All men should have a plan of protection for their prostate. This obscure gland is the second most common cancer diagnosed in American men (other than nonmalignant skin cancer) and the second deadliest cancer for men (other than lung cancer). While there are other risk factors contributing to the development of prostate cancer, including age, race, and family history – all factors that are unchangeable – food plays a significant role in protecting a man’s one and only prostate from this disease.
But which foods are best for protecting prostate health? Food research is extremely complicated and time-consuming. Focusing on a specific nutrient or food is not the magic bullet to prevent prostate cancer. Instead, look for ways to eat healthier, benefitting the prostate and the entire body. Conclusion: good health and reducing all cancer risk starts with a healthy diet and being physically active. While there is no proven “prostate cancer” diet that is a 100 percent guarantee, certain factors stand out.
Here are the current recommendations for smart food choices for men and for protecting prostate health:
- Eat a plant-based diet with a variety of foods
A dietary plan of plant-based foods does not mean men have to go vegan or give up animal-based foods. Rather, it means eating mostly whole or unprocessed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), nuts, and seeds. Lean animal foods and low-fat dairy should make up a smaller amount of foods men eat. Plant foods provide the protection of various vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that protect against cancer.
Men should aim for at least 7 servings of plant-based foods daily. Keep plant-based foods minimally processed, choosing whole wheat bread instead of white bread or eating oatmeal with berries instead of an oat cereal bar with a blueberry filling or a blueberry muffin.
Healthy plant-based protein sources are plentiful and include legumes, soy foods, nuts, and seeds. When eating animal-based foods, avoid processed meats (bacon, sausage, hot dogs, luncheon meats), and instead choose fatty fish, poultry, and lean red meat of a 3 to 4 ounce portion size or palm-sized portion.
- Limit foods high in added sugars, fat, and salt
Foods with excess sugar, fat, and/or salt are often low in nutrients and high in calories. Here are smart tips on better choices:
- Skip sugary drinks like soda, lemonade, fruit drinks, sweetened coffee, and tea. Choose water or unsweetened tea or coffee instead.
- Limit fast food, convenience foods, and high fat or sugary processed snack foods such as chips, French fries, and cookies. Anytime these foods are eaten, choose a small portion size.
- Avoid processed meats. Processed meats include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, cold cuts, and luncheon meats including salami, pepperoni, ham, bologna, and any other meat preserved by smoking or nitrates.
- Eat colorful fruits and cruciferous vegetables
Choose colorful fruits and vegetables to get the best nutritional value in produce. Bright colors like red, green, purple, yellow, and blue are loaded with powerful plant compounds called phytochemicals and antioxidants, which provide cancer cell-fighting properties. Examples include cherries, red bell pepper, plums, bananas, purple grapes, pears, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
Cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, and cabbage contain di-indolylmethane, which offers some protection against prostate cancer.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation
Men who consume alcohol need to do so in moderation of no more than two alcoholic beverages a day. That’s because overconsuming alcohol can increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
- Exercise daily
It’s hard to separate the role of exercise from the diet. When a healthy diet and daily exercise are combined, the positive health impacts are far-reaching. This super combination helps weight control, builds muscle and bone mass, modulates hormone levels, enhances immune functioning, and reduces oxidative stress. Yet, discovering the specific role of exercise in cancer prevention remains a mystery. For example, studies show a 10 percent to 30 percent risk reduction in the development of prostate cancer in men who exercise. Exercise also may have benefits during treatment in helping to reduce the fatigue associated with radiation therapy.
What has been shown is that the antioxidants from nutrient-rich foods and the many health benefits the body receives from physical activity do impact prostate cancer prevention. Therefore, it’s recommended to do five hours of vigorous exercise per week to reduce prostate cancer death rates.
Other nutrition advice for men to protect their prostate
Several other specific nutrients show a promising role in promoting a healthy prostate. These include the following:
- Omega-3 fatty acids (from fatty fish and flaxseed): These foods may inhibit the growth of prostate cancer due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
- Soy and isoflavones: Consuming more soy products, such as edamame, may lower the risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D’s role in preventing prostate cancer requires further study. Studies report that men with low serum levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
- Green tea: A component of green tea called polyphenol E, may lower the incidence and slow prostate cancer progression.
On the other hand, here are a couple of nutrients that may not be beneficial and possibly harmful for prostate cancer development:
- Calcium: Men consuming excessive amounts of calcium (more than 1,500 mg/day) may increase the risk of prostate cancer. More data is required to determine the difference between high calcium intake from calcium supplements and calcium from food sources. Men should only use a calcium supplement with their doctor’s approval and only if they cannot get enough calcium from food.
- Vitamin E and selenium: An important study called The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial found that men taking supplements of vitamin E and selenium, once believed to lower the risk of prostate cancer, were ineffective. At this time, it is recommended that men do not take supplements of vitamin E or selenium.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.