There is some evidence that certain foods may slow down the growth of prostate cancer or reduce the risk of it returning after treatment. At the moment this evidence is fairly limited and we need more research to understand and identify how different foods may help. Here's a quick guide to foods that may help or harm and some ideas of how to introduce or increase them in your diet.
Helpful Foods for Prostate Health
1. Soy (and other pulses)
These contain phytoestrogens (biologically active plant compounds) that are thought to be anti-cancerous. Isoflavones (a phytoestrogen) may contain cancer-fighting properties that help to reduce tumour growth*. Soybeans have particularly high levels of isoflavones. Various legumes including soybean, green bean, alfalfa sprout, mung bean sprout, cowpea, kudzu root and red clover sprout have been studied for their estrogenic activity. Highly processed foods made from legumes, such as tofu, retain most of their isoflavone content, with the exception of fermented miso, which has increased levels. Other dietary sources of isoflavones include chickpeas and peanuts.
2. Fish and Fish Oils
Having a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may help prevent the development and progression of prostate cancer. Try to eat at least two portions of fish a week. Include at least one, and up to four, portions of oily fish a week. Examples of oily fish include salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring and fresh tuna. These great Fish Oils have so many health benefits that Real Foods sell them! (We're normally entirely veggie, but we make an exception for these as they're so useful!)
3. Pomegranate Juice
It's the antioxidants in pomegranates that are being studied so extensively. Here's a link all about the pomegranate. You can find them here in our Real Foods webshop. Research studies suggest that pomegranates have beneficial effects on a number of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, and may also have positive effects on oral or dental health.
4. Tomatoes (and lycopene)
Lycopene is present in all red fruits and vegetables, but its concentrations are highest in tomatoes and it becomes more readily available and biologically active when it comes from processed tomatoes with a small amount of cooking oil added. That's right, make a tomato pasta sauce from scratch (try this stuffed courgettes with tomato sauce recipe) or grab a prepared one from our pasta and passata sauces range. It may be the most abundant nutrient of the carotenoid family related to prostate health. For prevention, a higher intake of lycopene shows greater benefit. Further studies have demonstrated higher fruit and vegetable intake, which in turn increases lycopene intake, helps lower prostate cancer risk.
5. Green Tea
There have been several studies into green tea and its potential benefits, but there is, as yet, no conclusive evidence. A large scale Japanese cohort study showed the more green tea men drank, the less likely they were to develop advanced prostate cancer during follow up. Men who drank five cups a day were about half as likely to develop advanced prostate cancer than those who only drank one cup a day. There have been several follow up studies into the active compounds in green tea which show distinct health beneifts in slowing tumours. Try Green Tea from Real Foods here, or if you fancy a change why not try some of the Flavoured Green Teas available here.
6. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are those from the Brassica family, they include (among others) Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Turnips, Watercress and Wasabi. Cruciferous vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, other nutrients, and chemicals known as glucosinolates. Glucosinolates break down into several biologically active compounds that are being studied for possible anticancer effects. The results are inconclusive as yet (some say yes, some say no and lots say possibly!), however you are always advised to eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones as their high levels of fibre and nutrition are useful.
Unhelpful Foods for Prostate Health
Fat. You need some, but too much fat in your diet may cause weight gain which could increase your risk.
Dairy (and calcium). Eating very high levels of calcium may increase the risks. However, you do need some in your diet to maintain health and strong bones.
Red meat (specifically red, processed or well-done). It may increase your risk of advanced cancers.
Generally speaking it's better to get your nutitional needs met through your diet. However supplements can be useful if you feel you need more support. They're also often used when a person doesn't like the taste of the foods they're meant to be eating! These supplements are specifically designed for prostate health. These fish oil and vegan omega supplements are very useful for supporting your body's function.
*Two review papers found a 30 percent reduced risk of developing prostate cancer among men with high soy consumption. In a double-blind randomised control trial among men with prostate cancer, those placed on a high soy diet, versus a diet composed mostly of wheat, showed a 12 percent decrease in prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood levels as compared with a 40 percent increase on the wheat diet. Such decreases in PSA signal that the cancer is not progressing.
*In a study of 6,272 Swedish men followed over 30 years, researchers reported that those men who ate no fish were two to three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men who consumed large amounts of fish in their diet.