Men’s Nutrition through the Life Stages

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Evolving priorities, lifestyle changes, growing commitments, and an increasing risk of chronic diseases are some of the few transitions that men may experience throughout their lives. Different life stages present their own unique health challenges, and understanding the nutritional implications during these stages can help men take control of their health. Let’s take a look at common challenges men face, and what they can do to optimise their health and nutrition!

 In your 20s

In early adulthood, men may find themselves juggling new responsibilities and a range of family social, and work commitments. Men may find themselves with an all-or-nothing approach to their health and wellbeing leading to a heavy reliance on takeaway options, a surplus of energy drinks, and binge drinking during social events.

 What can you do?

Consider your intake of fast foods and alcohol. Try scheduling in time on the weekend to prep your meals or make some tweaks when ordering out to make your meal healthier. For example, swap your chips for salad, add a side of veggies, and try to avoid meals with processed meats like bacon or salami. To cut back on drinking, set yourself a limit before you go out.

 In your 30s

Some men may be looking to start a family in their 30s, and they may want to shift their dietary focus to supporting fertility and the health of sperm. Causes of infertility can include low sperm concentration and a lack of motility, which can be influenced through nutrition, particularly zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and selenium [1]. Zinc is an important nutrient for the viability and motility of sperm and deficiency can lead lead to lower quality sperm.  Antioxidants may protect male germ cells from oxidative stress, and omega-3 fatty acids may increase sperm concentration.

What can you do?

Go nuts for nuts - seriously! Nuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. One study found that having 75g of walnuts a day increased the lifespan of sperm and their motility [2].  Other sources of omega-3s include extra virgin olive oil and oily fish. Including plenty of fruit and veg can also help provide plenty of antioxidants!

In your 40s

When entering mid-life, men may begin to experience the effects from unhealthy choices. They may also feel over-run by the stress of juggling multiple commitments including home and work priorities. Chronic stress can lead to high levels of circulating cortisol and further contribute to negative health outcomes.

What can you do?

To help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases later in life, men can focus on increasing the fibre in their diet from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It’s also important for men to carve out time in their day to reduce stress, such as by going for a walk with a loved one, spending time meditating, or joining a social activity that they enjoy.

In your 50s

Regular check-ups with your doctor are essential for men in their 50s to monitor signs of any chronic diseases!

What can you do?

Men can focus on a Mediterranean Diet, which is a heart-healthy eating pattern that emphasises whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, and extra virgin olive oil while minimising red meat, salt, and ultra-processed foods. There is ample evidence that the Mediterranean Diet can help to lower risk of developing chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer [3].

 In your 60s and beyond

For men over 60, common health issues include erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer. Erectile dysfunction affects up to half of middle-aged men, and it can be a sign that the heart and blood vessels aren’t functionally optimally.

What can you do?

Good gut health may help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Legumes, such as beans, are particularly good for gut health and a large study found that men who ate more had a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer [4]. Foods rich in lycopene such as tomatoes and other veg have also been associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer [5]. Bright-coloured fruit and veg are also high in flavonoids which may reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction [6].

The Bottom Line

Men have evolving health considerations throughout their lifetime. Focusing on their nutrition during these life stages can help men optimise their health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of chronic diseases later in life!


 [1] Nassan FL, Chavarro JE, Tanrikut C. Diet and men's fertility: does diet affect sperm quality? Fertil Steril. 2018 Sep;110(4):570-577. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2018.05.025. PMID: 30196939.

[2] Robbins WA, Xun L, FitzGerald LZ, Esguerra S, Henning SM, Carpenter CL. Walnuts improve semen quality in men consuming a Western-style diet: randomized control dietary intervention trial. Biol Reprod. 2012 Oct 25;87(4):101. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.112.101634. PMID: 22895856.

[3] Sofi F, Cesari F, Abbate R, Gensini GF, Casini A. Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: meta-analysis. BMJ. 2008 Sep 11;337:a1344. doi: 10.1136/bmj.a1344. PMID: 18786971; PMCID: PMC2533524.

[4] Li J, Mao QQ. Legume intake and risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Oncotarget. 2017 Jul 4;8(27):44776-44784. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.16794. PMID: 28423366; PMCID: PMC5546517.

[5] Moran NE, Thomas-Ahner JM, Wan L, Zuniga KE, Erdman JW, Clinton SK. Tomatoes, Lycopene, and Prostate Cancer: What Have We Learned from Experimental Models? J Nutr. 2022 Jun 9;152(6):1381-1403. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxac066. PMID: 35278075; PMCID: PMC9178968.

[6] Cassidy A, Franz M, Rimm EB. Dietary flavonoid intake and incidence of erectile dysfunction. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Feb;103(2):534-41. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.122010. Epub 2016 Jan 13. PMID: 26762373; PMCID: PMC4733263.

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