June is Men’s Health Month! Focusing on prostate health, including prevention of inflammation and cancer, this month’s blog may provide insight into doable ways to support men’s health through diet and lifestyle.
Why does prostate health matter?
The prostate is a gland about the size of a walnut that is located beneath the male bladder and is important for reproductive functions. The prostate goes through many normal changes through the lifespan, but around age 40 it usually begins to enlarge. Around 30 million men are affected by negative impacts on health and lifestyle stemming from prostate conditions. The most common cancer in males is that of the prostate. Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate and is an area of concern for men of all ages. This inflammation does not necessarily mean cancer will be seen in the future, but it certainly raises the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Did you know that even though prostate cancer is the most common cancer in males and ranks at the third highest cause of cancer deaths in men, 90% of men who get diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer are able to maintain a normal life after receiving treatments?
What causes it?
Cancer results from mutated cells within our bodies caused by various reasons. Detrimental byproducts of our natural metabolism called free radicals cause damage to our bodies and our DNA, known as oxidative stress. This DNA damage is what causes cells to mutate and become categorized as cancerous, as the DNA can no longer be replicated as it should. Oxidative damage can be lessened through consumption of antioxidants from foods, which help to debilitate and remove free radicals from our bodies. Antioxidants are found in many plant foods, particularly fruits and vegetables as well as teas, coffee, and cocoa, and can help reduce the risk of cancers and overall oxidative damage within the body.
Foods for prostate health and cancer prevention:
Studies support the role of diet and prostate cancer prevention. Moreover, by consuming 5+ servings of fruits & vegetables each day, choosing whole grains over refined grains, limiting red and processed meats, avoiding high intakes of refined sugar and sodium in ultra processed foods, and choosing ‘healthy’ fats over other fat choices, we know that you are helping to prevent disease.
Fats: olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish
Carbs: whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables
Fruits: Berries contain antioxidants like anthocyanins.
- Cruciferous vegetables contain high levels of vitamins & minerals, and also antioxidants & phytochemicals. These help reduce inflammation, which has been linked to the resistance of prostate cancer development.
- Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that has been the focus of research related to prostate cancer. Broccoli contains a phytochemical (plant chemical) suggested by research to hold an ability in targeting and preventing growth of cancerous cells.
- Tomatoes are high in the phytochemical called lycopene, which is protective against prostate cancer. They also contain vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidants. When tomatoes are cooked their cell walls are broken down, easing the body’s access for utilization. Cooked tomato products such as pastes, sauces, and juices are concentrated sources of powerful antioxidants, particularly lycopene, for prostate health and cancer prevention. For even more benefits, add in a small amount of olive oil, which can even further increase the ease of antioxidant absorption for our bodies!
- Nuts, seeds, legumes, tofu, eggs, poultry
- Cold water fish like salmon, sardines, and trout are also sources of healthy omega-3 fats that help to lower levels of triggered inflammation
Beverages: Beverages such as black and green teas, coffee, as well as vegetables juices and broths hold beneficial nutrients that are not present in other beverages, are easy for the body to digest, and can help to detoxify the prostate.
- Green tea has been shown to contain anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic antioxidants that may produce benefits to human health relating to the prostate. Research has suggested that consumption of 7 cups of green tea per day will result in a decreased risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Coffee consumption of 1-2 cups per day has been shown to be beneficial for prostate cancer prevention.
Note: Both tea and coffee are beneficial as a source of antioxidants, but caution must be taken when adding large amounts of added creams or milk and sugars, which can be counterproductive to the benefits.
- Broths, like bone and vegetable broths, contain vital nutrients absent in other beverages that are easily digested.
What not to eat
There is a category of foods called “ultra-processed” foods, which include those high in refined and other added sugars, excess sodium, unhealthy fats, and highly processed carbohydrates and meats, that are known to contribute to inflammation and chronic diseases, and can have lasting negative influences on our bodies.
Tying healthy lifestyle habits together for prostate health
What is best for prostate health thankfully is consistent with other advice for men’s overall health and longevity. Maintaining regular physical activity helps lower disease risks and helps prevent exacerbation of various health issues, including inflammation and cancers. Daily moderately paced walking (with a goal of 10,000 steps per day) is even enough to do the trick! Pair daily physical activity with a healthy diet for the best prevention. Choose fresh, whole foods over highly processed ones, such as many packaged and prepared foods, and do adopt the practice of reading and comparing nutrition labels to look for the simplest, healthiest ingredients. Finally, make it a goal to maintain a healthy weight with “simple” daily habits, such as eating smaller portions and taking a bit more time to mindfully eat meals to help ensure long-term prostate and overall optimal health.
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