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Diet and Nutrition

Diet

Differences in diet and lifestyle may account for the variability of prostate cancer rates in different countries. Good nutrition may help reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer, slow progression of the disease and prevent aggressive disease. In this section, we discuss guidelines for a healthy diet for good prostate health and guidelines for a healthy diet while in treatment for prostate cancer. These tips, however, should never be used as a replacement for treatment.

Healthy Diets

We do know that improved nutrition reduces risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity, and usually improves overall quality of life. It’s estimated that a third of cancer deaths in the United States can be attributed to diet in adults, including diet’s effect on obesity. Additionally, a healthy diet helps to increase energy levels, facilitate recovery and enhance the immune system. According to the World Health Organization, a person with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more is considered obese.

Experts now believe choices about our diet account for the vast majority of prostate cancer cases. It’s important to evaluate diet choices when it comes to risk of prostate cancer. Scientists have slowly uncovered a list of cancer super foods and supplements to optimize in your diet while also discovering foods and supplements that could actually contribute to cancer risk and aggression.

Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

  • Your diet should be:
    • Primarily plant based
    • Include plenty of fruits and vegetables
    • High in fiber
    • Low in fat
    • Limited in the amount of simple sugars

Diet Tips for Prostate Health

  1. Eat Fruits and Vegetables
    • Fruits and vegetables contain large amounts of cancer-fighting and inflammation-reducing substances like vitamins, polyphenols, antioxidants, minerals and natural fiber. Most men and women do not consume the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables. If you are working to change the way you eat, aim to make manageable changes. Try to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
      • Cruciferous vegetables (includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage) have phytochemicals that reduce Oxidative stress or oxygen free radicals in the body which means a lower risk of prostate cancer and its aggression
      • Carrots are rich in nutrients and contain antioxidants beta-carotene and falcarinol that reduce the risk of cancer
      • Tomatoes are a rich source of a phytochemical called lycopene which attacks free radicals helping the body lower the risk of prostate cancer and its aggression
      • Mushrooms help fight cancer by building the immune system with a supply of compounds called beta glucan and proteins called lectin which have shown to attack cancer cells
      • Pomegranates, particularly pomegranate juice, have been shown to slow PSA doubling time and may help prevent prostate cancer recurrence after primary treatment
      • Grapes and grape juice are rich sources of resveratrol, a type of natural phytochemical that belongs to a larger group of phytochemicals called polyphenols that possess potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
      • Grapefruit contains several phytochemicals including naringenin, limonin, beta-carotene and lycopene
      • Oranges, lemons and other citrus fruits help protect against DNA-damaging free radicals because they contain hundreds of bioactive compounds including flavonoids and monoterpenes
      • Avocados contain the highest amount of the carotenoid luteinutein of all common fruit
      • Peppers and jalapenos contain a chemical, capsaicin, which neutralizes certain cancer causing substances
      • Apples are a good source of fiber, vitamin C and contain quercetin, a flavonoid that shows both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
      • Berries (raspberries and blueberries) are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, manganese and a good source of fiber and blueberries are among the fruits highest in antioxidant power because of the many phytochemicals they contain
  2. Limit Consumption of Animal Protein
    • Diets high in red meat, dairy products and animal fat have frequently been connected with the development of prostate cancer. Red meat (such as beef, pork, and lamb) is particularly tied to aggressive prostate cancer.
  3. Seek Plant Protein
    • Plant-based protein like beans, flax and nuts contain quercetin and lignans that suppress the growth of many kinds of cancer including prostate cancer.
  4. Green Tea
    • Green tea contains polyphenols and flavonoids which are strong antioxidants. Tea is the best source of catechins which are being studied for their anti-cancer properties. Green tea has been shown to slow and/or prevent the development of prostate cancer.
  5. Whole Grains
    • Whole grains include brown rice, oatmeal, corn, whole wheat bread, barley, bulgar, kasha, millet, faro, quinoa, and more. Whole grains are great sources of fiber and magnesium and provide protein. Choose food made with whole grain over processed foods.
  6. Limit Sugary Drinks
    • Cutting down on surgery carbonated beverages and drinking water can speed metabolism and flush the body of cancer-causing substances.
  7. Choose Organic Foods when Possible

Click here to find out how healthy your diet is by taking the American Institute for Cancer Research’s Quiz.

Maintaining Good Nutrition During and After Treatment

Maintaining a healthy diet can help you prepare for and recover after cancer treatment. It may also help to prevent the prostate cancer from coming back. Watching your weight may also reduce your risk of dying from prostate cancer. Recent studies have indicated that the risk of dying from prostate cancer is more than double in obese men diagnosed with the disease compared with men of normal weight at the time of diagnosis. Obese men with local or regional disease have been shown to have nearly four times the risk of their cancer spreading beyond the prostate or metastasizing.

Prostate cancer treatment may affect your appetite, eating habits, and weight, but it is important for you to maintain a healthy weight, get essential nutrients, and remain as physically active as possible.If you have difficulty eating due to side effects from treatment, there are ways to make eating more comfortable. Working with a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) can help make sure you are getting the nutrition you need.

Unfortunately it is possible for the side effects of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy to cause you to lose your appetite, eat less and lose weight. On the other hand, some treatments, such as androgen deprivation therapy may cause weight gain for some men.

Click here to access our previously recorded webinar, Prostate Cancer and Nutrition featuring Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, a nutrition educator from PearlPoint Cancer Support.

Tips for Nutrition During Cancer Treatment

  • Maintain a healthy weight. For many men, this means avoiding weight loss by getting enough calories on a daily basis. For men who are overweight and are obese, this may mean losing some weight. If you are trying to lose weight, it should be moderate, meaning only about a pound a week.
  • Get essential nutrients the body needs, such as protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, such as carotenoids, and water. Not only will your body function better, you will feel better.
  • Be as active as you can, such as taking a daily walk. If you sit or sleep too much, you may lose muscle mass and increase your body fat, even if you are not gaining weight.

If you are struggling to eat enough or are eating too much, nutrition counseling may help you get essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, and minerals into your diet and maintain a healthy body weight. Ask your health care team for a referral to a registered dietitian or nutritionist. Dietitians and other members of the health care team work with people to meet their nutritional needs.

Side Effects and Nutrition

Cancer treatment often causes side effects, such as nausea, mouth sores, and taste changes that may make it difficult to eat or drink. Follow these tips to help you get the nutrition you need:

  • If water tastes unpleasant to you, take in more liquid though items such as soup, tea, milk or milk substitutes such as almond milk, or a sports drink. Or, flavor your water by adding fresh cut fruit.
  • If food tastes bland, try seasoning it with flavorful spices such as garlic, cayenne, dill, and rosemary.
  • Eat several small meals throughout the day instead of trying to eat large amounts of food at one time.
  • Enhance your protein intake with protein from foods such as fish, egg whites, cheese, beans, or high protein smoothies.
  • Suck on mints, chew on gum, or try fresh citrus fruits if you have a metallic taste in your mouth. Brushing your teeth before eating, using plastic utensils, and cooking in glassware can also help.
  • If you have mouth sores or a gum infection, use a blender to make vegetables and meats smooth. Try juicing or making smoothies.Some side effects are often treated with medication, so talk with your doctor or another member of your health care team for more information.

Food Safety

People receiving cancer treatment need to be aware of food safety, because some treatments may weaken the immune system and lead to an infection. An infection occurs when harmful bacteria, viruses, or fungi, such as yeast, invade the body and the immune system is not able to destroy them quickly enough. Here are some basic food safety tips to reduce the risk of infection.

  • Wash your hands before and during the handling and preparing of food.
  • Wash vegetables and fruit thoroughly before eating them.
  • Handle and store food appropriately. For example, keep raw meat away from other foods when cooking.
  • Eat thoroughly cooked foods. For example, do not eat eggs that are not cooked solid, and do not eat raw fish, oysters, or shellfish.
  • Avoid drinking unpasteurized beverages, such as unpasteurized cider, raw milk, and fruit juices.
  • Make sure food you purchase is not past its “sell-by” or expiration date.

Nutrition After Cancer

Choosing to eat a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables and other unprocessed, low-fat foods will help you regain strength after prostate cancer treatment. Nutritious eating can also reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. In addition, recent research suggests that making healthy food choices in your survivorship may lower your risk of recurrence and help you live longer. According to many experts, the types of foods recommended to help prevent prostate cancer are the same ones that protect against prostate cancer recurrence. These experts recommend eating plant-based foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), lean protein, and low-fat dairy products, and avoiding highly processed foods and red meats as much as possible.