A diet rich in plant-based foods can help everyone stay healthy, but eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains is especially important for men. (Information and studies referenced in this article refer to cisgender males.)
Statistics show that men are more likely than women to smoke and drink alcohol, make unhealthy or risky choices, and put off regular checkups and doctor’s visits. There are also health conditions that only affect men, such as prostate cancer and low testosterone, and overall, men suffer from heart disease, colon cancer, and lower respiratory disease more than women.
The good news is that men can improve their health by making a few lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, moving more, limiting alcohol, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy weight are all ways to reduce the risk of early mortality, but incorporating more plant-based foods into the weekly meal plan is the simplest way for men to improve their overall health.
The relationship between diet and health is complicated, but comprehensive evidence exists that links particular foods and eating behaviors to an increased likelihood of developing certain chronic diseases.
This Monday, learn more about how a plant-based diet can help men stay healthy by reducing their risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, erectile dysfunction, stroke, and obesity.
Research shows that vegetarian dietary patterns may reduce coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality by 40%. Foods like leafy greens, whole grains, and legumes are associated with lower blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Plant-based foods are also typically lower in saturated fat than foods made from animal products. Replacing sources of saturated fats and trans fats with unsaturated fats, like olive oil, canola oil, avocados, and nuts, has been shown to be beneficial for overall cardiovascular health by raising “good” HDL cholesterol and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, behind only heart disease. The American Cancer Society suggest that the most effective way to prevent cancer is to be physically active and follow a healthy eating pattern centered around high-nutrient foods, a variety of vegetables (dark leafy greens, legumes, peppers, carrots), fruits (especially whole fruits—not dried), and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. More importantly, a healthy eating pattern limits red and processed meats. A study published recently in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention found that higher total meat intake is associated with an increased incidence of prostate cancer.
Erectile Dysfunction and Sexual Health
Although there is no published evidence directly linking a plant-based diet to reduced risk of erectile dysfunction, many of the beneficial side effects of eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can positively impact men’s sexual health. Many of the causes of erectile dysfunction—stress, high blood pressure, cholesterol-clogged arteries—can be mitigated or prevented by eating more plant-based foods and less red and processed meats. There’s also the misconception that soy protein (tofu, edamame) affects male reproductive hormones: This is false. A meta-analysis of clinical studies published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology found, “no effects of soy/isoflavones on testosterone or estrogen levels in men.”
Type 2 Diabetes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men are more likely than women to have diabetes that is undiagnosed. In most cases, type 2 diabetes can be prevented by exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating more plant-based foods. Fiber-rich foods, like beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes.
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, gallstones, sleep apnea, kidney disease, and certain cancers. Incorporating more plant-based foods into a weekly meal plan can help with weight management. One 2017 randomized study found that overweight adults who followed a 12-week intervention plant-based diet consisting of whole foods lost on average 9.25 pounds.
Looking to add more plant-based foods into your weekly meal plan? Meatless Monday has a collection of protein-packed comfort foods that are the perfect replacements for your favorite meaty foods. This Monday, kick start your healthier eating habits by cooking up some pulled jackfruit sandwiches, crunchy lentil tacos, or protein packed chili nachos.