10 Best Foods For Prostate Health
A diet rich in whole, natural foods is not only excellent for overall health, but also for prostate health. Research shows that certain nutrients and foods that have an abundance of these substances have the potential to both help prevent and treat health issues that challenge the prostate, including prostatitis, benign prostatic hypertrophy, and prostate cancer. In other words, you have the ability to support and promote a healthy prostate every time you sit down to a meal.
With that in mind, here are 10 super foods that can contribute to prostate health:
Of all the different types of nuts, these natives of South America are an especially rich source of the mineral selenium, which is important for prostate health. In fact, just one ounce of Brazil nuts can contain as much as ten times the RDA for selenium. Research has shown that selenium intake is associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
The Brazil nut tree grows in Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. The Brazil nut is actually a seed and not a nut, because the so-called “nuts” are encased in a woody shell which, when split open, reveals 8 to 24 seeds/nuts.
These seeds/nuts are also a very good source of zinc, another mineral that plays an important role in maintaining a healthy prostate. An addition, Brazil nuts contain all the amino acids necessary to qualify as a complete protein, and the nuts are also a good source of magnesium and thiamine. The high saturated fat content of Brazil nuts (25%) suggests you limit your consumption to just a few ounces per week, but since they are such a powerhouse when it comes to selenium, that’s all you need to help promote prostate health.
Broccoli is a source of some very critical nutritional benefits that are not listed on a nutrition label. As a member of the cruciferous family, which is also populated by cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, and many other vegetables, broccoli contains high amounts of the phytonutrients sulforaphane and the indoles, both of which have anticancer properties.
Sulforaphane enhances the activity of the body’s detoxification enzymes, which helps to eliminate potentially cancer-causing elements more quickly. A study published in Cancer discovered that indole-3-carbinol, which occurs naturally in broccoli and its cousins, suppressed the growth of prostate cancer cells and also inhibited the production of prostate specific antigen (PSA).
Investigators with the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial found that eating broccoli more than once a week could reduce the likelihood of developing stage III and IV prostate cancer by 45 percent. The most healthful way to enjoy broccoli is lightly steamed or sautéed for no more than five minutes. If the vegetable is cooked longer than that, the anticancer abilities of its phytonutrients fade.
Before you begin cooking, however, cut the florets into pieces and let them sit for about five minutes. This allows the vegetable’s cancer-preventing elements to form before you cook it, because heat denatures the enzyme that allows the process to occur. To boost the healthful value of your meal, add virgin olive oil and fresh garlic and cayenne. More on cruciferous vegetables and prostate cancer
The hot and spicy cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum), also known as chili peppers, is the source of this prostate-supportive spice. Cayenne peppers get their heat from a high concentration of a substance called capsaicin. While capsaicin is widely known for its ability to reduce pain, studies have also shown that it can help kill cancer cells, including prostate cancer cells.
Specifically, capsaicin has demonstrated an ability to cause prostate cancer cells to “commit suicide” (a process called apoptosis). Capsaicin does this by attacking the energy-making portion of the cells, called the mitochondria, and it is able to do this without harming the healthy cells that surround the cancer cells.
Along with its anticancer abilities, capsaicin also offers cardiovascular benefits because it is a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals that can lead to atherosclerosis. A few more benefits include helping to prevent ulcers, opening and draining congested nasal passage, and reducing cell damage that can lead to diabetic complications. More on cayenne
The medicinal powers of green tea are attributed to antioxidant compounds called catechins, a type of polyphenol that has been shown to destroy certain bacteria and viruses, boost the immune system, and fight several forms of cancer, including prostate cancer. Although there are several different kinds of catechins, experts have identified epigallocatechin gallate, EGCG, as the most potent.
Research has shown that green tea polyphenols, primarily EGCG, can significantly lower the levels of PSA and two biomarkers for prostate cancer, hepatocyte growth factor and vascular endothelial growth factor. Green tea catechins also may help men who have pre-cancerous prostate lesions, also known as prostate intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN), a condition that signals a high risk of developing “full-on” prostate cancer. Studies show that men with PIN who took catechins daily had a significantly lower risk of developing prostate cancer and also a reduced risk of lower urinary tract symptoms, which makes catechins helpful in treating symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy.
Study after study has demonstrated that men who drink at least three cups of green tea each day have a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Experts have found that green tea compounds interfere with the activity of an enzyme that has a role in initiating prostate cancer, and that the compounds also prompt prostate cancer cells to “commit suicide.” Catechins also work to repair damaged DNA that might otherwise trigger cancer growth, as well as hinder the actions of an enzyme called COX-2, which is involved in the process of prostate cancer. More on green tea and prostate health
Mushrooms, and especially Asian varieties, offer great health benefits, including their ability to help fight cancer. One Asian mushroom that has a long history—more than 6,000 years—of proving its medicinal powers is the shiitake. These mushrooms contain lentinan, a type of beta-glucan, which has demonstrated anticancer properties. A 2009 study, for example, showed that shiitake mushrooms suppressed tumor spread in mice implanted with human colon and breast cancer cells. In an earlier study, lentinan inhibited development of human colon cancer in mice. Thus far, no studies have looked specifically at the impact of shiitake mushrooms on prostate cancer.
Asian mushrooms also contain a potent antioxidant called L-ergothioneine. Studies show that ergothioneine is present in very high concentrations in shiitake, oyster, king oyster, reishi, and maitake mushrooms. Ergothioneine’s forte is exerting its potent antioxidant properties to protect the cells throughout the body, including the prostate. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine research recently found that ergothioneine provided protection to cells from damage associated with toxins and other substances.
To make mushrooms a part of your diet, look for the Asian varieties, which are best when cooked, and add them to stir-fry, soups, stews, and pasta sauces. Prepare them along with your lightly steamed vegetables and add them to cooked whole grains to get their prostate-protecting benefits.
Pomegranates have recently been the subject of much research and discussion as scientists have been discovering more and more benefits of eating these unusual fruits. In particular, pomegranates are rich in antioxidants and a phytonutrient called ellagitannin, which is especially helpful in promoting prostate health. Test tube studies show that pomegranate extracts can slow the reproduction of prostate cancer cells and prompt the cells to commit suicide.
In other studies, ellagitannins have shown that they can interfere with the growth of new blood vessels, which are necessary to nourish prostate tumors. At the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers found that pomegranate juice significantly slowed progression of prostate cancer in men who had had surgery or radiation for the disease but whose PSA levels had risen, indicating a possible return of the disease.
Although pomegranate fruit itself can be a challenge to eat because of its leathery rind, pomegranate juice is readily available and a popular choice. Supplements are also available. More on pomegranate and prostate cancer
Pumpkin seeds offer some unique health benefits for the prostate, especially for men who have benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). This condition, which involves enlargement of the prostate gland, commonly affects men 50 years and older. One thing that contributes to BPH is overstimulation of the prostate cells by testosterone and another hormone, dihydrotestosterone. The oil in pumpkin seeds can help prevent the hormones from triggering multiplication of prostate cells.
Pumpkin seed oil also contains carotenoids and omega-3 fatty acids. Research shows that men who have higher levels of carotenoids in their diet have a reduced risk of BPH.
Another nutrient found in pumpkin seeds is zinc, which is associated with prostate health. A recent study from the Linus Pauling Institute suggests that zinc may protect against the development of prostate cancer. So far, studies of the impact of zinc on BPH have had mixed results. More on pumpkin seeds and prostate health
Omega-3 fatty acids are an important nutrient for supporting prostate health, and a delicious, nutritious way to get these omega-3s is with salmon. The meaty texture and light taste of salmon is often enough to convince even people who are not fond of fish to enjoy this fish on occasion. The flesh of salmon varies in color from red to pink and orange, and some varieties of salmon have greater amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than others.
Experts have found that omega-3 fatty acids in fish may slow prostate tumor development and progression in men who already have the disease, and help prevent the disease from developing in others. Study results published in April 2009 in Clinical Cancer Research reported that eating fish like salmon at least once a week may reduce a man’s risk of developing advanced prostate cancer even if he is genetically predisposed to getting the disease.
A British study published in 2009 reported that omega-3 fatty acids, and especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two main omega-3s found in oily fish like salmon, have powerful anti-angiogenic effects, which means they fight the development of blood vessels that nourish tumors.
One question about salmon is whether to buy wild or farmed fish. Research commissioned by the Pew Foundation shows that farmed salmon had significantly more concentrated toxins than wild salmon. Farmed salmon are also fed antibiotics to prevent disease and dyes to give them color. Therefore there is evidence that wild salmon is a healthier choice. More on omega 3 and cancer
Tomatoes are a popular food as well as a superior source of lycopene, a phytonutrient, or more specifically a carotenoid, one of a group of yellow, orange, and red pigments found in plants. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant that has proven itself in study after study to have properties that enhance prostate health.
Although fresh tomatoes are nutritious, their lycopene antioxidant potency increases when they are processed. Processing breaks down the cell walls of tomatoes, which makes the lycopene more accessible to the body. Thus tomato paste, sauce, soup, and juice offer more antioxidant protection for the prostate than do fresh tomatoes. The results of many studies show that processed tomato products really enhance prostate health.
For example, a Brazilian study found that men with BPH who consumed 50 grams of tomato paste daily for 10 weeks had a greater than 10 percent decline in their PSA levels compared with levels before the study. Another study evaluated about 48,000 men and found that those who ate lots of tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, and pizza had a 35 percent reduced risk of developing prostate cancer and a 53 percent lower risk of getting aggressive prostate cancer.
Researchers from Germany’s University of Bonn say that just one serving of tomatoes or a tomato product every day could protect against the DNA damage that can set the stage for prostate cancer. Tomatoes are also good for managing benign prostatic hypertrophy and keeping PSA levels down.
Because processed tomato products are available year round, it is easy to make them a part of your diet. Something as simple as a glass of tomato juice daily can be helpful in promoting prostate health. More on lycopene and cancer
Turmeric is a perennial plant whose roots are ground into this popular spice. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which gives the spice its bitter, peppery taste.
Traditionally turmeric has been used to fight inflammation, colds, and asthma, but scientists have also discovered its anticancer properties, including its ability to fight prostate cancer. A group of scientists at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, found that turmeric alone and combined with a phytonutrient derived from cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cabbage) may be effective in preventing and treating prostate cancer, and that the combination significantly reduced tumor growth.
A 2009 study from Oregon Health and Science University reported that curcumin has “potential anti-metastatic [anti-spreading] effects in bone-derived prostate cancer cells.” Yet other research, this time from Columbia University, found that turmeric has the ability to cause prostate cancer cells to “commit suicide,” a process known as apoptosis.
Turmeric can be enjoyed in curry dishes, and it is available as a supplement. More on turmeric/curcumin and prostate cancer