You might make the gym every so often, or hit the links on nice weekends. Nice start, but it’s the foods you eat, guys—and the ones you skip—that really impact your health.
Eat more: fatty fish
No matter how old you get, how long you can run, how much iron you pump, or how many expert tips you follow for your heart, the old ticker is always going to need a little extra TLC, according to registered dietitian Cara Walsh. You want to make sure that your circulation is strong so you can keep moving at whatever pace you set for yourself. Fatty fish—like salmon, tuna, trout, and sardines—are good additions to your meal plan, she says. “The healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are a good source of Vitamin D, which is especially low in men’s diets should be eaten at least twice a week,” she notes. These are the superfoods that every healthy man needs in his diet.
Eat less: junk food
You probably don’t need us to remind you that your late-night or last-minute junk food cravings are not the best idea for your health, considering your girlfriend, sister, or mom already give you a hard time about it. But, especially as you age, french fries, cookies, and sugar-filled baked goods can raise your risk for life-altering conditions, according to Walsh. “French fries are cooked in unhealthy oils, a major cause of heart attacks. The potatoes themselves are not that healthy and eating too many of them can increase a man’s insulin levels,” she explains. “And cookies, muffins, and doughnuts are filled with insane amounts of sugar. All baked goods cause rapid weight gain and poor digestive function.” Just be sure to avoid the worst foods you could ever hope to eat.
Eat more: berries
Remember sneaking a handful of blackberries out of your neighbor’s backyard as a kid? Sprinkling blueberries over your cereal? Or when you were barely making ends meet and fresh fruit was an expensive treat? Now that you’ve mastered the whole adulting thing, Walsh says it’s time to make sure you’re munching on berries regularly. “Berries have amazing antioxidants that can help slow the decline in brain functions that occur with aging. Men can easily add berries to a breakfast cereal, oatmeal, in a smoothie or eat as a snack,” she says.
Yes, when you’re cooking for yourself and you need something fast and filling, it’s hard to beat a packaged, overly-processed microwaveable meal or canned soup. It might be cheap and convenient, but that’s mainly due to the fact that they’re filled with ingredients that won’t do your body any good, Walsh explains. “All of the health benefits of the broth, protein, and vegetables have been taken out of the soup to make it last longer,” she says. “Adding to that, one can of soup has more than enough sodium to send your blood pressure soaring.” Try adding these foods to your diet for a quick pick-me-up.
Eat more: whole grains
The American Heart Association is pretty straightforward about this: Make whole grains part of your heart-healthy diet thanks to its high-fiber benefits. Especially for middle-aged men, whole grains do more than make your heart stronger, they fill you up with the nutrients, too. Registered dietitian Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD recommends creating a sandwich your stomach can get behind. “My favorite source of whole grains for men is organic whole grain bread, like Dave’s Killer Bread. In just one slice of their 21 Whole Grains and Seeds bread, a guy will get 5 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein and 22 grams of whole grains. That way, men can get their whole grains with their turkey sandwich,” she says.
Eat less: fatty meats
Truth: bacon is delicious. Also true: It’s not exactly the best protein choice for a man’s diet. Rizzo explains fatty meats like bacon and sausage are loaded with sodium and saturated fats, two things that have been linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. “Men usually get plenty of lean protein from chicken and fish. I recommend only eating fatty meats sparingly and in moderation,” she says. So bacon-and-eggs with the family on Saturday? Totally fine. But every day? Grab some healthy foods like oatmeal and fruit instead.
Fun fact: 70 percent of our immune system resides in our gut. But, as Rizzo says, too few people—especially men—forget to take probiotics or carve out a diet that helps maintain our stomach’s happiness and health. The good news is that many healthy foods—like the sauerkraut you plop on top of a hot dog or burger—are great for the bacteria in your gut and easy to digest. “I recommend my male clients put Farmhouse Culture Kraut atop a turkey burger or chicken breast because it not only tastes great, but it’s also an organic sources of probiotics. They also make Kraut Krisps which are a nice addition to a sandwich,” she says. Nutritionists never, ever eat these foods—so you shouldn’t either.
Drink less: beer
Don’t shoot the messenger! It’s Rizzo that says while one glass of beer a day is totally fine, more can lead to weight gain and chronic diseases; at the top of her lengthy list are: “Liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, various cancers, high blood pressure; and psychological disorders.” Limit yourself to a glass of beer followed by a full glass of water—that will help keep you from reaching for seconds, thirds (and so on and so forth).
With that side of salmon you’re going to start adding to your dinner plate, you want to pair it with the right kind of vegetables. Rizzo says that dark-colored vegetables are a smart side companion to a healthy meat choice, giving more health pizzazz on your plate. “Beets and kale are packed with antioxidants that fight against oxidation in the body. This protection from oxidative stress also protects from inflammation in the joints associated with arthritis, heart disease and possibly cancer,” she says. Check out this list of antioxidant-rich dark veggies for inspiration.
Next time you’re packing a snack for your gym bag or when you’re heading on a trip, consider stopping by for a pack of almonds or sunflower seeds that will not only keep you full, but maintain your health while on the go. “Nuts provide healthy fat as well as a variety of minerals and antioxidants needed for health—especially for the heart,” Registered dietitian Bridget Swinney MS, RD, says. “Nuts are a good source of vitamin E, which can help decrease arterial plaque by protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidation.”
Her top picks include sunflower seeds and almonds, as they pack the most punch. “Eating an ounce of nuts as a daily snack is a way to get healthy fats as well as eating something that’s filling and satisfying,” she says.
Eat fewer: fast food burgers
Your child might want a quick bite from the fast food menu at the local burger joint, but instead of getting an adult-sized version for yourself, Swinney recommends holding off—maybe try making your own using one of these 17 amazing burger recipes. Why? She says that most fast food burgers contain 50 to 100 percent of your daily sodium requirements and all of your saturated fat for the day. “Sodium causes fluid retention and increases blood pressure in many people,” she explains. “Even burgers at a restaurant will contain more fat and sodium than those you make at home. For burger lovers who love to eat out, look for turkey burgers, buffalo burgers, grass fed beef burgers or try a veggie or salmon burger.”
Eat more: Avocado
Swinney explains that avocado is one of the healthiest fruits because it offers a large dose of monounsaturated fat and potassium, which is great for blood pressure. “Avocados also have fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins and folic acid. Vitamin E and folic acid are potent antioxidants good for overall health,” she notes. Consider starting your morning off with a whole grain toast, loaded with avocado and served with a side of berries. Next, read about these health symptoms that men should never ignore.