Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men and the third leading cause of cancer death in men. The American Cancer Society estimates that 164,690 new cases of prostate cancer and 29,430 deaths from the disease will occur in the U.S. during 2018. Risk factors such as age, ethnicity, and family history of prostate cancer are uncontrollable. However, there are things that you can do to lower your risk. In this article, we discuss eight natural ways to help keep your prostate healthy.
1. Keep your prostate healthy by eating more vegetables and fruits.
Vegetables and fruits contain many vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals (plant nutrients). In combination, these nutrients may help keep your prostate healthy. Eat at least five servings of vegetables and fruits per day. Choose fruits and vegetables from all color categories (green, yellow/orange, red/purple, and white) to get a good variety of cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
It is important to eat a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits. Certain foods have been studied specifically for prostate cancer.
For example, tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer. Watermelon, guava, and pink grapefruit also contain small amounts of lycopene. Because your body can absorb the lycopene in cooked tomatoes more easily, tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes are good sources. Most of the lycopene is located in the bright red skin, so do not peel your tomatoes. If you do not eat many cooked tomatoes, nutritional supplements with a whole tomato extract (such as Lyc-O-Mato®) are available.
Another example is cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, and kale), which have been linked to a lower risk of many different cancers. This vegetable family is rich in sulfur-containing compounds. Broccoli, in particular, is rich in sulforaphane, which may potentially reduce the risk or slow down the growth of prostate cancer.
2. Eat more legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) and whole grains.
Legumes are high in folate, potassium, iron, magnesium, and fiber. They are quite versatile and you can add them to stews, casseroles, soups, and salads. You can also eat legumes as a side dish with your favorite herbs and spices.
Soybeans are legumes that have been shown to help keep your prostate healthy. Soybeans contain isoflavones, or phytoestrogens, which have been linked to a decreased prostate cancer risk as well as a decreased rate of PSA rise in men with prostate cancer.
Choose whole soy foods such as tofu, soy milk, edamame (boiled soybeans), and tempeh. If you do not like soy foods, a nutritional supplement containing soy isoflavones from a whole soybean extract (such as Novasoy®) is another option.
To help keep your prostate healthy, eat more unprocessed whole grains and limit refined grains. Refined grains are stripped of certain nutrients (B vitamins, vitamin E, and fiber) during the refining process. Unprocessed whole grains such as oats, brown rice, barley, and quinoa are great choices. An easy way to determine whether a packaged food is 100% whole grain is to look for “whole grain” as the first ingredient.
3. Limit red meat and dairy.
Although the research on this topic is not completely clear, studies indicate that men who eat a lot of red meat or dairy products have a higher risk of prostate cancer.
Moreover, eating too much processed meat may increase the risk of cancer. Examples of processed meat include bologna, salami, sausage, bacon, and hot dogs.
Some studies have found that too much calcium can increase prostate cancer risk. Adequate calcium is important for bone health, so the goal is to get enough but not too much calcium. For most people, 1,000 mg of calcium per day (from food and supplements) is enough. Aim to limit your milk and dairy intake to two servings or less per day.
4. Eat more fatty fish.
Fish is a healthy alternative to red meat. Fattier fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, and swordfish, contain omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA). In addition to keeping your heart healthy, omega-3 fats can help keep your prostate healthy. Research shows that high intakes of fish or omega-3s may decrease the risk of prostate cancer. Higher fish intake is also linked to a lower risk of death from prostate cancer.
Aim to eat fatty fish at least twice a week. If you do not eat enough fish, you can also choose to take a high-quality fish oil supplement. Look for a fish oil supplement with at least 500 mg of EPA plus DHA per softgel.
5. Drink green tea.
Green tea contains antioxidants called catechin polyphenols, which may play a role in decreasing prostate cancer risk and progression. Drinking 3-4 cups of green tea per day is most beneficial. Green tea naturally contains about 10-20% the amount of caffeine as coffee. If you prefer decaffeinated green tea, choose one that uses carbon dioxide and water as the solvent (effervescence). This is the preferred method of decaffeination because it retains most of the catechins.
6. Achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
Studies indicate that being overweight or obese increases the risk of prostate cancer mortality (death). Maintaining a healthy body weight is important to reduce the risk of cancer as well as other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. If you need to lose weight, aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week for healthy weight loss.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, following the New American Plate guidelines is a simple way to create meals that lower your risk for cancer and other chronic diseases and help manage your weight. Your New American Plate should consist of 2/3 (or more) vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, and 1/3 (or less) of animal protein (such as meat and poultry). This plant-based diet approach may decrease the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
7. Exercise regularly.
Daily exercise and physical activity are also very important in reducing the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Regular exercise releases tension, decreases stress, keeps hormone levels healthy, and improves immune function.
For men with prostate cancer, resistance exercise (strength training) improves muscular strength and performance, decreases fatigue, and improves the quality of life. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per day, 5 days a week. Talk with your healthcare provider to determine what activities are best for you.
8. Get the right dose of nutrients to keep your prostate healthy.
Research has shown that certain vitamins and minerals are healthy for the prostate.
Maintaining a normal vitamin D level is important. There is some controversy about the optimal level. However, most experts agree that maintaining a blood level over 30 ng/ml is best for overall health. According to the Institute of Medicine, the “upper limit” is 4,000 IU, which for most people corresponds to an upper blood level of 50 ng/ml. Our bodies produce vitamin D naturally through exposure to sunlight. You can also get vitamin D from some foods (such as wild-caught fatty fish) and dietary supplements.
Adequate vitamin E and selenium intake, either from foods or a supplement using natural forms of these nutrients, is also important for prostate health.
In summary, taking these steps can help decrease your risk of prostate cancer and keep your prostate healthy.
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