We are enjoying summer with thoughts of ice and snow far behind for many of us. One of the joys of this season is the growth of farmer’s markets providing farm to table fresh produce. After practicing cardiology for over 25 years in this area I know that men shy away from eating fruits and vegetables more than women, the very food groups that can help men maintain their “manhood” let alone heart health.
Here are 5 summer “superfood” items that I suggest men incorporate into their diet starting in the summer and then carried on year round.
1. Broccoli Family
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and kale, are helpful in the prevention of heart disease and cancer. They are loaded with vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, and a chemical called sulphoraphane, which has strong anticancer properties particularly for men’s prostate gland.
Overcooking these items may reduce the amount of sulphoraphane but sprinkling on dried mustard powder before eating restores the amount you will get. You can eat these vegetables raw, steamed, thrown into soups or stews, or even in a smoothie for breakfast.
2. Berries And Cherries
The blue and red colors in all kinds of berries and cherries are from healthy chemicals called flavonoids, particularly one called anthocyanin. Berries in particular have been shown to improve memory and reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Freshly picked berries can be purchased from local producers right now. In the winter, frozen berries and cherries are quite nutritious and are great added to smoothies or on top of a bowl of oatmeal.
3. Red And Orange Vegetables
The bright colors of carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and peppers are from Vitamin C and beta-carotene in its natural form that is converted to vitamin A if the body needs some. This helps the production of collagen which is great for skin health.
A chemical called lycopene is high in tomatoes, particularly after cooking them. This is one of the rare examples of a vegetable being potentially more nutritious cooked versus raw. Lycopene is associated with prostate health and lower rates of Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH).
Watermelon is summertime favorite. What is not known is that it is a nutrition powerhouse for men. Watermelon is rich in L-citrulline, particularly yellow melons and the rind. Other sources of L-citrulline include onions and garlic.
Why does this matter? L-citrulline is converted to L-arginine and then on to nitric oxide, the miracle gas in the inner lining of arteries that lower blood pressure but raises sex organs in men! So natures blue pill may be a slice of red or yellow watermelon.
OK, I know many people do not love beets but the gorgeous bundles at the markets with the roots are nature’s medicine. Beets are rich in many vitamins but have concentrated betaine and nitrates.
These compounds when chewed interact with the tongue to release nitrates. The release of nitrates leads to more nitric oxide in a different pathway than watermelon but results in the same response, lower blood pressure and better sexual function. Rhubarb and arugula are some other superfoods that work the same way.
Summer for some of us is short but so sweet and can lead to new health habits to last the year. Eating the 5 summer superfoods described here can be carried through the rest of the year or may prompt you to explore the produce department and farmer’s markets to try new foods.
The common ground of all diets worth following is more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, with 8-10 being the ideal frequency. What do you get for eating so many summer superfoods? Less heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, dementia, arthritis, and lung disease. Definitely worth a go then!