How is it that the small, walnut-sized gland called the prostate can cause men such big problems? If it is enlarged or inflamed, it can create urgent and painful urination, reduced urine flow, pain and stiffness in the lower back and pelvic region, and can lead to cancer. The prostate is a small but important gland men must keep healthy. Men over the age of 50 have an increased risk of prostate problems, and about 2.5 million American men suffer from prostate cancer.
An article in the New York Times in March of 2020 described a growing approach to prostate cancer treatment called “active surveillance”. In the past, the majority of men diagnosed with prostate cancer underwent surgery and radiation. Now, with the improvement of monitoring technology beyond just the biopsy, estimates are that half of men with prostate cancer can avoid radical treatment if their cancer is diagnosed as low risk, with the option to pursue treatment if the cancer becomes more aggressive or life-threatening. With PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood tests, MRIs and high-resolution ultrasounds, many men are choosing this method of active surveillance where the prostate is left alone, but routinely monitored to ensure the cancer is not growing. Active surveillance would be a crucial time to consider how food choices could be contributing to prostate cancer.
Low grade inflammation can be at the root of all prostate problems, whether it's prostate cancer or an inflamed prostate called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Since inflammation of the prostate can lead to a host of problems, we think it makes sense to discuss the food connection to prostate health. Our nutritionists and dietitians at our sister company Nutritional Weight & Wellness help men understand which foods inflame the prostate and which are anti-inflammatory. We also have some supplement support to share, so read on!
Foods That Inflame
Those daily bagels, the frozen pizzas, the afternoon soda, even the muffin or donut from the gas station on the weekend can be linked to prostate problems. Research is saying that the foods some men routinely consume could lead to inflammation in their prostate. In a study on ultra-processed foods, regular consumption of sugary beverages was associated with a three times greater risk of prostate cancer, in addition to other health risks. Researchers have found that our bodies react differently to processed foods like bread, breakfast cereal, and soda that are high in sugar, damaged fats, and artificial additives compared to real, whole, nutrient-dense foods (1). Our bodies were built to break down, digest, and absorb real foods like plants and proteins. More research in this area is needed, but if you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer or have prostate cancer in your family, it makes sense to work with a nutritionist or dietitian to create an anti-inflammatory meal plan.
Foods That Reduce Inflammation
Eating a slice of orange or a forkful of broccoli floods your body with plant nutrients. These nutrients reduce inflammation in the prostate and alleviate prostate problems. There appears to be a link between plant nutrients called flavonoids and a reduced risk for aggressive prostate cancer. Based on a study conducted by Susan Steck, PhD, of the Arnold School of Public Health, "citrus fruits and juices, such as oranges and grapefruits, tea, grapes, strawberries, onions and cooked greens were the top contributors to total flavonoid intake among the participants." (2) The nutrition counselors at Nutritional Weight & Wellness always encourage eating the whole fruit versus drinking juice because of the impacts on blood sugar and the benefits of fiber.
Additionally, cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts and broccoli contain compounds that help balance certain hormones that can cause swelling in the prostate. We encourage clients to try to eat 6 to 9 cups of vegetables every single day. Not only is this beneficial for overall wellness, but it is crucial for prostate health.
We also encourage a variety of vegetables versus focusing on one favorite. Different types and colors of vegetables means you’re getting a variety of flavonoids and other nutrients. Maybe you can have cooked spinach and red pepper with breakfast, a salad with cucumber, tomato, and greens for lunch, and Brussels sprouts with onions at dinner. Variety and volume of vegetables is key. If clients aren’t quite hitting that 6-cup goal, we may suggest they add a scoop of organic powdered greens, such as Key Greens & Fruits, to a protein shake or filtered water to help boost their antioxidant intake.
Zinc, an Important Nutrient for Prostate Health
What do oysters, beef, chicken, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, cashews and garbanzo beans have to do with the prostate? They are all foods rich in the prostate-friendly mineral zinc. The prostate gland accumulates zinc at 10-15 times higher concentration than other body tissues. The prostate is like a zinc sponge, and it needs a lot of zinc to stay healthy. We also know that zinc protects prostate cells from turning into cancerous cells. We recommend that men eat a variety of zinc-rich foods. Additionally, research points to the benefit of supplementing with zinc, especially for older men. A 2009 study showed that the risk of advanced prostate cancer decreased significantly when men supplement with 15mg or more of zinc daily over a 10-year period (3).
Bottom line? Eat lots of zinc-rich foods and consider supplementing with zinc for prostate health.
Supplements for Additional Support
To support the prostate and reduce inflammation, we know food is the most important piece. However, supplements can offer additional support for men experiencing prostate problems, especially if it’s a challenge to get all the nutrients from food. First, it's important to reduce inflammation by removing processed foods and eating real foods in balance. Then zinc, omega-3 and other nutrients can be considered.
Prostate Pro: This supplement features stinging nettle root extract and saw palmetto extract, along with key amino acids and antioxidant micronutrients which assist prostate and urinary function.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are important to reduce inflammation in the body, including the prostate. We recommend taking 3000-6000mg quality Omega-3's with food daily.
Kaprex: This supplement is a natural anti-inflammatory that can be used long term without harming the liver and kidneys. Reduced inflammation in the prostate will reduce the likelihood of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and cancer risk.
Zinc: As mentioned above, research indicates supplementing with zinc is beneficial for general prostate health and prostate cancer prevention. Many multivitamins contain some zinc, so check the label on your bottle and work with your nutritionist or dietitian to see if you could benefit from adding in more.
“After taking [Prostate Pro] for one month, my husband’s nighttime bathroom visits went from 3-4 to one a night.” – Sherry R.
Reduce Your Risk With Real Food Whether you or a loved one is struggling with any inflammatory condition of the prostate, we would encourage you to make a nutrition counseling appointment with one of our nutritionists or dietitians. At our sister company, Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we help you reduce inflammation through better food choices and therapeutic supplements. There is no magic bullet, but a balanced meal plan with real food will certainly help and it will support your health no matter what treatment route you take. Prostate problems and active surveillance can go on for several years, so having an individual plan and the guidance of a nutrition counselor is very important.