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Prairie Fare: Men, Did You Know that More Matters?

National studies have shown that men are less likely than women to alter their diets to prevent health problems, even when a health issue has been diagnosed.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

"I'm still hungry. Could I have a salad, Mrs. Robinson?" my son's 12-year-old friend asked after we'd finished eating dinner at a restaurant.

I must have looked at him rather strangely, as though his brain was being controlled by vegetable-loving aliens. My kids always angle for desserts after meals.

"Do you know they sell ice cream?" I asked.

"I really like salads, Mrs. Robinson," he said earnestly.

I was feeling a little like Mrs. Cleaver talking to Eddie Haskell. He knows I teach about nutrition after all. He probably has pockets full of candy and he's eating it while I'm not looking, I thought.

"I like salad, too, Mom," my son noted. "May I have some salad?" he asked.

Now this was getting really strange. Was I hallucinating? Maybe I fell asleep watching the TV Land network and I'm dreaming about old TV shows.

"OK, guys, I'll buy you salads. Are you sure you're going to eat it?" I asked.

"Yes!" they said in unison. They ate every bite.

There was a reason for my hesitancy. First, I don't like to waste food. Second, I'd just read some disheartening statistics about fruit and vegetable consumption by men. These young men were defying the odds by eating their vegetables and possibly improving their future health.

According to national health statistics, on average, about 14 percent of North Dakota men and 31 percent of North Dakota women consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Nationwide, about 20 percent of men and 29 percent of women meet the goal.

Both genders have some work to do, with men needing to load up at the salad bar and loiter in the produce aisle even more than women.

Heart disease and cancer, the leading causes of death among men and women, are linked to food choices and other lifestyle choices, along with genetics. National studies have shown that men are less likely than women to alter their diets to prevent health problems, even when a health issue has been diagnosed.

Researchers have reported that many men aren't aware of the benefits of eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. For example, lycopene, the plant chemical responsible for the red-orange color of tomatoes, is linked to reducing risk for prostrate cancer among men. Lycopene in cooked tomatoes, including spaghetti sauce, is better absorbed than lycopene in raw tomatoes.

In March, a new fruit and vegetable campaign, "fruits and veggies: more matters," was launched nationwide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Produce for Better Health Foundation and many other partners. The "5 A Day" campaign will be phased out.

Our daily recommended fruits and vegetable amounts are in cups instead of servings. Our recommendations have increased, too.

According to new nutrition recommendations, a 50-year-old male getting 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity needs 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables daily. This equals "10 A Day," according to the "old" rules.

You can learn your fruit and vegetable recommendations by visiting Here's a tasty way to add some fruit to your diet.

Pina Colada Salad

1 16-ounce can drained fruit cocktail

2 sliced bananas

2 oranges cut into bite-sized pieces

2 apples cut into bite-sized pieces

8 ounces nonfat yogurt, pina colada-flavored

Shredded coconut (optional)

Mix fruit and yogurt in bowl. Chill in the refrigerator before serving. Sprinkle with coconut if desired. Makes four servings. Each serving has 70 calories, less than 1 gram (g) of fat, 17 g of carbohydrate and 25 percent of the recommendation for vitamin C.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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