc including oysters, crab, beans, pumpkin seeds, duck, and lamb all support prostate health. And heart-healthy, high antioxidant foods are also great for the prostate and reproductive health. These include broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale, as well as tomatoes, peppers, peas, and pomegranates.
A day of healthy prostate meals could include:
- Buckwheat pancakes with yogurt, blueberries, and pumpkin seeds for breakfast
- Niçoise salad with salmon and beets for lunch
- Quinoa, walnut cabbage rolls, and duck for dinner
Liver and Kidney Health
Studies show that men are more likely to drink to excess than women. And alcoholism has long been linked to fatty liver disease. Recently “non-alcoholic fatty liver disease” has been linked to obesity, as has cancer of the kidney. Diets high in protein (especially red meat), sodium, and sugar can also increase kidney stones. While both men and women can experience kidney stones, men are at a greater risk, likely because men tend to eat more protein than women. Luckily kidney stones aren’t typically fatal, but they can be extremely painful, and can cause infection, which can be more serious.
Besides maintaining a healthy weight, one of the biggest things you can do to support liver and kidney health is to limit alcohol consumption to two or fewer drinks per day. Also ensure you are drinking plenty of water. (See brain health above for recommended amounts.)
Most of the high antioxidant fruits and vegetables mentioned above also support liver and kidney health. Artichokes and beets are both great liver cleansers. While kidney cleansing foods include ginger, turmeric, pumpkin seeds, blueberries, cranberry juice, and asparagus.
A day of liver and kidney healthy meals might include:
- A juice cleanse of carrot, apple, and beet juice with some ginger and turmeric for breakfast
- Artichokes with olive oil, lemon, and garlic for lunch
- Green mango salad with broccoli, carrots, and asparagus for dinner
For an overall healthy diet for men (and women too!) focus on eating a rainbow of colors each day. Then load up on some of the powerhouse foods mentioned in this article, like salmon, walnuts, pumpkins seeds, oatmeal, blueberries, and the cruciferous veggies, which all do a stellar job of supporting multiple organs, bodily systems, and men’s health in general.
Author’s Note: Meal plan ideas came from Healing Foods, Eat Your Way to a Healthier Life
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.