Nutrition

5 Ways Men’s Diets Could Be Falling Behind

8 min read

When it comes to key nutrients and habits, data shows that men's nutrition is falling behind. Fortunately, there are some easy fixes.
When it comes to key nutrients and habits, data shows that men's nutrition is falling behind. Fortunately, there are some easy fixes.

Essential Takeaways

  • Men and women have slightly different nutrient needs—which might mean we have slightly different nutrient gaps.
  • But evidence also suggests that men’s diets are falling behind when it comes to getting enough fruits and vegetables, as well as specific nutrients like vitamin A and magnesium.

Even the most fit among us may have certain blind spots when it comes to our health. Take diet, for example: Even if you’re aiming to eat healthfully the majority of the time, there are other things that can get in the way of meeting your nutrient needs, like dietary restrictions, genetic variations, and more. The bottom line? While we’ll always recommend aiming to meet your nutrient needs primarily through your diet, doing it “perfectly” can be a tall order—and chances are there could still be gaps. Those gaps can look different depending on your age, gender, and current life stage—but many of us have them in some form.

But even though most of us are vulnerable to gaps, recent data shows that men in particular are falling behind women when it comes to their diets—from general fruit and vegetable intake to specific nutrients like vitamin A and magnesium.

In other words: Guys, it’s time to level up your nutrition habits. And learning precisely where you could be lagging is the first step.

Learn about our Food First philosophy.

When it comes to nutrient intake, we want you to prioritize what's on your plate—and take a multivitamin to help fill gaps.*
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1. Men’s diets score lower than women’s for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

→ Level Up: Aim to get more variety on your plate. Raid the produce section at your grocery store—or better up, hit up your local farmer’s market.

Did you know that some national nutrition experts are tasked with scoring our diets? It’s called the Healthy Eating Index, and it compares daily nutrient recommendations with the way Americans are actually eating, monitoring dietary patterns over time. (1)

According to the latest data, men are scoring lower than women for key dietary components like whole grains, fruits and vegetables on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 meaning that all recommendations are met). But let’s get a little more specific.

Diet Quality Scores

Another way of looking at it? Only 9.2% of men are meeting the recommended intake for fruits, and only 7.6% of men are meeting the recommended intake for vegetables. In all fairness, women aren’t exactly hitting these goals either—but they’re still pacing ahead of guys at 15.1% and 10.9%, respectively. (2)

We probably don’t need to remind you that fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of many of the nutrients we need on a daily basis, and eating them is a surefire way to hit many of those goals. Want an example? One cup of chopped raw kale contains more than your entire recommended daily value (or RDV) of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. Vitamin C and vitamin A both play an important role in supporting normal immune function (in addition to other duties in the body); vitamin K helps out with supporting blood and bone health. These are key nutrients that help your body function, and they’re easy to pile onto your plate.*

2. Men are falling behind women when it comes to getting enough magnesium from their diets.

→ Level Up: While it’s always a good idea to fill your plate with nutrient-rich foods, a multivitamin can help fill gaps in your diet.*

Psst…

Wondering why we don't include calcium in our multivitamins?
Learn more

How well do you know magnesium? While calcium gets a lot of credit for being a bone health superhero, the truth is that it works alongside a lot of helper nutrients like magnesium, which lend important support. Magnesium also plays a role in vitamin D metabolism and supporting normal muscle function. So, yeah—magnesium is a multitasker that works hard behind the scenes.*

The problem is that even though magnesium can be found in a lot of whole foods (leafy greens, dark chocolate, and avocado, to name a few), diet isn’t always a reliable source for meeting recommended magnesium intake. That might help explain why 53% of men ages 19-50 aren’t meeting their magnesium needs through their diets. That number increases to 59% for men over 50.* (3)

But while they’re also generally falling short, women still have the edge when it comes to getting more magnesium on their plates: 49% of women ages 19-50 and 53% of women 50 and up.* (3)

(The same goes for vitamin A.)

Allow us to properly introduce you to vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a role in immune function and normal vision. While many foods are rich in vitamin A, it’s important to note that there are actually two forms found in our diets. Regular vitamin A—the form our bodies can use right away—is found largely in animal products like beef liver and dairy products. Provitamin A is technically the precursor to the form of vitamin A our bodies use, and it’s found largely in vegetarian sources like sweet potatoes, kale, and other leafy greens—the caveat is that our bodies have to convert this form to vitamin A to use it, which may not always be efficient. (4)

Roughly 53% of men 19-50 aren’t getting enough vitamin A from their diets, and the same goes for 46% of men over 50.* (3)

3. Men have other common nutrient gaps, too.

→ Level Up: When it comes to certain nutrient gaps, it’s not just about diet—factors like genetics and lifestyle can come into play. That’s also where a multivitamin can come in handy.*

While men are falling behind women for vitamin A and magnesium specifically, there are other key gaps that can’t be ignored. Take vitamin D, for example—the “sunshine” vitamin that helps support bone health and normal immune function. 97% of men ages 19-50, and 90% of men over 50 aren’t getting enough vitamin D through diet, and factors like climate, skin tone, and even SPF usage can all make sunlight an unreliable source. That’s why many experts will argue that a combo of diet, sunlight, and supplementation is the way to go when trying to meet your vitamin D needs.* (3)

Which brings us to an important point: It’s not always about diet, and in some cases we really can’t out-eat our nutrient needs. Folate is a great example. While this B-vitamin is really important for supporting blood health and energy-yielding metabolism, its commonly-used synthetic form, folic acid, isn’t always a reliable source. Up to one-third of men and women have a genetic polymorphism that can makes it difficult to efficiently utilize folic acid. The workaround? Choosing a multivitamin with methylated folate, which is easy for everyone to use—whether you have that genetic variation or not.*

4. Some men tend to prioritize exercise over diet.

→ Level Up: Both diet and exercise are crucial components in a healthy lifestyle—so don’t over-prioritize one at the expense of the other!

Don’t get us wrong: When it comes to a balanced, healthy lifestyle, regular exercise is essential. In fact, according to recent data, men are working out more than ever, which is great!

But in a Ritual survey, men also ranked exercise twice as important as diet—when in reality, both are equally important. Think about it this way: Working our muscles by way of a workout regimen is just one part of the equation. Muscle synthesis wouldn’t happen without the help of macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs) and micronutrients (folate, for example) that we get through our diets. In other words, it’s time for a shift in priorities.* (5,6)

5. A lot of men might not see the value in multivitamins.

→ Level Up: Choose a multivitamin made for skeptics, by skeptics.* (We got you.)

According to a recent survey, only about 61 percent of “healthy-ish” men see multivitamins as a valuable addition to their daily routines. To be clear, it's true that when it comes to meeting our nutrient needs, diet should be our #1 priority, and that means making every effort to fill our plates with balanced, nutrient-rich foods. But when factors like genetic variations, dietary restrictions, and lifestyle preferences come into play, we can still be vulnerable to gaps—which is where a quality multivitamin can come in handy.* (7)

If you're among the healthy-identifying men who don't necessarily believe in vitamins, you’ve come to the right place: 68% of our current customers never stuck with multivitamins in the past, and even our founder and CEO was a lifelong vitamin skeptic before starting Ritual. It’s why we take a different approach to formulation, poring over the latest nutritional data to identify nutrients that are really lagging from our diets—depending on age, sex, dietary preferences, and current lifestage. We focus on helping fill dietary gaps, rather than adding extra nutrients you’re probably getting enough of (like vitamin C, for example) from your food. We’re mindful of vegan and vegetarian diets, as well as allergies and genetic considerations. And we skip the shady extras, like mystery additives and colorants.*

The bottom line? Leveling up your nutrition habits doesn’t have to be complicated—it’s all about reprioritizing what’s on your plate, and maybe taking a multivitamin to help fill gaps.*

References:

  1. Reedy J, Lerman JL, Krebs-Smith SM, et al. Evaluation of the Healthy Eating Index-2015. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2018;118(9):1622‐1633.
  2. Lee-Kwan SH, Moore LV, Blanck HM, Harris DM, Galuska D. Disparities in State-Specific Adult Fruit and Vegetable Consumption — United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:1241–1247.
  3. USDA, Agricultural Research Service, 2019. Usual Nutrient Intake from Food and Beverages, by Gender and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2013-2016
  4. Tang, Guangwen. “Bioconversion of Dietary Provitamin A Carotenoids to Vitamin A in Humans.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 91, no. 5, Mar. 2010, doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.28674g.
  5. NCHS National Health Interview Survey 2008-2018.
  6. Ritual - Men’s Health Survey. November 2019. n=300.
  7. Marketing Health to Men - US - 2015 (Mintel) N963

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