Fellas, some of those bad foods you love, but are told to shun may actually be OK for most of you.
Instead of banning giant sugary sodas because we’re incapable of controlling our liquid portions or never allowing a bacon strip to pass our lips, men should learn to evaluate the merits of food, recognize moderation, use whole fresh foods and decrease their overall intake of processed products, says Nicolette Pace, a registered dietician in the New York City area.
“I am sick to death of food bashing,” says Pace, adding that wholesale labeling of any food as “bad” may seem like an apt warning. But, often, men dutifully avoid such foods yet can’t cite or explain the intricate chemistry which prompted that food’s new designation as dangerous. “This leads to conflict, ignorance of the message and rejection."
- Bacon, less artery clogging than once believed, can provide choline, a nutrient necessary for brain function and men’s smarts. Milk, liver, peanuts and eggs also are naturally rich in choline, and studies have shown that it seems to play a role in metabolism, cell structure to the workings of brain neurotransmitters. The Institute of Medicine recommends that males ages 14 and up should consume 550 milligrams of choline each day. But many nutritionists are quick to note that diets high in certain fats - and high in cholesterol - are believed to drive up the risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
- Sugar, called “toxic” by many food police, contains glucose, “a man’s gasoline,” says Pace. “It offers the best way to tank up to supply needed energy for activity. Plant foods produce sugar and this is what nature intended,” she says. According to the American Heart Association, healthy men without diabetes should consume no more than nine tablespoons of sugar per day - or 45 grams total. Three Oreo cookies contain 14 grams of sugar, according to the blog SugarStacks.com.
- Salt, the latest ingredient on the hit lists of many nutritionists, has been dubbed an enemy of the people by the Big Apple's city hall. It’s true that in men, high sodium consumption may increase the chance of stomach cancer, more so than in women, Tokyo researchers have reported in the past. But the benefits of salt have been overshadowed by public health concerns over high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, and “by the war on sodium (that) is going strong,” Pace said. "Truth be told, salt is a necessary major mineral in the body and is necessary for hydration, mineral balance, and cholesterol management. “The major contributor to excessive sodium intake in a man’s diet is processed foods.” How much is too much? The Institute of Medicine calls 1,500 milligrams of salt per day an "adequate intake level" for most Americans - meaning, those who don't high high blood pressure. The IOM believes the salt ceiling for all otherwise-healthy eaters should be 2,300 milligrams per day, which it calls the "tolerable upper limit."
As more food manufacturers and restaurant chains comply with government guidelines for lower sodium, some food makers have bumped up their use of artificial additives to “sneak in flavor,” Pace said. This means, men who are trying to eat lower-sodium foods may be ingesting more chemicals.
Based on Pace’s research, the perfect sandwich for guys may, in fact, be a BLT. There’s science to that back up: Finnish researchers discovered that men who ingested higher concentrations of a nutrient called lycopene lowered their stroke risks by 55 percent. Where do you find heavy doses of lycopene? Tomatoes.
Researchers have learned that men who devour lots of lycopene reduce their chances of contracting prostate cancer.
“Lycopene is a very powerful antioxidant, so it helps to reduce the incidence of cancer across the board, including in the lung, prostate and stomach,” said Dr. Felicia Stoler, a registered dietician and author of "Living Skinny in Fat Genes.” “Some research suggests lycopene may reduce cholesterol.”
How should this play out when it comes to the business end of a man’s fork?
Entrepreneur Ryan Blair, 35, says he shed 65 pounds from his 6-foot-3-inch frame over a two-year span in part by changing his diet. (His high was 260 in his mid 20s).
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Blair’s kitchen-table mantra: “Protein, protein and vegetables.”
“Most men don't get enough high-quality protein and vegetables in their diets. If all you do is get the right amount of protein and vegetables in your diet, then the rest will fall into place,” said Blair, author of “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur.” He lives in Los Angeles.
Now, before going hog wild on pork or flop down with choppers open on a teetering stack of maple-syrup-drenched pancakes, several studies show there are foods that can be specifically harmful to males.
Fatty favorites like cheeseburgers – a late-night fuel for so many younger males - have been linked by researchers to an elevated risk of prostate cancer.
Some potato chips, French fries and other fried goodies may contain a chemical compound – acrylamide – that’s been tied by scientists to lymphatic malignancies in men. That group of researchers noted no such correlation in women.
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This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com.