When it comes to optimal nutrition, there are differences between the sexes. Here is a quick summary of the similarities and differences in dietary guidelines for men and women.
You are what you eat
It’s true for both men and women. And it’s also true that a healthy, balanced diet is best for both genders. But there are differences; the fine print of nutrition is one more way that the sexes are opposite.
In both men and women, low doses of alcohol appear to reduce the risk of heart attacks and certain strokes. For both, larger amounts increase the risk of many ills, including liver disease, high blood pressure, behavioral problems, and premature death. But women face an extra risk: Even low doses of alcohol can raise their risk of breast cancer. So women who choose to drink might be wise to limit themselves to half as much as men.
Calcium may even be harmful for men, at least in large amounts. The worry is prostate cancer: a high consumption of calcium from food or supplements has been linked to an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer. The risk was greatest in men who got more than 2,000 mg a day.
What’s a man to do? The solution is moderation. Aiming for about 800 mg a day (two-thirds of the RDA) is a safe bet. Health Tips for Today - Good Nutrition
Health Tips for Today - Good Nutrition. Most of those calories should come from the complex carbohydrates in high-fiber and unrefined foods, such as bran cereal and other whole-grain products, brown rice, beans and other legumes, and many fruits and vegetables. These carbohydrates are digested and absorbed slowly, so they raise the blood sugar gradually and don’t trigger a large release of insulin. People who eat lots of these foods have higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels and a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Some studies have shown that fiber may help reduce the risk of colon cancer. Men need more fiber than women: 38 vs. 25 grams a day before the age of 50 and 30 vs. 21 grams a day thereafter.
To achieve these goals, cut down on saturated fat from animal products and certain vegetable foods — palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, and coconut. And it’s just as important to reduce your consumption of trans fatty acids, the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils found in stick margarine, fried foods, and many commercially baked goods and snack foods.
Make up the difference by including more unsaturated fats in your diet. Monounsaturated fats are healthy for both men and women; olive oil is a good source. The two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are highly desirable for both sexes. But the vegetable omega-3 found in canola oil and flaxseed oil, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is a different matter.
Like the marine omega-3s, ALA is good for the heart. Most of men and women with diets high in ALA have been found to have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than people with diets low in ALA. ALA also appears to protect against stroke.
But ALA may not be so good for the prostate. Studies have shown that men who consumed the most ALA were 3.4 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than those who had the lowest dietary intake. It’s still an open question, but there is no question that ALA represents a dietary difference between the sexes.
Health Tips for Today - Good Nutrition. But for some, body size is responsible for slight differences. In any case, a healthy diet will provide plenty of vitamins for everyone, and a daily multivitamin will provide some insurance along with vitamin D that can be hard to get from diet alone.
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