Men and food; blame it on Testosterone By Julie Fergusson – Red Seal Naturopath
He walks in to the house and the greeting is brief (or just a grunt if you are lucky) as he heads towards the fridge to survey the contents and to see what is good to eat. He always seems to be hungry. Son, brother, husband or lover – men and food, what is it all about? Women generally dictate the diet and nutrition level of her family as it is more likely she plans and shops for it. Typically, most women know more about nutrition than men.
When it comes to optimal nutrition, do men have special needs that are different to women? Absolutely! Just like women, men have special needs too and they need to pay attention to specific nutrients to help maintain great health. There are many common conditions that effect both men and women such as diabetes; cardiac disease and obesity, however, some conditions men are more prone to.
Blame it on Testosterone
Differences between men and women are subtle, but due to their size and lean body mass their calorie intake needs are higher than women’s, especially if they are active. Testosterone is responsible – the male hormone. This hormone results in increased muscle mass and bulk, driving the need for more calories and protein intake than women to maintain their bodies.
Iron in or out?
Compared to women, adult men don’t need as much iron. Often men consume more red meat (than women) so it is important for them not to over load on Iron. A small percentage of men are at risk for a hereditary condition that causes excess iron to build up in the vital organs called hemochromatosis, but this condition can also be acquired after having too much iron in the diet or from blood transfusions. Excess iron can damage organs, which can lead to increased inflammatory conditions as well as cancer, irregular heartbeat and cirrhosis of the liver. Symptoms of iron overload can be diabetes, darkening of the skin, abnormal heart rhythm or joint pain. Men who are prone to this condition usually begin to exhibit symptoms of hemochromatosis between the ages of 30 and 50 years of age.
However, every man is an individual, so if a man is vegetarian or vegan, if he does lots of exercise or is iron deficient, then an iron supplement could be recommended. Having a quick blood test can determine iron levels.
Let’s talk about Sex.
Lifestyle factors such as stress, obesity, and poor nutrition can impact on fertility and sexual function. In recent years it has been reported that one in five men had abnormal sperm quality and in New Zealand men, sperm count has halved over the last two decades. Key nutrients have proven helpful for maintaining testosterone levels, essential for sperm production and the subject that many men squirm at thinking about; Prostate health.
Z is for Zinc!
The last letter in the alphabet, but the first mineral for men’s health; Z is for Zinc! The prostate gland contains high concentrations of this mineral. Researchers have discovered that the trace mineral zinc plays a vital role in maintaining prostate health and prevention against prostate cancer; in fact those with prostate cancer tend to have low zinc levels. Prostate cells accumulate more zinc than cells in any other human tissue. Zinc enables the male body to produce testosterone, because of this; low levels of zinc have been linked to erectile dysfunction and low libido.
It is not surprising then that oysters contain some of the highest levels of zinc in a food, hence its renowned reputation for being an Aphrodisiac! But lamb, beef, spinach, ginger, oats, nuts and pumpkin seeds are also great sources. 10 – 15 mg daily is needed to maintain healthy zinc levels.
Sexy Fruit and Veg?
Keep the fruit bowl full as fruit and veggies have an impact on male sexiness. These are great daily sources of Vitamin C which are key for healthy sexual function. Vitamin C is probably better known for its role in immunity, but it is also helpful for keeping skin and gums healthy, to help with stress reduction, cognitive function and even linked to improved fertility. Vitamin C helps increase sperm’s ability to flow freely (vital sperm that gets the job done!) and can help to maintain healthy blood vessels.
So the next time he walks into the house and goes straight to the fridge know that he does need more filling than a woman, but suggest some of the foods that will help keep him healthy. The best sources of nutrients will always be food, but sometimes extra support is needed, especially in times of stress, busy lifestyles or poor habits.
Remember that it is important to ensure that men choose supplements that are appropriate for their needs. This may mean a low or no iron supplement or Multi Vitamin, increasing Vitamin C or ensuring they have adequate Zinc for their optimal health and sexiness.