Men eat fewer vegetables than women, on average, and the gender gap may be getting wider. That means more men are opting out of a surefire way to improve their total health. But why? A pair of new studies offer answers to that question.
In one study, researchers from Kent State University analyzed data from a national survey of more than 3,300 Americans. Men in the survey reported eating fewer fruits and vegetables than women. One main reason: They believed less strongly in the health benefits of these foods, and that translated into a less favorable attitude toward eating them.
If this sounds like you: It might be time to rethink your attitude. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been linked to a reduced risk for several cancers. Plus, eating a variety of fruits and veggies may help control your weight and blood pressure.
A daily dose of veggies is good for your mind, too. British researchers found that the more fruits and vegetables people ate, the happier and mentally healthier they tended to be. Mental well-being peaked at seven servings a day.
Men in the Kent State study were less confident than women about their ability to eat fruits and vegetables in many situations. In particular, they had doubts about eating these foods at work, when tired, when watching TV, or when junk food was around. This self-doubt made them feel as if working more fruits and veggies into their diet would be really difficult to do.
If this sounds like you: Boost your confidence by planning ahead for ways to ease into eating vegetables and cope with tricky situations. You’re online, so you already have a wealth of help at your fingertips. For starters, check out the Fruits & Veggies—More Matters website.
If you’re unsure how many servings of veggies you need, visit the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate site, or just follow this rule of thumb: Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. While that might sound like a lot if you aren’t already eating vegetables, you can work up to it gradually.
Social psychologist Hank Rothgerber, PhD, of Bellarmine University in Kentucky argues that men tend to associate eating meat with masculinity—and eating vegetables with girliness. In a study published online this month by Psychology of Men and Masculinity, Rothgerber found that men were more likely than women to agree with “pro-meat” statements, such as: “There is no food that satisfies me as much as a delicious piece of meat.”
If this sounds like you: Remember that a juicy steak may telegraph manliness, but a side of grilled veggies sends a message, too. Cornell researchers found that serving vegetables along with a steak, chicken, or pasta created a better impression of both the main dish and the cook. Study participants rated meals as tastier when a vegetable was included, and they saw the cook as more thoughtful, attentive, and capable.
Better cook, better person, healthier man. That’s a pretty powerful message in its own right.
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