Dietitian Orla Walsh on the nutritional benefits of beetroot juice, beans and walnuts for men's health
Dietitian Orla Walsh on the nutritional benefits of beetroot juice, beans and walnuts
IF you're worried that you're eating too much of the wrong stuff, it can be hard to know where to even start to improve matters. But by making a few small tweaks you can ensure your nutrition plan is heading in the right direction.
■ For healthy blood pressure, swap fruit juice for beetroot juice - According to the Irish Heart Foundation, over half of all adults in Ireland over 45 years of age have high blood pressure. About four in every five men with high blood pressure are not being treated. This is a problem, as the higher your blood pressure is, the greater your risk of heart attack or stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and poor circulation.
Beetroot juice has been shown to significantly decrease blood pressure as it contains nitrates which cause blood vessels to widen. It contains other bioactive compounds like vitamin C, magnesium, betaine, and flavonoids, which are helpful for our blood vessels and blood pressure levels. Beetroot juice was shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by 4.4 mmHg.
To put this into meaningful terms, the seventh report of the US Joint National Committee estimated that a systolic blood pressure reduction of at least 5 mmHg could decrease the risk of death by stroke by 14pc and death from heart disease by 9pc.
Swapping fruit juice for beetroot juice is easy enough to do. Fruit juice, whether from concentrate or fresh, contains a lot of free sugars and not as much nutrition as the whole fruit. Two mouthfuls of fruit juice, considered to be 40ml, contains about 1 tsp of sugar.
■ For healthier bones swap one dinner's meat serving for oily fish - Osteoporosis affects the bones and is known to be a "silent disease" as the person with it usually has no symptoms. Osteoporosis is preventable and treatable.
Unfortunately men are usually not diagnosed till they have broken a bone. This is possibly due to the fact it's usually associated with women. However, one in five men over 50 will develop an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime. There's more to bone health than the mineral calcium, but it's a good place to start. Milk, dairy and oily fish are all natural sources of calcium, as well as protein, another important ingredient of bones.
However, what makes oily fish stand out from the crowd in terms of bone health is that it not only contains calcium and protein, but also vitamin D. As one of the few natural vitamin D sources on the planet, oily fish is a food source that osteoporosis hates.
Try to include a dark-fleshed fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, sardine or trout in your diet every three to four days. If you don't know how to cook it, hate the smell or simply want a quick option, by all means buy the tinned or ready-cooked versions.
■ For a healthier bowel, swap processed meat like rashers and sausages for beans - It is estimated that 2,775 people in Ireland are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year. It is also the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland. A grim statistic to start with. As a dietitian you often have to be the bearer of bad news. An analysis of data from 10 studies estimated that 50g of processed meat per day increases your risk of bowel cancer by 18pc. Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation and smoking. Examples of processed meat include ham, sausages and rashers. Processed meat is classified as a 'Group 1 carcinogenic to humans'. This category is used when there is convincing evidence that the thing in question causes cancer. A higher intake of fibre has been shown to reduce your risk. Perhaps swapping sausages and rashers in the morning for beans is something you may consider. Not only will this reduce your risk of bowel cancer, it also may help improve your bowel function by giving your diet an extra boost of stool-softening soluble fibre.
■ To live longer, swap your mid-morning biscuit break for a piece of fruit - Yes, I know... boring. You've heard it all before. However, the auld 'eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily' wasn't pulled out of a hat. For every fruit and vegetable that you eat and thus for every step closer you get to achieving your five a day, you'll be at a 5pc reduced risk of dying from anything. This benefit is fairly huge. 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away' has some truth in it after all. If you're not a fan of peeling or chopping, why not avail of the ready prepared fruits and vegetables on the shelves. Or perhaps, due to a busy schedule, you struggle to keep fruit and vegetables fresh? If that's the case, an easy solution is to buy frozen fruit and vegetables. Don't worry, it still counts towards your five a day and is still very good for you.
■ For a healthier prostate, opt for tomato-based sauces The prostate gland is found only in men. It is a small gland the size of a walnut. The prostate makes a thick white fluid that mixes with sperm to make semen. It also makes a protein called prostate specific antigen (PSA) that turns semen into liquid. Your GP checks your PSA level because if it is higher than normal, it can sometimes be a sign of prostate cancer. In Ireland, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, after skin cancer. The statistics show that one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. In 2014, a study was published that led to media headlines encouraging men to eat more tomatoes and tomato products to reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer. There were 23,720 men initially included in the study. However, a large proportion was excluded from the analyses due to missing questionnaires. The researchers looked at the diet, lifestyle and weight of men who had had a prostate check. After excluding those that didn't return questionnaires, information from 1,806 men who were found to have prostate cancer and 12,005 who got the all-clear was collected and analysed. The researchers found that men who ate more than 10 portions of tomatoes or tomato products per week have an 18pc reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to men who ate less than 10.
■ Eat walnuts for healthier sperm - When looking at the available research on diet, food and sperm, it must be noted that there are a few superfoods. Superfoods are any food with a known superpower. One of the fertility superfoods appears to be walnuts. Walnuts contain myriad semen-boosting nutrients. A study in 2012 tested the theory that 75g of walnuts eaten each day as part of a typical Western-style diet would beneficially affect semen of healthy young men. Unlike other fertility research, this was an intervention trial. Walnuts were given to 117 healthy men, aged between 21 and 35 years. In just 12 weeks the group taking walnuts experienced improvements in sperm vitality, the sperm's ability to move, its size and shape. This is likely due to the increased intake of folic acid, omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Walnuts will also provide the body with other health benefits. Therefore, this is a tasty and all round healthy option for many.
Health & Living