Diet & Nutrition
Good nutrition may help reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer, slow progression of the disease, and prevent aggressive disease. In this section, we will discuss guidelines for a healthy diet pre-, post- and during prostate cancer treatment. These tips, however, should never be used as a replacement for treatment.
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.
It’s important to evaluate diet choices when it comes to risk of prostate cancer. Research is continually being conducted on foods and diets that may reduce or increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Guidelines for a Healthy Diet
- What to Have Plenty Of:
- Fruits & vegetables
- Plant-based protein
- High fiber
- Whole grains
- What to Limit:
- High-fat foods, especially trans or saturated fats
- Animal fats, particularly red meat and processed meat products such as bacon, deli meats, etc.
- Dairy products
- Refined sugars & grains
- White bread, white rice, soda, many breakfast cereals
Nutrition Before Treatment
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. Reaching or maintaining a healthy weight is a great goal to have to improve your overall health which can have a positive effect on your prostate cancer journey.
Healthy weight and diet that consists of vitamins, minerals, high-fiber, low sugar, and hydration is a great goal to have prior to beginning prostate cancer treatment. This allows the body to have the needed nutrients that could be beneficial during treatment.
Nutrition During Treatment
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.
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. If you have difficulty eating due to side effects from treatment, there are ways to make eating more comfortable.
However, some treatments, such as androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) may cause weight gain for some men. Knowing the effects your chosen treatment may have on appetite and weight is important. ADT also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks. If you have a history of cardiovascular disease and are considering or on ADT, it is important that you talk to your doctors about this, who may refer you to a nutritionist to assist you in making a heart healthy diet plan.
Meeting with a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) can be very helpful for you and your caregiver(s). RDN’s can help you plan what to eat and what foods to limit or avoid, as well as provide help if you are losing or gaining weight due to treatment. RDN’s can be beneficial for caregivers as a resource to provide practical education and support, including meal plans and healthy recipes to make (or request from friends) if their loved one is unable to do so.
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, 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.
Overcoming Diet-Related Side Effects of Treatments
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 alternatives, 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.
- Get your 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 making smoothies with both fruits and veggies.
- Some side effects are often treated with medication, so talk with your doctor or another member of your health care team for more information.
Nutrition After Treatment
Once you have finished treatment, it is just as important to maintain a healthy diet and weight as it was before and during treatment.
After treatment, continue to follow a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and other unprocessed, low-fat foods to help you regain strength. 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 that may help prevent prostate cancer are the same ones that may protect against prostate cancer recurrence. These experts recommend:
- plant-based foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains)
- lean protein
- low-fat dairy products
- avoiding highly processed foods and red meats as much as possible.
Click here to access our previously recorded webinar, Prostate Cancer and Nutrition featuring Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, a nutrition educator from PearlPoint Nutrition Services℠.
PearlPoint Nutrition Services℠ offers free one-on-one nutrition consultations with a registered dietitian experienced in oncology nutrition. The nutrition educator can help cancer patients with healthy eating strategies and side-effect management. Click here for more information.