Simone Gabbay, RNCP
"Broccoli? No thanks," said my dinner guest when I offered him a bowl full of crisp steamed vegetables. "I'm a meat-and-potato man!" As if to proudly underscore his statement, he rubbed his rounded belly.
"Broccoli? No thanks," said my dinner guest when I offered him a bowl full of crisp steamed vegetables. "I'm a meat-and-potato man!" As if to proudly underscore his statement, he rubbed his rounded belly. Minutes later, I overheard his wife asking him, "Did you remember to take your blood pressure pills today, dear?"
If only this meat-and-potato man could be persuaded to change his mind and include broccoli and other veggies in his regular diet. He may never need to be reminded about blood pressure medication again.
The fact is, high blood pressure is closely linked to diet. In a study by Duke University Medical Center, a group of patients with high blood pressure was put on a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables. After only two weeks, the average blood pressure dropped to levels previously attainable only with medication. Interestingly, this group had a near-normal salt intake, but most high blood pressure patients are told by their doctors to eliminate or severely reduce sodium consumption. Just adding a few servings of vegetables to the daily diet achieves better results than tossing out the salt shaker!
Veggies and Virility
Eating vegetables normalizes blood pressure, but that's not the only benefit of a plant-based diet. An increased intake of vegetables has been shown to promote cardiovascular health and prevent cellular damage. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains improved blood flow and prevented damage to the cells that line the arteries in a group of men with high cholesterol. Vegetables improve blood flow the "secret ingredient" of a happy love life since a healthy vascular system is required to obtain and sustain an erection. A vegetable-based diet and regular exercise just might be the most potent aphrodisiacs available and available without prescription.
As for high cholesterol, there's no better way to fight it than with vegetables and fruit. Both are high in fibre, which is known to effectively lower LDL serum cholesterol levels. Fibre? Don't you get that from bran cereals? Indeed, but most commercial brands are also high in refined sugar, which causes cellular damage, one of the major reasons why cholesterol moves in and lines the arteries in the first place. If you like bran cereal, by all means get a natural, unrefined version from your health food store. But remember that the fibre in fresh fruits and vegetables is a gentler bulking agent and is especially effective in normalizing blood cholesterol levels.
An increased intake of vegetables also promotes heart health. A study using (not by) a group of male physicians in the US aged 40 to 84 clearly suggests an inverse association between vegetable intake and risk of coronary heart disease. An interesting aspect of this study lies in the fact that its original objective was to investigate the benefits of whole vegetables rather than certain isolated nutrients that have long been associated with improved heart health (for instance, folate and antioxidants). The results were adjusted for various factors, including vitamin supplementation. Still, the men who ate the most vegetables came out on top with a healthier heart, which shows that taking supplements is not enough. A healthy whole foods diet must come first; vitamins and minerals in supplement form are just that supplements, not substitutes.
No Cooking Required
Among men, the phrase "I don't know how to cook" is still a popular answer to why they eat so few vegetables. But it's a poor excuse. Most vegetables don't need to be cooked. In fact, they're best eaten raw or crisply steamed, and steaming requires no culinary talents or experience. In the interest of freshness and nutrient content, it's always best to do your own chopping and to look for organic vegetables (which are seldom seen pre-cut). But if an already-chopped salad will make the difference between eating or not eating one, by all means go for it! Most supermarkets today cater to busy shoppers who have no time or inclination to wash and chop, offering pre-chopped bagged varieties in their produce section.
Prostrate Cancer Prevention
Other studies have shown that a diet high in vegetables can help to protect against two major killer diseases: cancer and diabetes. In particular, colon and lung cancer occur less frequently in those who eat lots of veggies. Lycopene, a micronutrient abundantly supplied by ripe tomatoes, is of special interest to men due to its protective effects against prostate cancer. It is interesting to note that the bioavailability of lycopene is higher in cooked and processed tomatoes, especially in tomato sauce. Tomatoes are the one exception to the no-cooking rule for vegetables. It is also important that they are ripe. Vine-ripened fresh tomatoes are generally only available during a few short weeks in late summer. A good rule of thumb, therefore, is to eat fresh and raw tomatoes when they are in season, and to use lycopene-rich cooked and naturally preserved tomatoes at other times. Additive-free tomato products and pasta sauces made from organic, vine-ripened tomatoes are available in many health food stores.
Bone Health For Men
It's often assumed that osteoporosis affects only women, but according to recent research, more men have the disease than previously thought. For instance, 30 percent of all hip fractures occur in men. A Canadian survey demonstrated that 20 percent of men have serious vertebral bone loss. By age 70, that figure rises to 30 percent and by the time they're 80, men have a fracture rate equal to that of women.
It makes good sense to prevent bone loss early on. The best way to do this is to eat a diet high in vegetables and fruits, which prevents over-acidity of the body. Consuming large amounts of meat and starches produces an acid condition for which the body tries to compensate by pulling calcium stores from the bones into the bloodstream. Calcium is an alkaline-forming mineral and helps to make the blood more alkaline (the opposite of acidic). Most vegetables and fruits are alkaline-forming. As well, the dark-green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale and chard are high in bone-building calcium and magnesium.
The less physically active a man is, the more alkaline his diet should be. The meat-and-potato diet may have sustained previous generations of men who worked in the fields every day and snacked on freshly picked fruits and vegetables as they completed their tough chores. But if they want to beat degenerative disease, today's men, who have sedentary office jobs and travel in cars, need to put those fruits and vegetables on their lunch and dinner plates!
High-Protein Fruits and Veggies
The average Canadian diet incorporates far too much protein (usually in the form of "meat and potatoes"): about 100 grams a day or more. That's two to three times higher than the body needs. You can obtain more than enough protein from a plant-based diet. All fruits and vegetables provide superior quality protein and many come with the vitamin A needed for proper protein metabolism. Particularly rich sources include sprouts, dark leafy greens, dried fruits and fresh beans and peas.