THE DETAILS: Researchers from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and the Cancer Council of New South Wales scoured studies published between 1965 and 2008 on the topic of diet and nutrition and their effects on prostate cancer. The goal was to see if enough evidence existed in support of or against the inclusion of certain foods and nutrients (such as alcohol, meat, fat, lycopene, selenium, calcium, and various vitamins) in a diet aimed at reducing prostate cancer risk. While evidence proved inconclusive for many of the nutrients, the researchers did find a connection between phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables, as well as polyphenol compounds in beverages like tea, and a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Conversely, eating more meat and dairy products seems to increase a person’s prostate cancer risk.
WHAT IT MEANS: The authors of this review concluded there wasn’t enough definitive evidence to prescribe a specific diet that has the power to reduce a person’s risk of prostate cancer. But that doesn’t mean that eating well won’t positively affect your prostate—and overall—health. “Certainly, diet is not the only factor that affects the development of prostate cancer and its treatment, but striving for a healthy diet is an important step that people can take to reduce their cancer risk,” says Kathy Chapman, chair of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee for the Cancer Council, and one of the study’s authors.
So just what does a healthy prostate diet include? Here are some foods you should strive to eat more of, along with a few to start limiting.
Eat more of these:
• Tomato-based products. Soups, pasta sauces, and tomato-based juices increase your body’s stores of lycopene, a carotenoid found mainly in tomatoes. This phytochemical helps limit damage to cells like those in the prostate, and at least three studies have found that tomato intake and lycopene levels are linked to a reduced incidence of prostate cancer. You can also find lycopene in watermelon.
• Beverages containing polyphenols. Green tea and pomegranate juice are rich in antioxidant-containing polyphenols, which help prevent cell oxidation (chemical damage), and stop the spread of cancerous cells.
• Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and bok choy all contain compounds that have been shown to protect cells from DNA damage. Several studies have shown that a high intake of these types of veggies is associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer.
Eat less of these:
• Meats cooked at high temperatures. Grilling or sautéing meat at high temperatures creates a type of carcinogen that has been found to cause prostate cancer in animal models. Charbroiling red meat or chicken with its skin intact produces yet another type of carcinogen. Both of these cancer causers are also found in tobacco smoke. As you enjoy this year’s prime grilling season, keep blackening to a minimum. Try recipes that call for cooking meat over a lower temperature or in foil. If you grill frequently, include some seafood, grilled veggies and fruits, and other choices in your menus.
• Sugary, processed foods. Sugar is a prime source of energy for many types of cancer cells, including those involved in prostate cancer. The more unneeded sugar you take in, the more existing tumors will be stimulated and grow. Some animal studies suggest that the simple act of cutting sugar from your diet can slow prostate cancer growth. Plus, feeding on sugary snacks makes it easier to gain weight, which is a know cancer risk factor.
• Dairy products. Though the exact link between dairy product consumption and prostate cancer is unknown, plenty of studies have found that people who consume more dairy products have a slightly higher risk of developing prostate cancer. It’s believed that calcium and lactose may be part of the problem, as it’s not just whole milk, but low-fat and skim as well that have been implicated in this increased risk. That said, men do need healthy intakes of calcium. Men over 18 should aim to get 1,000 milligrams (mg) a day, and bump that up to 1,200 mg/day starting at age 51. A cup of skim milk has about 300 mg of calcium; some fortified cereals can have as much as 1,000 mg per serving.