It’s no secret that the best diet for men consists of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. But a recent study found a link between a healthy diet and healthy aging — in particular, how diet affects physical function as you age. Physical function not only pertains to remaining active but also performing everyday tasks such as bathing, getting dressed, carrying groceries, or walking up a flight of stairs.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital looked at the role of a healthy diet and how it can help you remain active (and independent) as you age. They knew, going into the study, that your diet has specific effects on your health, and they also knew it can have an effect on your physical independence as you get older. Let’s take a look at what the authors studied, their findings and what that means for you.
Small Diet Plan Changes Have Big Impact
The best diet plan (for men and women) doesn’t have to happen overnight. You can start by cutting out the unhealthy food in stages — the first week, make it soda. Then cut out sweets like candy and cookies during Week 2. When you get to the third week, try cutting down on fast food. Those small dietary changes added up quickly for one man. This overweight gamer lost 25 pounds after just two months of dieting alone.
Eliminating added sugars and processed foods not only helped him lose weight, but it helped him to become more active over the long term. That’s one of the things that excited researchers about their study. They felt that making relatively simple dietary changes could have a significant impact on physical function. Even eating more fruits, vegetables and nuts, as part of a healthy diet plan, can influence your physical independence in some respects.
What The Researchers Studied
In order to determine the best diet plan for men, in regards to maintaining physical activity and independence, the researchers studied the data from nearly 13,000 men who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-Up study. The men were tracked from 2008 to 2012. At the start of the study, each participant had their ability to perform daily functions tested. These included:
- Walking one block
- Walking several blocks
- Walking more than one mile
- Climbing one flight of stairs
- Climbing several flights of stairs
- Lifting groceries
- Moderate activities
- Vigorous activities
The men also answered questions about the foods that they ate. The team used criteria from the Alternate Healthy Eating Index-2010 to assess the quality of each of the men’s diets. They scored higher if they had a higher intake of healthy foods like:
- Whole grains
- Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids
They also received a higher score if they kept alcohol intake at a moderate level and scored higher if they had a lower intake for unhealthy foods like:
- Sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juice
- Red and processed meats
- Trans fatty acids
What The Study Found
The findings even surprised researchers. They found that higher diet scores (meaning better diet quality) were strongly associated with decreased odds of physical impairment. In fact, maintaining a healthy diet decreased the likelihood of developing impaired physical function with aging by 25 percent. An overall healthy diet pattern was more strongly associated with better physical function than an individual component or food.
The best diet plan for men should include a greater intake of vegetables and nuts and a lower intake of red or processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages. That’s because researchers also found these individual pieces of your diet not only help with weight loss but each modestly lower your risk of physical impairment as you get older.
This study’s results largely align with findings from similar studies of women in the Nurses’ Health Study.
The Takeaway For Men’s Health
June is Men’s Health Month, and it’s a good time to talk with dad, grandpa, your brother, son or husband about the findings in this study. Explain to them how much of an impact their diet can have on their overall health. A healthy diet can influence your ability to maintain physical function and decrease your chances of becoming physically impaired by 25 percent — that’s significant.
The study’s results are published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging. But if you want more tips on how to improve your diet, check out our “Healthy Eating Guide.” You’ll learn how to put together a healthier meal plan in just five simple steps.