The Mediterranean Diet has a strong association between lowering cancer risk and preventing heart disease. This is attributed to the fact that this diet is focused on whole foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans while also focusing on healthy unsaturated fats from plants. With this style of eating, there’s also an emphasis on decreasing processed or refined foods along with lowering intake of red meat or processed red meats. It allows alcohol in moderation and its focus on whole foods supports adequate fiber intake. It also allows for a wide range of foods, which means it’s more of a lifestyle rather than just a fad diet.
RELATED: How the Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Since this style of eating has a positive impact on cancer prevention, adopting healthy eating habits now could help prevent prostate problems down the road. Some nutrients and vitamins can have a very positive effect on the health of your prostate. Making sure you’re getting the right nutrients as part of a balanced diet can play an important role in the health of your prostate.
4 nutrients that contribute to prostate health
Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight is important to your overall well-being and the health of your prostate. Fiber could support weight loss since it provides a sense of fullness, delays fat absorption, and prevents constipation. Additionally, a diet rich in natural fiber obtained from fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains may reduce cancer risk and reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce your risks for prostate cancer and cancer progression. One study indicated that men who consumed cold-water fish three to four times per week had a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Findings show that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, improve cardiovascular health, and deliver anticancer properties beneficial for prostate health. Dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish–such as salmon, trout, herring, and sardines—flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, and canola oil.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with supporting cancer prevention. While more research is needed on lycopene’s effects on prostate cancer, it’s generally believed to be beneficial. Good sources of lycopene include tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricots, and papaya. In tomatoes, the cooking process releases lycopene from the plant’s cells, increasing your ability to absorb it.
Consuming cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and brussels sprouts that are high in vitamin C may reduce your risk of developing an enlarged prostate. The National Cancer Institute notes that more research is necessary to determine whether or not vitamin C supplements can prevent or fight prostate cancer, but people who eat cruciferous vegetables that are rich in vitamin C tend to have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer.
Sometimes, Less Is More
While some foods and dietary supplements have a positive impact on prostate health, others should be taken in moderation, or not at all. Here are a few examples of nutrients where less is more.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in red wine, or it's available as a supplement. It’s used for its beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease and lipid profiles and is regarded as a cancer preventative and antioxidant. Because of these benefits, some people may think drinking more is better but overall high intake of alcohol could be a risk factor for many different types of cancer. For prostate health, low levels of alcohol – a limit of one glass of wine a day or one drink per day is recommended.
A single low-dose multivitamin may have preventive benefits in respect to prostate cancer, but high-dose multivitamins have been shown to be harmful and may even advance prostate cancer. In other words, take your vitamins, but don’t overdo it!
Selenium and Vitamin E
In 2001, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) launched a large-scale study called SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial) to follow up on evidence that suggested selenium and vitamin E might reduce the risk of prostate cancer. The trial showed that adding selenium doesn’t reduce the risk of prostate cancer — and it might increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. In the same trial, healthy men using 400 international units of vitamin E–the standard supplement dose in U.S. capsules–actually showed an increased risk of prostate cancer. Since most men’s vitamins contain both selenium and vitamin E, you may consider taking a women’s vitamin instead and also avoid taking and mega doses of either of these vitamins.
Zinc has been touted as a method to improve the immune system for prostate health. Patients with chronic prostatitis tend to have low levels of zinc within the prostate or seminal fluid. However, dietary supplementation doesn’t result in increased zinc within the prostate. In fact, high doses of supplemental zinc have been found to cause abnormal changes in the immune system resulting in increased urinary tract infections, prostate enlargement, and increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Low levels of zinc such as 20 mg per day in a multivitamin is adequate.
The Bottom Line
Adopting a healthy diet, participating in an active lifestyle and achieving or maintaining a healthy weight can go a long way toward the health of your prostate. While more research is needed, eating more vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains — while avoiding fattening foods and red meat — is encouraged to help you take advantage of beneficial nutrients and avoid cancer-promoting factors.