10 Foods That Do (or Don’t) Boost Prostate Health
Making healthy lifestyle choices is one of the best ways to help reduce your risk of prostate cancer, the second-most common cancer in men. And part of a healthy lifestyle includes paying attention to the foods you eat. “Multiple studies suggest a healthy diet is related to lower risk of prostate cancer,” says Justin R. Gregg, M.D., a urologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Consider following these food “dos” and “don’ts” to help boost your prostate health and lower your risk of prostate cancer.
Do Eat Tomatoes
Tomatoes are an excellent food to add to your diet when you’re looking to improve your prostate health, says Ashley Ross, M.D., a urologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “Tomatoes have a higher amount of lycopene, which can be helpful,” he says. That’s because lycopene is an antioxidant that may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer by preventing the growth of cancer cells, per the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Get the most benefit by eating more tomatoes cooked in olive oil along with tomato paste, sauce, and juice, says the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Don’t Char Your Meat
It may be tasty, but don’t let that meat blacken too much on the grill—charred meat contains a carcinogen that can increase prostatic inflammation, which may up your cancer risk, says Dr. Ross. In fact, eating a lot of well-done, fried, or barbecued meats has been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer as well as pancreatic and colorectal cancer, per the NCI. When cooking, avoid letting meat directly touch an open flame or hot metal surface, and try to turn the meat over frequently when using high heat sources to help reduce the formation of carcinogens, says the NCI.
Do Eat Your Greens
Want to reduce your prostate cancer risk? “Add in green, leafy vegetables to your diet,” Dr. Ross recommends. In general, foods with more intense colors may have more antioxidants (which help keep your cells healthy), says the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and green, leafy vegetables also tend to be rich in nutrients in general. For example, spinach is packed with vitamins A, C, and K, while kale is high in cancer-fighting antioxidants, calcium, vitamins C and K, and other nutrients that promote overall health. Try using raw kale as a crunchy base for your next salad.
Don’t Eat Too Many Saturated Fats
Avoiding saturated fats is also a good rule of thumb to help take care of prostate and overall health, Dr. Ross says. Further, one study in Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases found that eating a high amount of saturated fats may make prostate cancer more aggressive, though it’s unclear why. That means cutting back on foods high in butter, fatty meats and dairy products, and sweets like cake and cookies.
Do Go Fish
Part of eating a healthy diet means getting enough healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids—yep, not all fats are bad! Fish like salmon, trout, and sardines, for example, contain these good fats, which studies have found don’t cause as much inflammation as saturated animal fats like beef do, says the Prostate Cancer Foundation. This knowledge can aid your prostate health because inflammation can raise your risk of prostate cancer.
Don’t Consume Too Much Red Meat
Eating a diet that’s low in red meat—think less beef, lamb, and pork—is wise if you are looking to reduce your risk of prostate cancer, says Dr. Ross. One study in the International Journal of Cancer found that people who ate a large amount of red meat and processed meat had higher risks of developing advanced prostate cancer. And it’s not just prostate cancer—red meat is associated with increased risk of cancer in general, possibly due to the fat and iron it contains, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Do Hunt for Vitamin D
“Various evidence shows that vitamin D tends to be protective against prostate cancer,” says Dr. Ross. For example, one study in PLoS One found that people with lower amounts of a certain type of vitamin D were more likely to develop advanced prostate cancer compared with people with higher levels; vitamin D is thought to be protective due to its ability to help regulate tumor growth. There aren’t many foods that naturally contain vitamin D (fatty fish is one of them), but you can buy some foods that are fortified with it, like cereals.
Don’t Overdo the Dairy
“In terms of foods to avoid, the American Institute for Cancer Research lists limited or suggestive evidence that dairy products may be associated with higher risk of prostate cancer, though this evidence is not strong at this point,” says Dr. Gregg. That said, it’s safe to say going overboard on the dairy won’t do you any favors—again, this may be related to the saturated fats found in dairy products, which should be limited.
Do Go Mediterranean
Some research shows the Mediterranean diet may be linked to lower risk of prostate cancer, too, says Dr. Gregg. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of this diet, touted to be the savior of good health. High in fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and whole grains, a Med diet may help slow cancer progression; in fact, a 2021 study in Cancer co-authored by Dr. Gregg found men who followed this diet were less likely to have their prostate cancer advance.
The Bottom Line
Many risk factors for prostate cancer are out of your control, such as your genetics and family history—but other simple factors, like getting enough physical activity and eating a healthy diet, can make an impact on your risk level, too. Eating a diet full of nutrient-rich fruits and veggies and healthy fats, and with limited red and processed meats, is one of the best ways to be proactive and help take care of your prostate health in the long term.
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Prostate Cancer Risk Factors: American Cancer Society. (2020.) “Prostate Cancer Risk Factors.” cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html
Mediterranean Diet Study: Cancer. (2021.) “Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and grade group progression in localized prostate cancer: An active surveillance cohort.” acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/cncr.33182