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7 Superfood Swaps Every Fit Man Should Know

Sometimes, even the most dedicated gym-goers get bored with a nutritional plan. Keep things interesting with these delicious (and disease-fighting) options.
7 Superfood Swaps Every Fit Man Should Know

Between training hard in the gym, busting your ass at work, and everything else the daily grind throws at you, it’s all too easy to fall into a meal-planning rut. We repeatedly hear the same dietary suggestions: grilled chicken, kale, spinach, almonds, Greek yogurt. And while we know how good those foods are, they can get old after a while.

“Most people tend to eat the same 200 foods over and over throughout their lifespan,” says Natalie Stephens, lead dietitian at the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. And that can often be the case for fit guys, who are extra choosy about their meals.

But with a few tweaks and replacements, eating healthy can be refreshing again. Here are seven swaps to add into your regular routine:

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Salmon has what is commonly known as “good fats.” According to Nancy Farrell, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, omega-3 and monounsaturated fats are the best good fats for men, as they help with problems like cancer, heart disease and prostate health.

You can also get those fats in health food favorites like mackerel, tuna, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds. But arugula, surprisingly, has a good amount of omega-3 fat, while pistachios are a crunchy way to get those monounsaturated fats.

Pistachios, Farrell says, can help reduce the risk of heart disease and are cholesterol-free. Plus, one ounce of pistachios has the potassium of half a banana. That potassium helps with electrolyte balance, muscle contraction and heart function—all critical for the gym-going dude.

The problem with totally eliminating fish, Farrell says, is that fish is also a great source of selenium. “It’s a mineral that’s important for men in terms of their prostate health and fighting colon cancer,” Farrell explains. But fish isn’t the only source—Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds also boast hefty levels of selenium.

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Long relegated to side-dish status alongside corned beef or as fodder for mayo-soaked cole slaw, cabbage is an inexpensive alternative to kale or lettuce. “I consider it a crunchy water source,” says Stephens. Cabbage has a few carbs, but it's also great for getting fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K, which is crucial for maintaining bone structure and preventing osteoporosis, Stephens says.

“When you’re working out, you create these micro-fractures in your bones, which is not a bad thing. If your body is healthy and you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals that you need, you’ve got osteoclasts, the little guys that chew up those fractures, and the osteoblasts will rebuild that spot. That’s what makes for strong, healthy bones and prevents osteoporosis.” 

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Pineapple not only packs antioxidants like blueberries, but also has manganese and thiamine—which increases energy production for exhausting workouts—and an entire day’s worth of vitamin C to keep your immune system strong. One of pineapple’s enzymes, bromelain, may also have anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits, too. (Pineapple also has easily digestible natural sugar, making it a great pre-workout snack, but diabetics and others who need to watch their blood sugar should be mindful of it.)

As for the cranberries, Farrell says some research suggests cranberries can help fight off liver, prostate and colon cancers and help with heart health. “There is some evidence that the plant compounds called polyphenols in cranberries might help decrease cardiovascular disease by preventing plaque buildup and decreasing blood pressure,” she says. As an added bonus, cranberries are known to help with dental health and prevent gum disease.

Cranberries may be easier to find dried and are great in cereal or oatmeal, or can be baked into muffins or breads, while the pineapple can be a great summer grill item or can be diced on a pizza. 

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If you typically discard the celery from your Bloody Mary or chicken wing order, Farrell says you’re missing out. Celery has a bad reputation for being nutritionally weak, but it actually can help with blood pressure and cancer prevention.

Asparagus is a summer grill-friendly replacement. Again, Farrell says it’s great for heart health. It’s also a great source of folic acid—a nutrient we typically associate with pregnant women, but one that can also help ward off depression in men by preventing a buildup of the amino acid homocysteine. Excess homocysteine is linked to moodiness, lack of sleep, and increased rates of heart disease. 

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Contrary to popular belief, men and women face an equal risk for osteoporosis early in life, which is why calcium is so important, says Stephens. And while cheese is often unappealing to active guys because it often has high fat content, cheeses like Asiago and Parmesan pack a major flavor punch in small quantities while still proving an excellent source of calcium.

If strong cheeses aren’t your taste, old-school cheese sticks do the trick in about 100 calories. And those pull-and-peel childhood favorites are also full of protein—one ounce has as much protein as an ounce of chicken.

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“Pumpkin seeds are packed with packed with protein, fiber, and potassium,” Farrell says. “They have 18 percent of the daily value of magnesium, which we need for heart health. They also have zinc—19 percent of the daily value—which we know helps boost our immune function.”

Farrell suggests tossing a few pumpkin seeds on your salad or mixing them into trail mix. (Just mind the sugar content.)

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“Guys tend to be notoriously fearful of soy because it has an estrogenic-related compound,” Farrell says. But fear not: Soy can also reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attacks by decreasing inflammation and plaque build-up in arteries, she says. Soy also inhibits the growth of prostate cancer cells as long as you haven’t already been diagnosed with prostate cancer. If you have or have had prostate cancer, consult a doctor or dietitian before increasing soy consumption. 

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