Nutritional approaches can support prostate health and following a prostate-friendly diet can improve prostate pain (prostatodynia), prostate inflammation (prostatitis), benign prostate enlargement (BPH) and offer some benefits for men with prostate cancer, too.
Foods can have a protective effect on the prostate gland in a variety of ways, and may:
- Reduce inflammation (eg omega-3 fish oils).
- Reduce conversion of testosterone hormone to dihydro-testosterone (DHT) which stimulates prostate growth (eg lignans found in sweet potato and pumpkin seeds).
- Block hormone receptors to reduce cell proliferation (eg soy isoflavones, flaxseed and chickpea lignans).
- Improve the balance of healthy bacteria within the gut (eg probiotics) and promote the release of protective plant hormones that suppress prostate growth (eg equol from soy, enterolactone from pumpkin seeds).
- Bind toxins to reduce their effects in promoting inflammation or cancer (eg plant fibres).
- Boost immune reactions that protect against infection, inflammation and cancer (eg vitamin D).
Other possible effects involve interactions with prostate cell genetic material, such as preventing or repairing gene mutations, switching on anti-cancer genes or switching off cancer-promoting genes (eg selenium, lycopene, pomegranate, turmeric, green tea).
Researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford, for example, have found that men who eat more than 10 portions of tomatoes or tomato products a week are 18% less likely to develop prostate cancer than those eating fewer tomatoes.
Pomegranate fruit extracts have been found to decrease a testosterone-induced increase in prostate weight, most likely by increasing the natural programmed cell death (apoptosis) of abnormal cells. Pomegranate juice also has a natural antibiotic action that inhibits the growth of a wide range of bacteria and can reduce the number of white blood cells present in prostatitis. Its juice even contains higher concentrations of antioxidants than either green tea or red wine. Research suggests ellagic acid is the most active pomegranate component against prostate cancer and, as a bonus, drinking pomegranate juice may also improve erectile dysfunction.
Prostate diet foods
Best advice for a prostate-friendly diet, at present, is to eat more:
- Soy-based products and/or take isoflavone supplements. Probiotic sources may increase their benefit.
- Lentils, flaxseed, pumpkin seed and sweet potato for lignans.
- Tomatoes and tomato-based products, and/or take lycopene supplements.
- Garlic or take garlic tablets.
- Cruciferous (Brassica) vegetables, especially broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Asian vegetables such as pak choy and kohl rabi for their anti-cancer glucosinolates.
- Fish, including at least two portions of oily fish per week, or take fish oil supplements.
- Avocados for monounsaturated fats and antioxidants such as vitamin E.
- Berries, especially the dark purple varieties, for antioxidant anthocyanins.
- Pomegranates and/or drink pomegranate juice for their unique antioxidants called punicalgins.
- Turmeric – a rich source of curcumin which reduces inflammation and has anti-cancer activity.
- Nuts and seeds – especially Brazil nuts for selenium.
It’s also advisable to drink more green tea or, if you don’t like the taste, to consider a green tea supplement. Black tea may not be as protective.
Maintain good intakes of zinc and magnesium.
The traditional herbal medicine, Saw Palmetto, is also beneficial for benign prostate enlargement, especially in reducing the bothersome symptom of having to get up at night to visit the bathroom.
Prostate diet foods to avoid
Limit your intake of red meat, especially well-cooked/charred meat and processed meat products (eg sausages, burgers, ham, salami).
Some evidence suggests that fish is best eaten either raw (eg sushi, sashimi), steamed or only lightly cooked – fish cooked at high temperature may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Watch your intake of dairy products – swap cows’ milk products for soy versions, for example. More information on associations between prostate cancer and dairy products such as cheese are included in a separate post.
These nutritional approaches, and more, are included in my Quick Nutrition book- Prostate Diet: BPH, Prostatitis, Prostate Cancer which is available for Kindle. I also recommend The Prostate Care Cookbook published with the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation.
Have you found dietary changes or supplements helpful for improving prostate symptoms?
Photo credit: africa_studio/shutterstock; pixabay