This month’s newsletter focus is Men’s health, and I can think of no better topic to explore than prostate health. Let’s dive into some evidence-based nutrition tips as it relates to general prostate health and cancer prevention.
Common disorders of the prostate include enlargement, inflammation, infection, and cancer. An estimated 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime and is the third leading cause of death from cancer in men in Canada. Enlarged prostate is also a common condition that affects men as they age, affecting about 50% of men between the ages of 51-60, but jumps to 70% in men aged 61-70, and around 80% in men over 70 years of age.
Nutrition Science and Prostate Health
While there is limited research on the direct role of nutrition in the treatment or prevention of enlarged prostate or prostate cancer, nearly all evidence-based recommendations are safe and consistent with the prevention of many diseases. Not surprisingly, general consensus promotes adopting a Mediterranean dietary approach, consisting of a variety of plant-based foods (I.e., cruciferous vegetables, anti-oxidant rich fruits, nuts and seeds, and plant-based proteins such as legumes), and emphasis on leaner meats like chicken or turkey, and omega-3 rich fatty fish like salmon, arctic char, mackerel, and trout.
In contrast, high-fat diets or those higher in processed foods and frequent red meat consumption do appear to be associated with a higher risk of prostate-related medical conditions. Furthermore, when consuming red meat and processed meats, the use of high-temperature cooking methods is recommended to be minimized, as these cooking methods are known to generate carcinogenic (i.e., cancer-causing) compounds.
But rather than focus too much on what to avoid putting in your body, here are some tips on what you should be putting in:
- Increase vegetables, particularly cruciferous-type
- Arugula, Bok choy, collard greens, kale
- Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower
- Horseradish, wasabi, turnips, radishes, watercress, rutabaga
- Tip: Add mustard (any type) as an ingredient in your cooked cruciferous vegetables (more on this below).
- Increase soy-containing foods, rich in beneficial molecules called isoflavones
- Tofu, soy milk, edamame, tempeh
- Increase specific antioxidants, each with unique health benefits
- Catechins found in tea (especially green tea), cacao, apples, prunes, and acai berries
- Xanthones found in the fruit mangosteen
- Lycopene found in cooked tomato-based products
- Various antioxidants in coffee (including decaf)
- Increase consumption of foods rich in selenium and zinc
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, tuna, halibut, tiger nuts, enriched pastas
- Zinc: Pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, nuts, legumes, fortified cereals, dairy, eggs, shellfish, red meat (in moderation)
Fun facts on some of the less common foods highlighted above
Nicknamed the “Queen of Fruit”, mangosteen is a tropical fruit found in South East Asia, and it’s taste is a mix of tart and sweetness. It does not taste like mango, but is rather more similar to lychee with hints of floral and other sweet tropical flavours. They are also one of the only known food sources of a molecule called alpha-mangostin, an antioxidant molecule with proposed anti-cancer benefits, including prostate. While most research is in animal models, incorporating this exotic fruit does represent a safe and interesting approach. I have seen it at various Asian markets, such as T&T and Hong Kong Food Market in Calgary.
Tiger nuts (which are actually edible tubers) may be an unfamiliar food for you, but it’s a great addition to a smoothie or sprinkled over yogurt. It’s also a super concentrated source of both zinc and Vitamin E, two nutrients implicated in prostate health. Also, a great source of fibre, tiger nuts can be found likely in a health food store in a ground, powdered form.
Why mustard and cruciferous vegetables?
Firstly, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have dietary components that may be protective against several cancer types, including prostate. However, it appears that when these vegetables are cooked, this can change the chemical structure of these molecules in a way that makes them less effective towards cancer prevention. So, we could aim for raw, but perhaps even more interestingly, is that an enzyme abundant in mustard seed can revert the molecule back to its ideal form. For this reason, I can highly recommend adding some kind of mustard-based salad dressing or spice combination to your cooked cruciferous vegetables to enhance the health benefits!
What other nutrition can help?
Every day we learn something new in nutrition science. For example, there is growing evidence that the gut microbiome plays a role in prostate cancer. Some supplements may also play a role, such as Saw Palmetto for enlarged prostate, though more research is needed. One challenge as it relates to nutrition research, is that prostate conditions take decades to develop, while dietary and other lifestyle factors change over days, weeks, and years. There are also still many limitations on diagnostics we can use in research to assess the effect of a diet or lifestyle intervention. Therefore, we look to population-based research studies, animal models, and hopefully identify trends that appear safe and have a legitimate rationale in science.
The evidence for dietary patterns thought to promote prostate health is consistent with other disease-prevention nutrition strategies. Hopefully, these additional insights shared here help shape or inspire your diet strategy to try new ingredients or cooking methods.
Britney and I are here to help you learn nutrition science, navigate nutrition misinformation, and help create practical solutions within the context of your daily lives. Whether it’s nutritional health for men or women, we have your back.
Book an appointment today and let’s set some nutrition goals together!
Daniel Neuman RD MSc-