Early man may have been a stranger to civilized concepts like nonviolence or personal grooming, but he ate the right stuff: high-fiber, low-fat foods like fruit, veggies, nuts and a little bit of lean meat. As it turns out, this is exactly the kind of food men need to ward off obesity, heart problems and a host of other diseases. So it's no surprise that most are included in the following "made-for-him" foods that every man needs to feel better and live longer. 1. Oatmeal This breakfast staple is actually one of the best foods men can eat to stay lean and lower their risk of heart disease. Why? "One cup of cooked oatmeal contains 3 grams of soluble fiber, which helps keep you feeling fuller longer, stabilizes your blood sugar and reduces your blood cholesterol," says Katherine Brooking, R.D., a New York-based dietitian. Oatmeal is also rich in immune-boosting zinc, stress-fighting B vitamins and other antioxidant-rich vitamins and minerals. It's a no-brainer way to start his day.
Under the peel is a fruit packed with nourishment that no man can afford to miss. "Bananas are a great source of potassium, which prevents muscle cramps and assists in regulating blood pressure," says Jennifer Adler, M.S., certified nutritionist and associate professor at Bastyr University in Seattle. "They also have anti-inflammatory properties that help keep joints and muscles working pain-free throughout the day." Bananas are also a great source of fiber (which can lower his cholesterol and protect him against colon cancer) and magnesium (which reduces his risk of stroke).
This powerhouse veggie offers powerful benefits for prostate health. "Tomatoes are ideal for men because they contain the antioxidant lycopene," says Adler. This powerful carotenoid, which gives tomatoes their rich red color, has also been shown to lower a man's risk of developing prostate cancer. For maximum impact, cook tomatoes before eating: Lycopene is absorbed more easily when it's heated up first.
These all-season snacks are fortified with more vitamins, minerals and fiber per ounce than any other fresh fruit he may reach for. And the same pigment that gives blueberries their color (anthocyanin) is a potent antioxidant that seeks out and destroys free radicals throughout his body -- the molecules responsible for aging and tissue damage.
Just two tablespoons a day of this amazing oil can help him lose weight, feel great -- and even fight off disease. "Olive oil is a 'good fat,' rich in monounsaturated fat, as well as antioxidants such as carotenoids and vitamin E," says Heidi Skolnik, a nutritionist at the Women's Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. "It can reduce blood pressure, suppress the growth of some cancers, and even lessen the severity of asthma and arthritis." Olive oil also has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce pain and swelling.
Just a handful of these super-nutritious snacks provides him with 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and generous amounts of selenium, magnesium and vitamin E that can protect his prostate. "Walnuts are the only nut that contain a significant amount of ALA, the plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids," says Brookings. "A 1-ounce serving alone (around 12-14 walnut halves) contains 2.5 grams of ALA." Why is that a must for him? A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that healthy individuals who consumed walnuts reduced their total cholesterol by 5.4% and LDL (the bad type) by 9.3%, which translated into an 18.6% decrease in risk of developing coronary heart disease.
You may see broccoli as just another vegetable, but it can improve his odds against heart disease and cancer -- the two greatest health threats to men over 35. "Broccoli contains the immune-boosting vitamins A, C and E, as well as the minerals magnesium and potassium, which both promote healthy blood pressure," says Adler. The lifesaving stalk also helps lower the level of homocysteine in his body, an amino acid that's been found to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and other heart-related problems. To keep him cancer-free, it's also loaded with iron, calcium, fiber, beta-carotene and a phytochemical called sulphoraphane, which has been shown to have potent anticancer properties, especially when it comes to the prostate and colon.
Don't let its unhealthy-sounding name fool you: It's actually packed with muscle-building protein he'll appreciate. "Fatty fish has amazing health benefits," says Adler. "Salmon, tuna and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as tryptophan, a nutrient that helps him stay calm and alert during the day and promotes restful sleep."
These are a low-sodium, low-fat, no-cholesterol form of protein that's also high in fiber. That combo can leave him feeling fuller and provide him with a sustained source of all-day energy while it reduces his overall LDL cholesterol. Their color is what makes them his best choice. "Researchers have found that the darker the bean, the higher levels of antioxidant activity there are inside it," says Skolnik. And antioxidants can do everything from lowering his risk of cancer and heart disease to strengthening his blood vessels and protecting his cells from oxygen damage.
Drinking green tea can give your guy an added edge, since "tea is loaded with antioxidants such as catechins, which can inhibit cancer cell activity and stimulate production of immune-strengthening enzymes," notes Skolnik, who says the catechins in green tea are more concentrated than in other teas because it's usually less processed.