When push comes to shove, many men eat what they fancy or what’s on offer in the supermarket or work canteen.
And in this day and age it’s usually stodgy, beige and a slow but steady route to heart disease.
But there a few simple tricks that can make a massive difference to your diet – and overall heath.
Here, Rob Hobson, author of The Detox Kitchen Bible, reveals what every man needs in his diet.
HEALTH BENEFITS: HEART, ERECTILE FUNCTION, FERTILITY, MOOD/DEPRESSION
Oily fish such as fresh salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, trout, sardines and canned salmon all contain omega-3 fatty acids.
These fatty acids must be obtained from the diet, which is why they are referred to as being essential.
Intake is well below the recommended intake of one serving per week, with many men not eating any oily fish at all.
Omega-3 fats are most commonly associated with reducing the risk of heart disease.
This is because they increase levels of good (HDL) cholesterol and produce compounds known as prostaglandins that help to reduce inflammation in the body.
Long-term inflammation can damage healthy cells and weaken the immune system and this is thought to be a contributory factor for many diseases including those of the heart and also cancer.
Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death affecting more men than women.
And one of the earliest warning signs of heart disease is erectile dysfunction – because the body needs a good blood supply for an erection.
That’s because the penile arteries are smaller than coronary ones, so become furred up faster.
According to the Sexual Advice Association, a man in his 40s with erectile dysfunction has a 50-fold greater risk of having a heart attack over the next ten years.
So one great reason to look after the health of your heart!
Even if you are able to rise to the occasion, low intake of omega-3 fatty acids may impact on fertility.
This is because as semen is rich in compounds called prostaglandins.
Studies have shown that men with a low sperm count, poor sperm motility (movement) or abnormal sperm may have low levels of them.
TIP: Try eating one or two servings of oily fish each week either as grilled fillets or even dips such as smoked mackerel pate.
Some research suggests omega-3 and vitamin D may help relieve the symptoms of depression.
However this is more likely from a supplement than oily fish as the concentration of essential fatty acids is much higher, so it could be worth taking a good quality omega-3 and Vitamin D3 supplement – especially vitamin D during the winter months.
While you can get a little vitamin D from foods such as oily fish, eggs and fortified foods I recommend taking Healthspan vitamin D3 during the winter months to keep you levels topped up.
RED PEPPERS, TOMATOES
HEALTH BENEFITS: Fertility, prostate health
Red peppers are one of the richest sources of vitamin C with a single portion (1/2 red pepper) providing over 200 per cent of your recommended daily intake.
Vitamin C is not lacking in most men’s diets but is especially important for those who are trying for a baby as it helps to prevent sperm cells from clumping together, which is common with infertility.
Red vegetables are also a rich source of lycopene, which is the pigment responsible for their colouring –so indulge in tomatoes, watermelon and red grapefruit.
Tinned and other processed forms of tomato such as puree are the most beneficial as the lycopene is better absorbed.
This plant compound also acts an antioxidant in the body, helping to reduce the damage caused by excess free radicals which can cause disease.
Lycopene and vitamin C have been associated with good prostate health.
TIP: Try eating a rainbow of foods each day and including one serving of red coloured vegetables or fruits.
RED KIDNEY BEANS
HEALTH BENEFITS: Heart health, prostate cancer, fertility
Beans such as red kidney beans are one of the richest sources of fibre, which is lacking in diet.
Fibre is essential for maintaining good digestion and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol.
It also helps to bulk out the diet and can help to maintain fullness, which can assist with weight maintenance.
In the UK, more men than women are overweight (although women are more likely to be obese). Overweight and obese men are more likely to find it difficult to conceive as they have a worse sperm quality than men with a healthy weight.
Being overweight can also increase your risk of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men with more than 100 new cases diagnosed every day.
TIP: Try and include a serving of beans into your daily diet by adding to salads, soups and stews or using to make healthy dips.
You can also include lentils and pulses to your diet to increase fibre as well as swapping white products for brown such as rice and bread.
HEALTH BENEFITS: Heart, fertility
Nuts are a highly nutritious food that are rich in heart-healthy fats as well nutrients such as vitamin E, magnesium and B vitamins.
Monounsaturated fats have been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Magnesium is also good for the heart because it helps to maintain a regular heartbeat. Combined with B vitamins, it helps to convert the food you eat into energy.
But opt for raw varieties rather than a large handful of KP dry roasted!
One mineral found in nuts, especially Brazil nuts, that’s particularly beneficial to men is selenium.
This is involved in making proteins found in sperm and blood levels have been seen to be lower in men with low sperm counts.
Selenium has a number of other key roles in the body including keeping the immune system healthy, and the formation of enzymes that help protect the body from free radical damage which can encourage cell ageing and increase your risk of disease.
There is limited evidence that selenium may be beneficial for prostate health but nuts still make a very healthy addition to your man’s diet.
TIP: You can boost your intake of selenium by including nuts (especially Brazil nuts) in your daily diet either as a snack or adding as a topping on yoghurt or porridge.
Be aware that nuts are very calorific, so watch your portion size. Try to stick to one small handful, which is 25g or about five Brazil nuts.
LEAN BEEF STEAK
HEALTH BENEFITS: fertility, prostate health
Most men will be pleased to hear that a good steak will provide you with most of your daily recommended intake of zinc.
Zinc has many functions in the body such as the immune system, wound healing and cell growth.
Not for everyday though, so try exploring other sources such as seeds, green vegetables, pulses, nuts, mushrooms and shellfish.
This mineral is also essential for the male reproductive system as it is used to make male sex hormones and is found in high concentration within sperm cells, which makes it a key mineral for male fertility.
Zinc has also been associated with good prostate health and research suggests it may help to reduce the development of enlarged prostate, although this mineral should be increased through the diet and not supplementation.
TIP: Red meat is very nutritious but try and limit to no more than 500g per week to reduce the risk of bowel cancer.
HEALTH BENEFITS: Healthy hair, fertility, prostate
Male pattern baldness is related to the hormone testosterone, which causes hair follicles to shrink.
As a result, the hair becomes thinner and over time it becomes so fine that it fails to make it to the surface of the skin.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done with diet as the chances of losing your hair is closely related to genetics.
However, low intakes of zinc and iron have been associated with hair loss so ensuring a good intake of these minerals is good for your man’s locks.
Zinc is also essential for all aspects of the male reproductive system, which is why men have a higher requirement than women.
Shellfish such as prawns and oysters are a good source of the mineral zinc.
TIP: Prawns make a great alternative to eating meat and can be included in dishes such as salads, stews, stir-frys and risotto. Cooked prawns also make a great lean high protein snack.
HEALTH BENEFITS: Weight loss
Only half the population regularly eat eggs and egg-based dishes.
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods available and contain a source of nearly all the essential vitamins and minerals required for good health.
They’re good for weight loss – research has shown people who eat eggs for breakfast eat less across the day.
The high protein content of eggs helps to maintain fullness, which can stave off mid-morning snacking.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no limit on the amount of eggs you can eat each week as they have little impact on cholesterol levels.
They are full of protein, which keeps you going without packing on the calories. Two boiled eggs also supply a good source of the minerals zinc and selenium, which are beneficial for men.
TIP: Eggs are best served at breakfast but make a nutritious light meal anytime of the day.
Try serving simply boiled or poached with wholegrain toast or spread the toast beforehand with mashed avocado for something different.
They also make a great high protein snack when boiled and sprinkled with smoked paprika or celery salt.
HEALTH BENEFITS: Mood, heart health
Statistics show one in eight men have experienced a mental health problem and on average, 13 men in UK each day take their life through suicide, which is the leading cause of death in young men.
Depression is a complex issue and although you diet is not going to directly cause the condition, the condition can affect what you eat and this may contribute to low mood.
Some people skip meals when they are depressed and this can lead to weight loss, unbalanced blood sugar levels and possible nutrient deficiencies that can contribute to low mood (especially iron).
Others comfort eat, which can cause weight gain, which can impact on self-esteem and wellness.
Try balancing blood sugar levels with high-fibre foods such as oats and also lean proteins and healthy fats.
A diet high in fibre has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease as well as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol (risk factors for the condition).
TIP: It’s not just about porridge. You can add oats to breakfast smoothies or as toppings to savoury dishes.
There are also plenty of recipes for healthy flapjacks and granola that are low in sugar.