If you ask most men you know what vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements they take daily, you’re likely to get a list that includes a multivitamin, vitamins B, C or D, fish oil and probiotics. Yet new research is changing the old advice about taking your daily vitamins in the form of a pill.
“A well-rounded diet is the universal recommendation for men, whether teenaged, elderly, or in between,” says Dr. Natalie Hogan Bessom, doctor of osteopathic medicine and family medicine resident physician with the Washington Health System. “The American Heart Association dietary guidelines do not support the use of dietary supplements, but strongly recommend a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.”
Bessom specializes in lifestyle renovation and health innovation and says many research studies in the last decade have pitted dietary supplements (including various vitamins, fiber and fish oil) against their naturally occurring food sources. They found that the synthetic supplements do not hold the same health benefits as the actual food sources of the vitamins. “Vitamins, minerals, fiber and oils exist in whole foods in such a way that their potential can be unlocked by the other naturally coexisting chemicals,” explains Bessom. “The daily vitamin routine is going out of medical favor. Vitamins are not regulated by the FDA and can get very costly. If a doctor has not tested and confirmed a vitamin deficiency in male patients, there is no reason to be taking any dietary supplements.”
Andie Lugg, registered dietitian at the Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center in Washington, agrees that supplementation may not be necessary if you eat right. “If consuming a healthy, well-balanced diet consisting of ample amount of fruits, vegetables, lean protein choices, low fat dairy and complex carbohydrates, there is likely no need for a daily multivitamin as the body recognizes vitamins and minerals from food first, rather than supplements,” Lugg says. “Too much of one nutrient can pose serious health threats, so it is important that all supplements be approved by a physician. Also, some supplements/herbs can interact with medications, so if taking prescribed medications, check with a health care provider first.”
That being said, supplements may be a beneficial nutrition boost if you know you are not consuming a well-balanced diet.
So how do you know if you are getting enough vitamins and minerals from your food? Bessom says a good way to start is by eating a Mediterranean diet, which consists of high amounts of vegetables and olive oil with very little emphasis on protein and dairy. “This dietary lifestyle choice bolsters the highest overall health benefits,” she says. “It has been shown to prevent and reverse heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and depression. There is also emerging research in the realm of cancer prevention that suggest dietary choices may impact cancer risk much more than previously believed.
Following a Mediterranean diet means consuming primarily plant-based foods, fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains and using olive oil and herbs to season and flavor foods. Poultry and fish are included at least twice per week and dairy products, sweets, red and processed meat are limited to only several times per month.
Fiber is important for heart health as it helps to lower LDL cholesterol and men older than 50 need upwards of 50 grams of fiber per day. Great sources of fiber include fruits with skin, vegetables and whole grains. As for protein, both Bessom and Lugg agree that more is not always better for men. “Protein has always been a big nutrition topic for men,” Lugg says. “It has been seen as the manly thing to eat excessive amounts of, or even include a protein shake in the daily diet.”
But she warns that if that protein is not being turned into muscle via exercise, the excess will turn into fat. As for meat, new research shows a link between the intake of red meat and colorectal cancer. “In short, red meat should be consumed in moderation,” says Lugg, “and leaner meats (turkey, chicken, fish), and other forms of protein such as eggs, yogurt, beans and soy foods should be the first choice when picking a protein.”
Bessom points out that plants have protein, too, and spare the cholesterol and fat. “One cup of green peas contains 9 grams of protein and 117 calories,” she says. “Eating two cups of spinach in a salad provides 12 grams of protein for just 40 calories. Other plant sources of protein include nuts, spinach, lentils, quinoa, beans, oatmeal, avocado, chia and flax seeds, sweet potatoes, broccoli, artichokes, Brussels sprouts and soy products. All of these have at least 5 grams of protein per cup or more.”
Bessom says dietary supplements have been shown to have benefits in special situations. “Males who have recently suffered a heart attack or have chronic heart failure are recommended to increase their consumption of fish oil,” she says. “One serving of fish two to three times per week is best. Recently, studies have supported the synthetic supplementation of fish oil for cardiovascular benefit in these specific patients (1,000 mg per day).” read more…