Health Victories

Prostate Cancer: Can Nutrition make a difference?

Photo showing vegetables in bowls

Chances are you or someone you know has been personally touched by prostate cancer. Not surprising given that it is the second most common type of cancer among men worldwide with 1 in 9 men diagnosed during their lifetime. Risk increases with age, with 60% of all prostate cancer diagnoses occurring in men over age 65. Despite the exact cause of prostate cancer still deemed unknown there are several nutrition and lifestyle factors within one’s control that can reduce risk of diagnosis and/or recurrence. Take note, if not for you do so for that friend or family member.

First and foremost, control your weight. The evidence is strong regarding higher risk of advanced prostate cancer in individuals who are overweight or obese. Weight control can be attained with balanced meals and plenty of brightly colored non-starchy vegetables such as peppers, beets, spinach, carrots and broccoli. Next time you are hungry, consider raw veggies with low-fat cottage cheese or hummus or adding extra veggies to a slice of pizza or sandwich. These simple switch-outs add volume and encourage fullness all while keeping calories in check. In addition to vegetables, focus on adding beans, fruits and whole grains. These plant-based foods contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Plant foods to note for their ability to fight prostate cancer include tomatoes, especially cooked tomato products, allium vegetables (garlic, leeks, onions, scallions and shallots), cruciferous vegetables (arugula, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, turnips, turnip greens, and watercress) and ground flax seed. Limit refined grains and added sugars as these foods can result in weight gain. Substitute wheat bread in place of white bread and have a piece of fresh fruit instead of cake or cookies to satisfy your sweet tooth. These minor but significant changes go a long way in helping to tip the scale in your favor.

Take some risks…with your cooking that is. Experiment with turmeric, olive oil and a dash of black pepper in cooking. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric reduces inflammation and helps to prevent tumor cells from surviving. Combining turmeric with olive oil and black pepper allows the body to absorb curcumin. A few suggestions are to add to eggs or frittatas, toss with roasted vegetables or blend into a smoothie. Add fatty fish to your weekly menu rotation. Three ounces of omega-3 fatty acid rich fish 3x/week has been associated with significant reduction in the risk of metastatic prostate cancer. Just remember the magic number is 3 when it comes to fish! Examples of fatty fish include salmon, black cod, mackerel, sardines, trout and herring.

Aim to get your nutrients from whole foods instead of the combination of excessive use of multivitamins (7 or more pills weekly) AND heavily fortified foods, such as cereals. Combining dietary supplements such as multivitamins with fortified foods can easily exceed recommended daily intakes. Dairy products are one such food where high calcium intake can be too much of a good thing. In order to reduce prostate cancer risk, recommendations include limiting dairy intake to <3 servings daily. Examples of one serving of dairy include 1 cup of low fat milk or 1 slice of cheese. Do you identify yourself an avid drinker of cow’s milk and easily exceed the recommended three servings per day? Consider switching to soymilk instead. Soymilk and other soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, soybeans and soy nuts are a great source of protein and are associated with cancer reducing components called isoflavones (soy phytochemicals).

Last but not least, aim to incorporate exercise to your daily routine. Start slow, with walking or another low impact exercise such as swimming and build up to a goal exercises that increase your heart rate. An increased heart rate can be characterized as only being able to speak in short phrases or rapid breathing and sweating while exercising. Ideally, one should work up to a goal of 5 or more hours weekly of vigorous or “heart pumping” exercise per week. Do not be discouraged if you are not close to that number. Remember start slow and build up to this goal. Also, consult with your doctor first prior to starting any new exercising program.

Therefore, as you can see there is a LOT you can do to reduce your risk of prostate cancer diagnosis and/or recurrence. These diet and lifestyle recommendations are key for prevention. Talk with your doctor or medical provider about meeting with a registered dietitian to discuss these recommendations in more detail and develop a personalized plan for you.