Health & Wellness

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Foods to supplement men's workouts

Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand for adults looking to reduce their risk for heart disease and cancer. A great workout routine is made even better by a healthy diet, and a healthy diet is even more effective when paired with an active lifestyle. While that's certainly not revelatory, men and women might be surprised to learn they have different nutritional needs, so a diet that might satisfy women's needs will not necessarily do the same for men.

When tailoring their diets, men should be sure to include nutrients that prevent prostate cancer and help them maintain muscle mass. The right nutrients also can help men boost their immune systems, prevent bone loss and strengthen their cardiovascular systems. While many foods provide nutritional benefits to both men and women,  the following are some foods that can be especially beneficial to men.

* Bananas: Rich in potassium, bananas can aid in protein metabolism, boost the immune system, help with the formation of red blood cells and help the nervous system operate at optimal capacity. Bananas are a great source of vitamin B-6, and because they're so easily portable, bananas make a great midday snack or preworkout bite to eat on your way to the gym. In addition to providing ample potassium, bananas also are rich in magnesium, and diets rich in both potassium and magnesium can reduce a person's risk of stroke. Though women suffer more strokes each year than men, the National Stroke Association notes that is likely because women live longer than men and stroke typically occurs at older ages. Stroke incidence is higher in men than women at younger ages, so men, especially those with a family history of stroke, should include bananas in their diet.

* Broccoli: Broccoli can help men reduce their risk of heart disease and cancer, the No. 1 and No. 2 killers, respectively, of men 35 and older. Broccoli is a great source of a phytochemical known as sulforaphane, which can help men reduce their risk for both prostate and colon cancer. Broccoli also may help men lower their levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to an increased risk of stroke.

* Soybeans: Soybeans can be an integral part of a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and such diets can help men reduce their risk of heart disease. In addition, soybeans contain a substantial amount of isoflavones, which promote a healthy prostate and lower men's risk of prostate cancer. Men should consider soy products such as soy nuts, soy milk and soy cheese to increase the nutritional value of their diets.

* Oysters: Oysters are widely considered a delicacy, but few may know that oysters also make for a healthy addition to a nutritious diet. That's because just a few oysters per day can deliver the recommended daily intake of zinc, a powerful antioxidant that research has shown can protect men against the kind of cell damage that leads to prostate cancer. Men may also experience improved sexual function by including more zinc in their diets, as research has shown that zinc can help improve sperm counts.

* Whole grains: Whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, which can help men improve heart health, build muscle and maintain a healthy weight. Whole grains that are rich in soluble fiber, such as oatmeal, are strong sources of B vitamins that help men lower their low-density lipoprotein, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol. Whole grain products that contain at least three to five grams of fiber per serving can pack a powerful punch for men looking to improve the nutritional value of their diets.

Men and women benefit differently from various nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and men might be surprised to learn just how healthy certain easily prepared foods can be.