Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer among men and there will be more than 180,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed this year alone, the American Cancer Society estimates.
It’s well known that diets high in saturated fats like those found in meat and dairy are associated with a higher risk for prostate cancer.
And although one particular diet has not been shown to prevent prostate cancer, men who follow a vegan diet had a 35 percent lower risk than those who followed a non-vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, or semi-vegetarian diet, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“We have enough data to support that eating properly can significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer,” said Dr. Geo Espinosa, a naturopathic and functional medicine doctor in New York City and author of, “Thrive, Don’t Only Survive.”
Here are 10 healthy foods that can help decrease your prostate cancer risk.
Experts agree eating a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens and kale is one of the best ways to ward off prostate cancer. Cruciferous vegetables are not only low in carbohydrates, which have been linked to cancer, but they’re rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that may prevent cell changes that can lead to it.
“People who follow the Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer,” said Lisa Cimperman a registered dietitian nutritionist, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
One of the key players in the Mediterranean diet is fish. Salmon, in particular, is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats that have been shown to ward off prostate cancer. Other winners include sardines, mackerel and halibut.
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3. Brazil nuts
“One of the most important minerals for prostate cancer protection is selenium,” Espinosa said. Selenium levels decrease with age but studies show that men who have high levels of selenium are the least likely to develop prostate cancer.
Brazil nuts are a rich source of selenium: just six to eight contain more than 700 percent of the daily value.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid—or plant pigment—which may prevent prostate cancer. In fact, men who eat 10 portions of tomatoes a week can reduce their risk for prostate cancer by 18 percent, a study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention found.
Although eating raw or cooked tomatoes may be beneficial, studies show that lycopene is better absorbed when it’s paired with fat. Add a small amount of olive oil to your favorite marinara sauce or drizzle some over a tomato salad.
A diet that includes whole walnuts or walnut oil slowed prostate cancer growth in mice and reduced levels of the hormone IGF-1, which has been linked to prostate cancer, a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food found. Walnuts are likely winners because they’re low in carbohydrates and high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Although fruit is filled with anti-cancer antioxidants, too much sugar— even natural sugars from fruit— have been associated with cancer. In fact, a study in the journal Annals of Oncology found that men who had a high glycemic load diet had a 26 percent increased risk of developing prostate cancer than lose who had a diet with a lower glycemic load.
Cancer has also been associated with oxidative stress but if you can prevent it, the cells will be less likely to turn into cancer, Espinosa said. Some of the best foods to combat oxidative stress include blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, which are high in anti-oxidants and have a low glycemic index.
A meta-analysis published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control found that drinking four to five cups of coffee a day might be associated with a reduction in prostate cancer. Not only does coffee contain antioxidants, but coffee can help you metabolize sugars more efficiently, which is associated with a lower risk of developing cancer, Espinosa said. If you’re not a coffee drinker, green tea is a close second.
Men who eat three servings of carrots a week are 18 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer, found a study in the European Journal of Nutrition. Carrots, as well as pumpkin and winter squash, are a rich source of beta-carotene, a carotenoid that is converted to vitamin A and has antioxidant properties.
9. Pomegranate juice
Pomegranate is rich in antioxidants and research suggests that pomegranate juice may ward off cancer. In fact, components in pomegranate juice can prevent the movement of cancer cells and weaken their attraction to a chemical signal that promotes the metastasis of prostate cancer to the bone, according to a study out of the University of California, Riverside found.
Although it’s not clear that eating soy-rich foods alone can prevent cancer, laboratory studies show that treating prostate cancer cells with the isoflavones found in soy protein may interfere with the pathways in prostate cancer cells that are related to inflammation and the growth and spread of cancer, Cimperman said.
What’s more, studies have found that Japanese men have a lower risk for prostate cancer, likely because their diets are high in soy.
©Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She’s also a mom of two.