Some guys don’t see anything wrong with living on chips, beer, pizza, and the occasional steak. But good nutrition is important for everyone – even you dudes. And many men are falling short of what they need: according to the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most men’s diets are lacking in potassium, dietary fiber, choline, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, D, E, and C.
To get more of these nutrients, and to get (or stay) lean, add these 5 superfoods to your diet:
Many guys steer clear of potatoes because they think they’re just empty carbs. But potatoes may help you get those six-pack abs! Research from the University of California, Davis, found that people who followed a reduced-calorie diet that contained potatoes all lost weight over a 12-week period. No surprise here: It’s reducing total calories that counts—not cutting out a specific food. Another potato perk: It’s a great source of potassium. In fact, a medium spud with the skin contains more than a banana. Potassium plays a key role in controlling blood pressure (it lessens the effects of sodium), transmitting nerve signals, and helping muscles contract. Most men need (but aren’t getting) about 4,700 mg every day, so dig into a potato and enjoy!
Lentils are low in calories and fat but high in protein – and they’re packed with fiber and potassium, missing in most men’s diets. They’ve been shown to help reduce blood sugar and cut the risk for developing diabetes. In fact, one study found that lentils benefit the blood sugar response not only during the meal in which they’re eaten, but also at the subsequent meal enjoyed 4 hours later. They can also help your heart. Research indicates that lentils can help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, the risk of heart attacks, and inflammation in the arteries. If that’s not enough to make you love lentils, check out this stat: A national survey found that people who ate lentils 4 times or more per week had a 22% lower risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who consumed them less than once a week.
Want a juicy snack that will protect your prostate and your heart? Pick up a watermelon (yes, they’re available year-round). The fruit is rich in lycopene, one of the most well-studied antioxidants in the fight against prostate cancer. Research shows that people who have high blood levels of lycopene are at lower risk for prostate cancer. The antioxidant may also boost heart health; one study found that two compounds in watermelon—citrulline and arginine—help support healthy blood flow. And, according to research, it can also help shield your skin from harmful UV rays, possibly helping you ward off wrinkles down the line (hey, it’s not just the ladies who worry about wrinkles!). Watermelon is also an excellent source of vitamins A and C. You can enjoy 1 cup of diced watermelon for a mere 50 calories.
4. Dark Chocolate
Heart disease kills 1 in every 4 men in the U.S., so make sure you’re eating plenty of heart-healthy foods – like dark chocolate. That’s not a typo – certain types of dark chocolate contain beneficial compounds called cocoa flavanols, which can help to boost blood flow, reduce blood clots and blood pressure, lowering your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
A study recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition reported that daily intake of cocoa flavanol improved blood vessel function and reduced blood pressure. Other research indicates that cocoa flavanols may even help keep you sharp as you age. One recent clinical trial found that after 8 weeks, people who consumed medium and high amounts of cocoa flavanols daily made significant improvements on tests that measured attention and memory.
Dark chocolate varies greatly in levels of flavanols – the more reliable sources are unsweetened cocoa powder and cocoa flavanol supplements.
If you want to spice things up (in the kitchen), try turmeric. This golden-hued spice has long been a staple of Indian cuisine and has also been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Modern-day research is revealing that a compound found in turmeric called curcumin may be responsible for its health benefits. The spice has been shown to be a potent anti-inflammatory, which has led scientists to explore its use in diseases ranging from rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Add turmeric to your next curry or use it on chicken or fish before grilling.