COLIN DRING: Men-streaming food and nutrition

What do Freddie Mercury, Borat, Hercule Poirot, Salvador Dali, and Windsor Davies have in common?

Aside from being talents all in their own rights, they’re all known for their signature moustaches. Moustache November or ‘Movember’ is upon us once again with Mo Bros (and Mo Sistas) across the globe dusting off their crumb catchers in support of men’s health.

Movember is a month dedicated to openly talking about men’s health issues and usually centres on prostate and testicular cancers and mental health. Men in BC, generally have poorer health outcomes than women with life expectancy being four to six years shorter for men than women.  Often, this is linked to how men and boys are taught to be self-reliant, control their emotions and maintain an image of strength (e.g. denying pain and discomfort).

The result is that men are more likely to engage in riskier behaviours and less likely to engage in preventative actions linked to health and longevity. For example, men are less likely to visit health care providers, don’t tend to listen to health advice, and rarely return for follow up. The most at risk group are young people who eat poorly, exercise infrequently, and have stressful jobs. Food security dimensions including nutritious, healthy foods play an important role in men’s health.

As our parents continue to tell us, eating a diversity of fruits and vegetables has the very real effect of managing and preventing a variety of health-related diseases. In particular, depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Alzheimer’s disease have all been shown to be impacted by food. As well, one can increase the protective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances by consuming fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and spices to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Many of these substances are absent from processed foods such as instant noodles, ready to eat and take away meals.

One of the difficulties for men is that as we age, our nutrition needs change. It can be harder as we become used to specific lifestyles and ways of eating and as we get older, we start to find that our lifestyles and habits have changed but our eating patterns have stayed the same. For guys in their 20s and 30s activity levels tend to be higher and there’s more of a need for calories and proteins. Foods such as nuts, dried fruit, cheese and lean proteins (e.g. fish, beans, unsalted nuts and seeds) are great choices. As well, eating 5-6 smaller meals will help stave off hunger. For the 40s, men should start increasing the amount of soluble fibre to reduce the risk of heart disease as it helps to soak up cholesterol – beans, veggies and whole grains are great choices. In your 50s and higher, disease control is the major focus, so eating lots of berries, eggs and dark green veggies prevent degeneration. As well, muscle loss starts to begin an issue so eating lean proteins is important.

Another really effective way to maintain strong and viable men’s health is through regular exercise.  Regular exercise, such as walking, running, cycling and swimming are great ways of building the body’s natural levels of antioxidants which helps to prevent the development of cancer and the risk of heart disease.

Men’s health is a timely and relevant issue this Movember as men worldwide aim to bring awareness to health issues for guys. If you see these fellas wandering around time, offer them your support and congratulate them on a job well done!  And remember, it’s not too late to grow your own ‘lip cap’ and show support for a great cause.

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