We live in an enlightened age… a time where men and women have equal opportunities for education and training, employment and advancement. So, why are some so-called nutrition experts seeking to separate the sexes by the foods they eat?
The media has launched a feeding frenzy over an eating-for-your-gender approach to dieting.
One article I saw presented a mish-mash of ideas concerning the topic. I immediately saw an opportunity to refute some ideas and re-format them into real-world recommendations you can sink your teeth into.
Premise: Lycopene is “a man’s nutrient” because it lowers risk for prostate cancer.
According to MayoClinic.com, lycopene is a powerful carotenoid that is found in many red foods such as red grapefruit, watermelons and tomatoes of all shades (red, yellow and orange). Tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C, potassium and folate, a B-vitamin that’s very important in women’s health – especially for those women who want to become pregnant. Importantly, research specific to women also links diets rich in lycopene to a lower risk for certain breast cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis, and pre-eclampsia, a serious medical complication that can arise during pregnancy.
So, ALL PEOPLE benefit from including lycopene in their diet: men, women and children, too.
NOTE: Cornell University researchers have shown that cooking tomatoes—such as in spaghetti sauce—makes the fruit heart-healthier and boosts its cancer-fighting ability. Even though some vitamin C is lost when tomatoes are heated, cooking substantially raises the antioxidant activity of tomatoes.
Premise: Men should eat more calories than women at breakfast.
Men and women both should eat breakfast and calories should never be dictated by a person’s gender. The fuel you need depends on the amount of activity you’re doing and your appetite. If you’re a man, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need more protein or whole grains first thing in the morning. You may do just fine with a fresh fruit smoothie, especially if you are scheduling your workout later in the day. You may be a woman who’s ravenous upon waking. Your performance reflects your nutritional choices for the day.
Premise: A “female-focused diet” will regulate your hormones.
Women and men will benefit from a diet that’s heavy on “hearty greens, low fat, and protein-rich foods such as lentil soup, grilled chicken, chickpeas, buckwheat, cinnamon and honey—and sweet potatoes too.” This menu is a recipe for nutritional success… for everyone! Why limit it to women? No segregation necessary here. Everyone should share in the wealth of these wonderful foods.
Premise: Men should fuel up on beet or cherry juice before working out; women should work out with their fuel tank on empty.
Wow! It’s hard to find advice that’s worse than this. No one should “fuel up” on fructose in water – and that’s the natural sugar in juice, whether it’s from beets or cherries or sports drinks sweetened with sugar. High sugar beverages dump glucose straight into your bloodstream, causing excess insulin release and this can lead to hypoglycemia which will hinder, not help, performance.
The best pre-workout foods should be ones that are easily digested with a minimum of fiber, simple sugar and fat. Good choices include bananas, low-fat yogurt, and some low-fiber cereal such as puffed wheat or rice. It’s safer to drink ONLY WATER before your workout than to load your system with sugar. Definitely rehydrate and refuel post workout with low or non-fat chocolate milk, which contains protein and a modicum of fat.
So, girls will be boys, and boys will be girls – because eating healthy is surely a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world!
Susan Burke March is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, who as chief nutritionist for eDiets promotes the dietary health and wellbeing of consumers worldwide.