By Luigi Gratton, M.D., M.P.H., vice president, Nutrition Education and Development, Herbalife Nutrition
As a practicing physician at the Center for Human Nutrition in the Risk Factor Obesity Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), I saw the consequences of poor eating habits and lack of exercise. According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, nearly “half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity.” Furthermore, between 2009-2012, 73% of adult males were overweight or obese.
Why Men Should Be Concerned
One of the major challenges men have is weight gain in the midsection, known as “android obesity” because it’s specific to men. This extra fat in the mid section around the belly area—the so-called “beer belly”—is quite risky because of the nature of the fat. The fat stored in the middle is known as “visceral fat” because it’s deeply embedded in the trunk and it surrounds many of the organs. The problem with this fat is that it’s metabolically active, which means it can get broken down into smaller compounds then transported to the liver. The important point is that if you have abdominal weight gain, it may be taxing your liver function. But don’t despair. The good news is that getting on a weight management program can help to preferentially lose that abdominal fat.
The Nutrient Game Plan
By reducing your calories by ~500 per day, most people will lose about 1 pound of fat per week, which is considered healthy weight loss. So what nutrients do men need to make sure to include in their diets, especially ones they may not get enough of?
- Fiber: Most men need more than 30g daily but the average man is getting approximately 15g per day
- Magnesium, which affects hundreds of body functions
- Potassium, which is critical for muscle and nerve functions
- Vitamin D for bone health
Now for the good news: You can stay on track to get what your body needs and craves by including more dairy products, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seafood in your diet. Most health authorities recommend eating at least 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Moreover, it’s recommended to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
Whether you’re an omnivore (someone who eats both plants and meat), vegetarian or vegan, relying on more plants in your diet is important. A plant-based diet can definitely help support weight loss because plants are generally nutrient dense, which means when you eat them you get a lot of nutrients for fewer calories. For example, a spear of broccoli may have less than 30 calories but is packed with vital nutrients. Adding soy to your diet is also highly recommended since it’s a complete plant-based protein; soy has all of the nine essential amino acids that your body relies on but cannot produce on its own.
There are a variety of diets out there in the marketplace being promoted. A popular diet is known as the ketogenic diet, which is low in sugar and higher in fats and protein. This means you’ll be burning fat stores for energy. Many people have experienced great success with this diet. But it’s important to speak with a health professional if you’re going on this type of diet for a prolonged period of time to make sure you get important nutrients while you lose weight.
It’s About Balance
We live in a busy world with the demands of work and our personal life often making us feel like we’re balancing on a high wire. What often falls through the cracks is our nutritional game plan. Don’t get discouraged. If you’re in a time crunch, try meal replacement shakes, which are fortified with vitamins and minerals, making them nutrient dense and a good source for essential nutrients. Be sure to look for the plant based protein ingredients in the label. And don’t forget to include exercise in your game plan.
Watch this video from Dr. Luigi Gratton about the essential nutrients men need: