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Margaret Mead once said that it’s easier to change a man’s religion than it is his diet. Although I believe Ms. Mead meant “men” in the general, non-gendered sense, I have worked with enough men to know this is often true. With men. For some reason, women are far more open to dietary changes than men, especially when the promise of better health awaits.

Then again, when you look at the marketing that inundates our lives- the commercials with the beer-chuggers standing around the grill, showing deep admiration for the charred piece of flesh lying before them, the billboards displaying the “manly” burgers symphonically composed with eight layers of meat, the holiday season images where the main-course victuals are presented to the male at the head of the table, knife poised to dutifully begin the slicing- and you know that there is more at “steak” for the males of our culture when it comes to keeping diets status quo.

Alas, our love affair with large quantities of meat- along with excess refined carbs, sugar, and processed foods- has taken its toll. Heart disease and cancer are now the No. 1 and No. 2 killers for men in America. But sometimes even this news isn’t enough to get men to change their habits, so allow me to try a different approach.

Men, listen up. There’s even more reason to make nice with your veggies. Reducing your meat portions and adding color to your plate in the form of veggies, legumes, nuts, and seeds will…

  1. Improve circulation, resulting in greater erectile response. Look for foods rich in L-Arginine, an amino acid responsible for nitric oxide production (which plays a large role in erections), like granola, oatmeal, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, green veggies, root veggies, garlic, and seeds. A good rule of thumb to remember is that if it’s good for the heart, it’s good for the penis. Trouble having erections may signal more than just a lack of desire, so before turning to the Viagra tube, see your doctor.
  2. Promote weight loss, which is good for your libido. Ironically, most marketing sends the message that consuming lots of meat is a “manly”, testosterone kind of thing to do. But animal products are very calorie-dense and can easily lead to weight gain, which in turn reduces testosterone and leads to erectile dysfunction. Consider that a pound of broccoli has 130 calories, while a pound of chicken breast has upwards of 500 calories.
  3. Boost the immune system, and that helps fight stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which over a period of time, wreak havoc on the body, lower libido, and often lead to chronic depression. Anti-depressants are also a leading cause of decreased sex drive.
  4. Enhance the functioning of your reproductive system, including increased sperm counts. If you want your little swimmers to perform well, look for foods rich in zinc, like nuts, beans, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin seeds, and bananas.
  5. Increase your sex drive. As stated above, men who maintain a healthy weight and eat foods that make hard easy are going to experience an increased desire for desire. An informal survey among my male friends seems to prove this. Those who eat plant-based diets report having libido like never before in their lives and being able to perform multiple times in a session, while those who eat the standard American carnivorous fare seem to prefer most nights on the couch to one getting busy under the sheets.

Indulge me as I add a final, personal reason. As a woman, I find nothing sexier than a man who respects his body for the amazing mechanism that it is. Who understands that what he puts into his body will affect how he feels. Who recognizes that a pound of steak requires over a thousand gallons of water and 16 pounds of grain, and doesn’t want to contribute to that kind of waste. While eating veggies may be promoted by the food industry as a feminine thing to do, keep in mind that even our gatherer-hunter ancestors went for periods without a catch. They learned to love their fruits, nuts, seeds, and greens.  Now it’s your turn.

Photo of sunset and couple by Aaron Dressin Photography