When it comes to nutrition, males seem to be mostly left to muddle along. Chances are they take better care of their car or favorite gadget than they do of their body. However, it is important for males to pay attention to their own set of nutritional needs.
The Ministry of Health’s Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults is based on the minimum requirements of macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat and protein), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), fibre and water – along with regular physical activity – required for good health. These guidelines are definitely a great place to start, for all adults. However, a few tweaks are needed to meet the unique physical needs of males.
For example, males don’t lose blood monthly as menstruating females do, so they’re at a lower risk of iron deficiency anemia. Therefore, iron requirements for males are lower.
Males generally have a greater proportion of muscle mass and a higher body weight than females, so they have overall higher nutritional requirements. This means that they have greater energy requirements to fuel their body, but they also have to consider more subtle nutrient needs.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone that is needed for more than just sex drive, it is also responsible for bone and muscle health, sperm production and hair growth. Along with protein, there are two micronutrients that provide the building blocks for making testosterone. These are vitamin D and zinc.
Oily fish, such as tuna, salmon or sardines, are rich in vitamin D as well as being heart-healthy and protein rich. Aim for two to three servings a week, whether fresh or tinned.
You can also get your vitamin D fix by sensible sun exposure, as our bodies produce it whenever we get the sun on our skin, but be careful to reduce the risks of sunburn and skin cancer. Egg yolks are another rich source of vitamin D, and as long as you don’t have any pre-existing cholesterol issues, you can safely eat an egg a day.
Shellfish, particularly oysters, are a good source of zinc, as is beef. Legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, and baked beans are all good sources too – with the added bonus that they are full of fibre, which can help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Nutrition requirements change with age. What a middle-aged male needs from his food for good health and growth differs from what a male baby, child, teenager or older person needs. Due to aging, metabolic rate and physical activity tend to decrease, leading to lower energy requirements. Testosterone levels also drop. This means that maintaining good intake levels of protein and micronutrients is very important to reduce muscle and bone loss. The trick is to choose foods that give you more bang for your buck; aim for nutrient-rich foods, rather than energy-rich foods.
Nicole Wilson, Nutritionist (NSNZ)