Men’s health: essential nutrients and the foods that provide them

Omega-3 and magnesium help prevent prostate cancer, while zinc is essential for fertility.
Most men do not get enough fibre, rich sources of which are wholegrains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and nuts. Courtesy B2M Productions
Most men do not get enough fibre, rich sources of which are wholegrains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and nuts. Courtesy B2M Productions

While exercise is key to good health, eating a varied diet of the right nutrients is crucial, too. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, though, because the nutritional needs of men and women often vary due to differences in their physical make-up. Here are some essential nutrients that men need to consume and the foods that provide them.


According to Stephanie Karl, nutritionist at JTS Medical Centre, most men do not get enough fibre. “Fibre helps the digestive system to detox, keeps bowels moving and eliminates waste cholesterol from the body,” she says. “Include wholegrains such as oats for breakfast, wholegrain crackers, fresh fruit [not fruit juice], plenty of fresh, raw vegetables, nuts and fruit snacks.” The website of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) advises a minimum 30 grams of fibre for adult males every day.


Nour Al Mehairi, a clinical dietitian at Healthpoint hospital in Abu Dhabi, says: “Omega-3 helps address many of men’s most common health complaints. It helps protect against colon cancer and prostate cancer, relieves pain, helps to fight arthritis, and promotes overall heart health. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health calculate that eating around two grams per week of omega-3 fatty acids reduces the chances of dying from heart disease.”

Some of the most common sources of omega-3 are salmon, mackerel, sea bass, sardines and white tuna. Al Mehairi recommends men consume fish at least twice a week to meet their omega-3 needs.


Every organ in the body needs magnesium, especially the heart and kidneys, says Al Mehairi. “It is also important for healthy bones, energy levels and muscle functions. It has a positive effect on blood pressure and a protective effect against prostate cancer, fertility and other related problems.

“Magnesium is found in dark green vegetables, leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate and fish. The daily recommendation is 400 milligrams. So, adding one cup of roasted soy beans to your meal, or half a cup of pumpkin seeds, meets your daily needs,” she says.


The NHS describes probiotics as “good” bacteria and yeasts, which restore the optimal balance of bacteria in the stomach. “Probiotics, or good human bacteria, are easily corrupted by medication, processed food, alcohol, stress, and fungal and waterborne infections,” says Karl. “Yogurt, Actimel [fermented milk drink], sauerkraut, kimchi and probiotic supplements are great ways to pull your probiotics back into line.”


“Zinc is a key mineral that helps make other nutrients more effective,” says Al Mehairi. “It is also essential for men’s fertility and sexual health. It [also] maintains healthy testosterone levels.”

Zinc is found in oysters, squash, pumpkin seeds and fortified breakfast cereal. The daily recommended intake of zinc for men is 11mg, so adding two broiled oysters would provide 100 per cent of your zinc needs, while 85g of roast beef would give you about 70 per cent of your daily requirements.

Vitamin B

“The vitamin B family can be helpful in dealing with several common health problems men face, such as depression, fatigue, heart disease, stress and high cholesterol,” says Al Mehairi. “It also helps turn food into fuel, increases natural testosterone levels and enhances libido. Bodybuilders focus on their vitamin B intake to gain more energy while completing their workout routines.”

Natural sources of B vitamins include shellfish, mushrooms, seafood, chicken, almonds, cheese and pistachios.

Vitamin D

The best source of vitamin D is through exposure to the sun. It helps promote good bone health, and lowers the risk of mental illness and heart disease.

“High levels of vitamin D lower a man’s risk of prostate cancer, and some studies suggest that vitamin D can boost testosterone levels,” says Al Mehairi. Yet in the UAE, where sunshine is abundant, many men still suffer from low levels of vitamin D.

According to the NHS, you don’t need to spend long periods in the sun. A few minutes, for those with fair skin, with arms or lower legs uncovered, is enough. While there is no set prescription, people with darker skin need longer to absorb vitamin D than those with light skin.

Apart from sunlight (in moderation), other sources of vitamin D are oily fish, egg yolks and portobello mushrooms.

Go easy on the iron

Watch your iron intake, especially from red meat, advises Karl. “Men tend to overdo this while it is the opposite with women. Excess iron is inflammatory and can act as an oxidant rather than an antioxidant. Bowel cancer may be associated with red meat intake and high iron.”

Published: November 16, 2016 04:00 AM


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