Diet, Nutrition, and Lifestyle
The Prostate Health Diet
Medically reviewed by Dr. Paul Song M.D
Every time you make a meal, order at a restaurant, or consume a beverage, you are making a choice either to be good to your prostate or not, especially if you are concerned about your diet for prostate cancer. If you have had treatment for prostate cancer, you should be even more aware of your diet to prevent prostate cancer recurrence.
That’s because about 30% of prostate cancers return regardless of the treatment and no matter what your urologist tells you. There are no guarantees. Even men who have had their entire prostate removed have the same chance of recurring prostate cancer, so it’s even more important to focus on lifestyle and diet for prostate cancer prevention after treatment.
If you are worried about developing prostate cancer, then diet is the #1 thing you can change to help reduce your risk. Yes, prostate cancer is treatable, but ask any man who has the disease and he will tell you that your life will never be the same. You have the opportunity to make a difference in that risk every day, at every meal.
How Much Impact Does Diet Have on Prostate Cancer?
The foods you choose and the way you live your life have a major impact on whether or not you will develop prostate problems, and especially prostate cancer. Cancer experts and nutrition and diet studies estimate that our food choices account for up to 90 percent of cancers of the prostate, breast, pancreas, and colon. Even lung cancer is believed to have a dietary link.
If you’re skeptical, consider the rates of prostate cancer in Asian populations compared with those in North America. In 2012, there were 4.5 cases of prostate cancer for every 100,000 males in South-Central Asia compared with 97.2 cases per 100,000 in North America.
Experts believe that a major part of the reason for the difference prostate cancer rates is diet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “diets high in red meat, dairy products, and animal fat have frequently been implicated in the development of prostate cancer”. The traditional Chinese diet consists of vegetables, fish, sea vegetables, fiber-rich foods, and a small amount of soy, a fare that is typically low in saturated fat and sugar. The SAD—Standard American Diet—is true to its name: high in saturated fat and sugar, low in fruits, vegetables, fish, and fiber. When you combine SAD with our notoriously couch-potato lifestyle, you have the formula for the alarming rise in lifestyle-related diseases, especially obesity, that is an epidemic today in Western countries.
SAD is a health disaster as are many of the fad and gimmick diets on the market. The Prostate Diet is a sensible eating plan designed to promote and maintain prostate health by safeguarding against inflammation and cancer, as well as maximizing overall wellness.
A Canadian team noted that “Although healthy eating might enhance long-term survival, few men with prostate cancer make diet chances to advance their well-being” and that “Men’s typically poor diets and uninterest in self-health may impede nutrition interventions and diet change.” One stated reason for this reluctance to change dietary habits is a feeling that there is something “feminine” about, say, eating more fruits and vegetables.
Yet there is nothing unmasculine about The Prostate Diet, nor is it tasteless, difficult, or boring. Rather, it is highly varied, easy to implement, and delicious, requiring only some minor dietary changes for many men. Best of all, it supports and promotes prostate and overall health, and can be easily followed by all members of your family.
What Is The Prostate Diet?
The Prostate Diet is composed of 10 foundational guidelines, all of which are very doable and actually great not only for you but for your entire family. Several of the foundations have some specific suggestions that focus on the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer.
You will notice that The Prostate Diet is primarily plant-based, and for good reason. Plant-based foods contain more than 100,000 disease-preventing nutrients. A plant-based diet has been shown to reduce the progression of prostate cancer in men who have the disease and can help prevent development of the disease as well.
One way a plant-based diet can ward off prostate cancer is by lowering the amount of excess hormones in the body. Meat, for example, is associated with high levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and the amino acid methionine, which are associated with cancer cell spread and growth. Another appears to be the suppression of an enzyme called TOR (Target of Rapamycin), which also promotes cell growth and spread. By reducing your consumption of foods rich in leucine (e.g., milk, cheese, beef, chicken, pork), an amino acid that causes TOR to become active, you can help fight prostate cancer.
Here are the 10 foundations of The Prostate Diet.
Maximize fruit and vegetable servings
Fruits and vegetables contain high levels of cancer- and inflammation-fighting substances such as antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Although you are encouraged to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, some of them are more potent than others when it comes to prostate cancer fighting abilities.
For example, cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts) contain a cancer-fighting substance called sulforaphane that has been studied extensively for its anticancer abilities. Sulforaphane is present in especially high concentrations in broccoli. Other fruits and vegetables that have displayed prostate cancer fighting characteristics include apple peels, cranberries, and orange bell peppers.
Eat healthy fats
Fats such as those consumed in Mediterranean countries can decrease inflammation and support overall prostate health. These include monounsaturated fats such as found in olive and safflower oils, olives, macadamia nuts, and avocados; and omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fatty fish (e.g., salmon, sardines, herring) as well as walnuts and flaxseed.
Eating healthy fats also means avoiding unhealthy ones, including saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fat is found primarily in animal foods, including meat, poultry, milk, cheese, and other dairy foods. Trans fat in the form of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are present in some processed foods such as crackers, margarine, baked goods, frozen foods, candies, and condiments.
One good reason to significantly reduce saturated fat in your diet comes from a study of 390 men with prostate cancer who had undergone prostatectomy. Those who consumed a high saturated fat diet were more likely to experience cancer recurrence (biochemical failure) and had a significantly shorter failure-free survival (26.6 months) than those who followed a low-saturated fat diet, who had a longer failure-free survival (44.7 months). Therefore, significantly reducing saturated fat intake could mean a much better outcome after prostatectomy for prostate cancer than continuing to consume a high saturated fat diet.
Choose plant protein over animal protein
Plant protein gives you all the nutrients and health benefits needed for maximum prostate health as part of a diet for prostate cancer. Diets rich in plant protein have been shown to reduce rates of cancer and prostate disease. Also, according to the World Health Organization, “diets high in red meat, dairy products, and animal fat have frequently been implicated in the development of prostate cancer.” Choose non-meat proteins for better prostate health and limit your intake of soy foods.
This advice applies to eggs and dairy foods as well. Michael Greger, MD, has pointed out that in addition to cholesterol, eggs may contain cancer-causing retroviruses, toxins (e.g., dioxins, arsenic, perfluorochemicals), and Salmonella, as well as increase levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a cancer-promoting substance that has been linked to prostate cancer. A joint Harvard and University of California, San Francisco, study followed 27,607 men for 14 years and discovered that healthy men who ate 2.5 eggs or more each per week had an 81% higher risk of developing advanced prostate cancer compared with men who ate fewer than 0.5 eggs per week on average.
Dairy consumption also has been linked to prostate cancer, which is why dairy is among the top foods to avoid. Even though calcium is important for healthy bones, too much dairy is not a good thing for your prostate. A 2001 Harvard School of Public Health study followed 20,885 physicians for 11 years. The researchers looked at calcium levels and the incidence of prostate cancer. They found that men who had more than 600 mg of calcium each day had a 32% higher risk of prostate cancer. The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study of the diets of 142,251 men concluded that “a high intake of protein or calcium from dairy products may increase the risk for prostate cancer.”
More recently (2015), a systemic review and meta-analysis found that “High intakes of dairy products, milk, low-fat milk, cheese, and total, dietary, and dairy calcium, but not supplemental or nondairy calcium, may increase total prostate cancer risk.”
Additionally, many dairy foods are high in hormones. If you do eat some dairy, choose organic dairy foods and products that are from cows not injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which is a synthetic form of bovine somatotropin (rBST). Also, there is some evidence that eating a diet rich in milk and dairy products increases estrogen levels, and the level of estrogen in prostate fluid correlates with prostate cancer.
Eat whole and natural foods
Any refined, processed foods in your diet should be replaced with whole, natural selections. This includes eating organic whenever possible and consuming meats (if meat is part of your diet) only if they are hormone- and antibiotic-free. Whole, natural foods are typically higher in fiber, which has been linked to lower levels of testosterone and lower PSA scores, both good indicators for prostate health.
The other side of focusing on whole, natural foods is to avoid refined and processed foods. Such foods are generally a haven for artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives, some of which have been associated with an increased risk of cancer and all of which can jeopardize prostate health and overall health as well
Consume green tea
The antioxidant and catechin benefits of green tea decrease prostate cancer risk and have been shown to reduce the risk of certain prostate disorders. A brief rundown of the benefits of green tea when it comes to helping ward off prostate cancer include its ability to interfere with an enzyme (ortnithine decarboxylase) involved in the “birth” of prostate cancer, slow the growth of prostate cancer cells and prompt them to “commit suicide “(apoptosis), encourage the repair of damaged DNA that might otherwise promote cancer growth, inhibit the activity of an enzyme (COX-2) that is involved in the prostate cancer process, and stimulate certain immune system cells to fight cancer tumors.
Eat omega-3 rich foods
Found in certain fatty fish like salmon and sardines, omega-3 fats fight inflammation, a process that eats up the body’s natural antioxidants and weakens the immune system, making the body more vulnerable to disease. Omega-3s have been shown to significantly decrease prostate cancer risk and should be a fundamental part of any diet for prostate cancer. In fish, the omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in the marine oils and can be used by the body in these forms.
Omega-3s are also found in flaxseeds in the form of alpha-linoleinic acid (ALA), which must be converted to EPA and DHA for the body to utilize. Flaxseeds are also an excellent source of lignans, which are plant substances with an ability to block the effects of estrogen, making them potentially helpful in reducing the risk of hormone-associated cancers, such as prostate cancer. Research has shown that men with prostate cancer who consumed 30 grams of flaxseeds daily for 30 days had a significant decline in proliferation of cancer cells and a significant increase in cancer cell death. Other studies have showed similar positive results with flaxseeds.
Avoid foods and additives that are harmful to prostate health
Some foods, supplements, additives and nutrients are especially harmful to the prostate, including but not limited to artificial sweeteners, chondroitin, calcium, dairy foods, canned tomatoes and tomato products (because the BPA lining in the cans interacts with the acid), farmed salmon, French fries and potato chips, nonorganic meats, nonorganic potatoes, red and processed meats, and sugar.
In this same category is a warning to never heat foods in plastic containers in a microwave, because the hormone-disrupting plastic additives called BPA and phthalates can leach into your food. Phthalates, for example, have been shown to increase levels of insulin-like growth factor 1, which is a known risk factor for prostate cancer. Read more on foods that can harm the prostate.
Take the right supplements
Several natural supplements are especially helpful for your prostate as they can assist in reducing inflammation and in fighting prostate cancer development and growth. Supplements that have demonstrated some effectiveness include broccoli sprout extract, cayenne, gac fruit, green tea extract, indole-3-carbinol/DIM, lycopene, magnolia tree bark, modified citrus pectin, muscadine grape skin, mushrooms, omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., fish oil, krill oil), pomegranate, quercetin, resveratrol, turmeric, vitamin D, and zinc.
Consume cancer-fighting foods
Numerous foods and their components in The Prostate Diet have been shown to be especially good at fighting cancer either by slowing cancer progression, increasing cancer cell death, or other anticancer actions. You may notice that a few of the foods in this list also appear in the list of supplements, because they can be effective in either form. The cancer-fighting foods include apple peel, carrots, cayenne peppers, coffee, cranberries, cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower), fenugreek seeds, flax seeds, foods rich in phytates, garlic, licorice, mushrooms, orange bell peppers, rye, tomatoes, and turmeric. Read more on cancer fighting foods.
Drinking plenty of pure water is essential for prostate health as it provides hydration for the body and assists in the natural elimination of toxins.
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