Factors that Influence Dietary Choices: Gender, Culture & Other Issues

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  • 0:01 A Unique Diet for You
  • 0:41 Gender and Diet
  • 3:18 Culture and Diet
  • 4:00 Age and Diet
  • 4:48 Other Factors…
  • 6:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

You are a unique person and therefore, the dietary choices you make should be well-suited to who you are and what you do. The factors that influence these choices will be the focus of this lesson.

A Unique Diet for You

You know that you are a unique person. There are so many things that set you apart from a huge chunk of people - age, gender, culture, athletic ability, and so much more. When combined, those differences create a truly unique person of which there is no other but you in this world.

I think that's pretty nifty. These differences are also important because they influence appropriate dietary choices. Just as an example you can certainly agree with, pregnant women have very different needs than your average male office worker. This, and so much more, will be touched on as we explore some of the many factors that influence dietary choices.

Gender and Diet

They say that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. In some respects, men and women think differently, act differently, and have varying needs even in the same situation! Dietary habits are not immune from this observation.

Let's think of some examples together using averages we know to be true. Women are smaller than men. This means women need fewer calories than men, meaning they need to eat less food. If an average woman was to consume the same amount of calories as the average man, she'd be more likely to gain weight - all else equal, of course.

But there's something very important here. There's a danger in consuming less food and thus, fewer calories willy-nilly. The right kind of food contains nutrients that go beyond just calories. There are vitamins and minerals within our food. That is why a woman should focus more on consuming nutrient-dense food, like complex carbohydrates, in order to ensure important vitamins and minerals are gained while still eating fewer calories than a man.

Think of it this way: A doughnut has a ton of calories, but is not very nutritious. A whole grain cereal may have the same amount, or even fewer calories than the doughnut, but is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Importantly, two nutrients, known as calcium and iron, are of special concern for women. Calcium is a mineral that helps to build strong bones and iron is a mineral that helps to form red blood cells. Calcium is necessary because women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, a condition that leads to fragile bones. Iron is important for menstruating women because it helps to avoid iron deficiency anemia. Anemia is a low red blood cell count.

But I don't want to leave out the guys here. Although men generally consume more food and thus are less likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies, there are still plenty of problems associated with this type of diet. Eating too much red meat is known to give guys a lot of trouble with their hearts and arteries. This predisposes a man to a heart attack.

Because some men eat a lot of food in general, even for their body size, obesity is a real risk, and this can lead to arthritis, diabetes, and, of course, heart disease. Thus, just like women, men need to focus on eating the right kinds of calories made up of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while holding back on grilling every type of meat known to man.

Culture and Diet

But dietary influences go beyond the battle of the sexes. Cultural differences are important to note. Some cultures and even religions emphasize a vegetarian or even vegan diet. A vegan diet refers to a diet that excludes meat and animal products, such as milk and eggs. Such cultural, religious, or purely personal dietary choices are fine so long as they are made with care and consideration. For instance, vegetarians need to seek out protein sources other than meat in order to stay healthy. This can include eggs, milk, tofu, beans, and so forth.

Age and Diet

In addition to culture and gender, age plays an important role in influencing dietary choices. As a person ages, certain dietary modifications may need to be taken. Since the elderly tend to move around less, they need to consume fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. Because their digestive system doesn't work as well as before, elderly people may need to supplement their diets with vitamin B12 and fiber.

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