June is Men’s Health Month
Annie and LJ are a fictional couple introduced to the readers of the Healthy Healing Eats blog in January 2020. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.
“Annie Hector died.”
“Oh, no, LJ! What happened?”
“No one seems to know, except that it looks like a heart attack. The neighbor noticed that his porch light was on for several days. They called 911 when he didn’t answer after knocking. The paramedics believe he died a week ago. Hector and I met in kindergarten. We played high school football together. He was one of the most outgoing guys I have ever known. I can’t imagine dying alone like that.”
“I’m so sorry. How can I help?”
“It’s hard for me to think right now. Maybe, this is the time to get all the fellas together to discuss how we are living and aging, especially since June is Men’s Health Month. None of us should die so young or alone. We cannot let this happen again.”
A week later, Annie shared her observations, “LJ, the number of men watching Hector’s memorial service on zoom was noteworthy for their lack of emotion. You all must be hurting over his passing. It’s okay to show emotions and share them.”
“You’re right, Annie, this is tough. We are not taught or encouraged to share our feelings, especially around loss. I know it is not healthy, so I have contacted the guys and asked them to participate in a meeting about losing Hector, how it is affecting us, and how we can live healthier lives. They have agreed. I am working on a plan that I believe will help us stay connected.
LJ woke up the next morning and began his daily meditation using the calm app, https://www.calm.com/. He walked into the kitchen where Annie was preparing power bowls of quinoa, spinach, avocado, goat cheese topped off with a poached egg, and toasted pumpkin seeds. “Savory and hearty, thanks, love. This beats a Starbucks pastry for sure.”
Annie laughed, “that’s right; your metabolism will not crash in an hour or two from a sugar high. What’s on your agenda today?”
“I’ll clean up the kitchen since you made breakfast, and then I’m going to walk down to the UPS store. When I get back, I have about four hours of work projects, and I need to prepare for the jazz festival conference call at three. I will work on the agenda for our men’s meeting after dinner. Do you think you could put together a list of foods that are especially healthy for men?’
“Yes, I will have it ready by the time you get back. How long will you be gone?”
It is six miles round trip, so about two hours. I can also stop by the farmer’s market and pick up anything we need.”
It was late morning when LJ walked into the house with a backpack filled with blueberries, peaches, and corn. “Wow, LJ, these berries are just what we need to make a sorbet dessert today. Speaking of which, I am making dinner, so you can concentrate on your work. How about eating at four?”
Later as they were eating, Annie showed LJ the list she created. “It’s not exactly our normal check-in dinner conversation, but I know this is on your mind.
Here is a summary. It begins with a finding from the American Heart Association, which states, men who do not eat breakfast have a 27 percent higher risk of having a heart attack than men who do. It is followed by a list of the most essential nutrients for men.”
Protein: For men who want to maintain a healthy weight eating small portions of lean red meat is okay because the male body spends more calories burning protein. Protein also helps retain muscle mass. However, some men carry an abnormal gene that can cause the high iron content of red meat to be left as deposits in the vital organs. Chicken and turkey breast, tuna, Greek yogurt, eggs, and quinoa are other excellent sources of protein.
Zinc: A high-protein alternative and an excellent source of zinc are Shellfish. Oysters have the most with 445% of recommended daily value. It can also be found in legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains. Zinc drives up testosterone levels and is necessary for sperm production. This mineral is vital for prostate health and helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and halibut are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which lower the risk of heart disease. Plant-based sources of omega-3, like those in flaxseed and canola oil, are suspected in some studies to raise the risk of prostate cancer.
Fiber: the sheer size of men necessitates eating more of the fiber that helps absorb nutrients at a slower rate, reducing blood sugar spikes, and prolonging satiety, which helps maintain an ideal weight. Whole fruits, vegetables, and grains provide the most fiber and are low in calories.
Potassium is effective in maintaining optimum blood pressure levels by reducing sodium, a mineral that encourages the body to retain fluid. Bananas and pistachios are good sources of potassium, and so are sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, and butternut squash.
Selenium: is a trace mineral that supports thyroid health. The thyroid gland influences sex drive, testosterone levels, muscle mass, and strength. Low selenium levels can also lead to hair loss. Brazil nuts, whole grains, cold-water fish, lean beef, and poultry are sources of selenium.
Vitamin D: helps the body absorb calcium, a building block mineral for the skeletal system, and crucial to bone strength. Vitamin D also helps reduces arterial inflammation, lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Sunlight is the best source of D, and it can also be found in egg yolks, mushrooms, salmon, sardines, and cod liver oil.
Magnesium: is known for stress reduction. Some studies have shown that the presence of magnesium prevents stress hormones from passing into the brain. Magnesium contributes to stable blood pressure and sleep cycles. Legumes, nuts, avocados, seeds, and tofu are good sources of magnesium.
“Thanks, Annie. This will be part of our nutrition roadmap. I am thinking as a tribute that we form Hector’s Healthy Cooking class. And, maybe a couple of times a year, we could volunteer at the local food bank in lieu of the class. Another idea is to form Hector’s Hiking club, something that would get us up and outside. With this group, we could also volunteer at our community park. As John Donne says, “No man is an island.” Men need to be connected to our mental, physical, and spiritual health too. Having a circle of guy friends that provide emotional balance, a refuge, and a way to let down, laugh, and relax is even more meaningful when we can share common interests and, at the same time, help others.”
Andrea Breaux is the Founder of Healthy Healing Eats. She writes about food-as-medicine and earth-friendly lifestyle practices. Find her weekly blog, recipes, and products at healthyhealingeats.com.