Good news if you’re worried about your prostate health. What you eat can make a difference. “There is plenty of strong evidence that good nutrition and an active lifestyle can reduce the likelihood of prostate cancer and slow its progression,” says Mitchell Sokoloff M.D., Chairman of Urology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Just as there are foods that can hurt the prostate – foods you might want to avoid, or at least not eat very often – there are also “prostate-friendly” foods that protect the prostate in various ways. “A healthy prostate diet looks a lot like a healthy heart diet,” says Stephen Scionti, M.D., urologic oncologist and medical director for Vituro Health. “If you had to put a name to it, we would call it the Mediterranean Diet. That includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, lean proteins, and whole grains.”
Here’s a look at the top five foods to eat for a healthy prostate:
Certain fish (especially cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and trout) provide “good fats” that help prevent inflammation in the body. Over the past few years, scientists have begun to see inflammation within the prostate as a dangerous condition that can make it easier for cancer to take hold. Omega 3 fatty acids (you may have heard about them as EPA and DHA), are essential fats that our bodies can’t make, so we need to get them from food sources.
If you aren’t wild about fish, you can find another “good fat,” called ALA (for “alpha linolenic acid,” which is the plant-based form of Omega 3 fatty acids), in seeds, nuts, olive oil, and other vegetable oils. The Health Professionals Follow-Up study followed 4,577 men with localized prostate cancer (confined within the prostate) over a 24-year period and found that participants who replaced animal fat with vegetable fat had a lower risk of dying from their cancer.
“Oxidative damage” is what scientists call the incremental damage that builds up over many years. It’s caused by “oxygen free radicals,” which are toxic byproducts of metabolism. When uncontrolled, free radicals wreak havoc on the body causing oxidative damage and disease. Antioxidants help to neutralize and remove free radicals from the body. Berries are great source, particularly strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries (the brighter the better). These fruits offer up powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins.
Lycopene is another powerful antioxidant and is found in the cell walls of tomatoes. The cooking process loosens the bond, making it easier for our bodies to access the antioxidant and send it to the prostate. Tomato sauce, paste, juice, and sundried tomatoes help our bodies make the most of this nutritional superstar. Even better: tomatoes cooked in olive oil.
Broccoli contains the phytochemical (phyto means “plant”) sulforaphane, which is suspected to target and kill cancer cells while leaving healthy prostate cells to fight another day. Studies suggest that eating cruciferous vegetables can lower your risk of getting prostate cancer. Don’t like broccoli? There are other vegetables in the same family that have similar beneficial effects, including cabbage, bok choy, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
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Another great source of antioxidants, this versatile leaf contains multiple antioxidant compounds called catechins (most important are two called EGCG, for epigallocatechin-3-gallate, and epicatechin), which are believed to be anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic (preventing healthy cells from mutating). A review of multiple studies found that men who drank five cups of green tea per day had a decreased risk of prostate cancer.
By increasing your intake of healthy fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory foods, you can help keep your prostate healthy. In the words of Socrates: “Let food be thy medicine.”
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