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The prostate cancer diet: Which foods can fuel the fight?

prostate cancer diet: Image of a honeycomb pattern

Key takeaways:

  • Obesity and high-fat diets are not advised for someone with prostate cancer.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and decreasing daily fat intake can improve several health markers for someone with prostate cancer.
  • Nutrients found in certain foods and beverages can support the immune system and potentially help protect against prostate cancer. These should be included in a prostate cancer diet.
  • Men whose prostate cancer is detected early live longer.
  • The Ezra prostate scan can lead to early prostate cancer detection and intervention.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men after skin cancer, making it a high priority for early detection.

According to the American Society for Clinical Oncology, the survival rate of localized prostate cancer is nearly 100%. Plus, the earlier it’s detected, the more effective your prostate cancer treatment becomes.

Many wonder if a prostate cancer diet can slow the growth of prostate cancer. Like most cancer-related questions, the answer is complicated.

While no foods or diet plans are linked to successfully curing prostate cancer, there are certain nutrients that, according to scientific studies, can result in a lower risk of prostate cancer. 

Additionally, there are many things men can do to lower their risk of complications and improve their body’s overall response to prostate cancer and treatment. 

Obesity and prostate cancer.

Although there is no direct link between obesity and an increased risk of prostate cancer, the American Cancer Society (ACS) states that men with obesity have a higher risk of: 

  • Developing more aggressive forms of prostate cancer.
  • Having their cancer return even after radiation therapy or surgery.
  • Dying from prostate cancer.

The ACS recommends maintaining a healthy weight by living an overall healthy lifestyle consisting of a healthy diet and regular physical activity. This includes achieving and maintaining a healthy weight after a cancer diagnosis and throughout treatment. If someone chooses to try and lose weight during their treatment, an oncology dietitian can help monitor progress.

Counting calories, controlling portion sizes, and eating low-fat foods are some of the tips the ACS shares. Maintaining a healthy weight has other benefits too, including promoting heart health. This can help reduce side effects and problems that occur during prostate cancer treatments. 

A low-fat diet helps improve prostate cancer outcomes. 

In addition to maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing fat in your diet can help you fight against prostate cancer. A small trial of 18 men with prostate cancer found men who followed a low-fat diet for four weeks had lower levels of prostate cancer cells. Although more studies are needed to fully explore the benefits of reducing your fat intake, there are many overall health benefits of following a low-fat diet.

The ACS offers a guide to low-fat diet substitutes. Their recommendations include:

  • Choosing low-fat protein sources like fish, chicken, lean cuts of red meat.
  • Opting for whole grains like brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Increasing beans and lentils in your diet.
  • Eating plenty of fruits and veggies each day. 

Include these foods in your prostate cancer diet. 

prostate cancer diet: Two men cooking in the kitchen

To choose specific foods for your prostate cancer diet, consider the following nutrients. Most offer immune system support, helping your body remove potential cancer-causing cells. 

Carotenoids

Carotenoids are antioxidants, which help remove cancer-causing free radicals from the body. Carotenoids are common in red and orange fruits and veggies. They get their bright red or orange color from the antioxidant carotene. 

Lycopene is a type of carotenoid that’s considered the most efficient antioxidant and is the main carotenoid found in prostate tissues.

Good sources of lycopene include tomatoes and tomato products, watermelon, apricots, papaya, pink grapefruit, persimmons, and guava. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, some studies have found lycopene decreases prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. High PSA levels can indicate prostate cancer. However, more research is needed to fully understand how lycopene may fit into a prostate cancer diet.

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are a group of vegetables high in cancer-fighting nutrients. Common cruciferous veggies are cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts. 

This group of vegetables has high amounts of carotenoids and glucosinolates, which make some of these foods taste bitter. When you eat them, glucosinolates break into compounds that can keep cancer cells from growing as they usually would.  

The evidence about how these vegetables work against prostate cancer is limited, but studies show that including these vegetables in your diet can help keep cancer cells from forming. 

Polyphenols

Two men preparing food while using their laptop

Polyphenols are compounds found in a wide variety of plant-based foods and beverages, and recent research shows they have anti-cancer effects.

Green tea, red wine, blueberries, pomegranates, and soy are just a few of the natural polyphenols you can include in a prostate cancer diet. 

The anti-cancer benefits of polyphenols are likely due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Polyphenols also affect how cells grow, repair, and protect against damage.

Isoflavones are a specific class of polyphenol present in soy.  Although isoflavones carry similar benefits as other polyphenols, the evidence about how beneficial they are in prostate cancer diets is mixed.

If you’re planning to increase isoflavone-rich foods—like soybeans, legumes, and pistachios—and other polyphenols in your diet, talk to your oncologist or urologist. 

Vitamins and minerals

Dietary supplements are a hot topic when it comes to prostate cancer prevention and treatment. While there are no current studies showing proven benefits of supplements on treating or reducing prostate cancer, there are certain supplements that can support men during prostate cancer treatment. Certain prostate cancer treatments include medications that can lower calcium and vitamin D levels, which your oncologist will monitor closely during your treatment. Taking a high-quality calcium and Vitamin D supplement, as well as increasing your intake of foods high in these vitamins and minerals, can help support normal levels. 

The most obvious source of vitamin D is sunlight, but you can also add it to your diet by eating eggs, fortified cereals, dairy products, and fatty fish like tuna and salmon, which are also high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Ezra scans and a prostate cancer diet.

As you can see, there are many food choices to consider when creating your prostate cancer diet. And research continues to explore how diet can improve someone’s chances of beating cancer and reduce the risk of cancer returning. 

By incorporating some of these foods into your diet and maintaining a healthy weight, you may better fight prostate cancer.

However, early detection is prostate cancer’s greatest weakness. With it, your treatment plans are more effective and your prognosis tends to improve.

If you want to be proactive about early detection, Ezra offers prostate, torso, and full-body scans that can check your prostate and potentially help you avoid other risky, often inaccurate detection methods.

In addition to scans, Ezra’s Prostate AI is the first FDA cleared device using AI technology. With Ezra’s Prostate AI, radiologists can spend more time with patients. 

Unfortunately in our current health system, most of the time men have to first get a prostate biopsy before their health insurance will cover a Prostate MRI with IV contrast. This is backwards because a prostate biopsy has notable risks (infection, bleeding and sometimes, erectile dysfunction). Conversely, a prostate MRI is non-invasive and therefore, less risky. That’s why Ezra physicians at our New York locations now offer a prostate MRI with IV contrast to men with elevated PSA levels or urinary symptoms. With our prostate MRI, you can get a head start on prostate cancer — sign up for a consultation today.