Following lung cancer, prostate cancer is the second most malignant cancer for men worldwide. Unfortunately, prostate cancer is often hard to catch in the beginning stages, as it can be asymptomatic for years.
Prostate cancer risk increases with age, and an estimated 1 in 52 men between the ages of 50 and 59 years are diagnosed with prostate cancer. What's more, the diagnosis jumps up to about 60 percent of men over 65 years.
Despite these serious numbers, there is one positive note about prostate health: Diet can play an important role in prostate health.
While prostate cancer risk is a serious concern for men's health, discover below which foods are good for prostate health and how diet impacts risk for prostate cancer.
Top Foods for Prostate Health
The Prostate Cancer Foundation and a 2019 review on prostate health provide research-based foods that have been shown to contain nutrients that lower the risk for prostate cancer, making them ideal foods that are good for prostate health. Focusing on these foods not only supports prostate health, but they can provide health benefits for the whole body.
All fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants that help protect cells against carcinogens. However, cruciferous vegetables may be especially good food for prostate health.
Cruciferous vegetables are a group of vegetables that all have a unique sulfur-containing compound that gives broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, turnips, and cabbage their unique flavor and smell. Research has shown compounds in cruciferous vegetables called glucoraphanins can specifically fight carcinogens and help fight inflammation.
Broccoli in particular may have an important role in prostate health, as broccoli is especially high in glucoraphanins. A 2009 study concluded cruciferous vegetable intake, especially broccoli, was associated with decreased prostate cancer risk. Based on this study, researchers concluded two or more servings per month of cruciferous vegetables may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Berries are a good source of the antioxidant called anthocyanins. This specific antioxidant is what gives fruits and vegetables, such as berries, their deep red, blue and purple colors.
Anthocyanins have been shown in studies to have cancer-fighting properties and lower inflammation that is needed for cancer cell growth.
Green Tea and Soy
Prostate cancer is significantly lower in Asia compared with North America. Research has been ongoing for understanding why this difference exists, and studies suggest the Asian diet may play a role in lowering prostate cancer in Asian men.
Specifically, both green tea and soy have been shown to have cancer-fighting benefits. Both food sources are high in antioxidants which makes them foods that are good for prostate health.
Tomatoes and Watermelon
Bright red tomatoes and watermelon get their red coloring from the antioxidant lycopene. Tomato intake has been shown to be associated with a decreased risk for prostate cancer, as lycopene seems to specifically protect prostate cells from damaging carcinogens.
For example, research from Loma Linda University found men who consumed canned and cooked tomatoes five to six times a week had a 28 percent decreased risk of prostate cancer compared with men who never consumed tomatoes. Cooked and canned tomatoes seem to be the best sources of lycopene, as the association with prostate health was not seen for fresh tomatoes, tomato soup, or tomato juice.
Looking for more ways to add tomatoes to the diet? Make your own tomato sauce with this 30-minute tomato sauce recipe using canned tomatoes and tomato paste. It can easily be used for pasta, veggie noodles, or as a base for soups or egg dishes.
Another good source of lycopene from food besides tomatoes is watermelon. Watermelon is a healthy, fresh snack choice in the summer, or any time of year, that also provides prostate health benefits.
Fish & Fish Oil Supplements
While fish provides many health benefits, the relationship between fish and prostate health can be a little murky. For example, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids is thought to contribute to overall health by helping to lower inflammation which in turn benefits prostate health. Experts suggest the best fish for prostate health, according to current research, is darker fish varieties like salmon and red snapper.
However, the benefits of fish, fish oil, and prostate health have not always been shown to be beneficial. Some research suggests high intakes of fatty fish and/or fish oil supplements may increase the risk for prostate cancer. Therefore, for individual recommendations on fish, fish oil supplements, and prostate health, consult your healthcare team.
Brazil nuts are one of the best dietary sources of selenium which makes them a top food good for prostate health. Studies have found selenium to be inversely associated with several cancers, including prostate cancer.
In other words, the higher the selenium intake, the potential for increased prostate health.
Like green tea, coffee is another beverage that can help protect prostate health thanks to its antioxidant content. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, drinking one to two cups of coffee a day may help lower the risk for prostate cancer.
Worst Foods for Prostate Health
If trying to protect prostate health, these are the top foods to avoid or limit according to research. While occasionally eating the below foods may not be a cause of alarm, consider cutting back on these foods if they make up a majority of the diet.
Red and Processed Meat
Research between red meat and men's health suggests limiting red meat, especially processed meat, can be beneficial for overall health. Additionally, limiting processed meat, like sausage, deli meat, bacon, or hot dogs, can be especially beneficial for prostate health.
A 2007 study found processed meat was associated with a possible increased risk for prostate cancer. Men who ate five or more servings of processed meat per week had a higher risk of prostate cancer when compared with men who ate one or fewer servings per week.
Red meat cooked at high temperatures, like charred on a grill, can produce potential carcinogens and has been associated with an increased risk for prostate cancer. Therefore, when consuming red meat, consider cooking at lower temperatures and avoiding charing if possible.
The same 2007 study found a similar conclusion with dairy as processed meat. Higher dairy intake was associated with an increased risk for prostate cancer. Additionally, other research has shown more than 2,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day is linked to a greater risk of prostate cancer.
Getting less than 2,000 mg of calcium per day may be best for prostate health. Men up to age 70 years are recommended to get 1,000 mg of calcium daily, and men over 71 years are recommended to get 1,200 mg of calcium daily.
Not surprisingly, sugar, including sweets and sugary drinks, should be limited for prostate health. While green tea and coffee are linked to benefits for prostate health, sugary coffee and tea drinks should be limited as well.
Drinking alcohol in excess is associated with a potentially increased risk of various cancers, including prostate. When consuming alcohol, moderate intake to two drinks or less per day for men for best health outcomes.
Bottom Line for Diet and Prostate Health
Prostate cancer is a leading cancer diagnosis for men, and other prostate health issues should be a consideration for men throughout adulthood even if there are no symptoms. While many factors affect prostate health, diet is one aspect shown to impact prostate health for better or worse.
In general, eat a diet high in antioxidants from berries, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, Brazil nuts, and soy. Also limit sugar, processed meat, and red meat cooked at high temperatures and consume dairy in moderation to promote prostate health.
Additionally, for fluids, reduce intake of sugary beverages and consume mostly water, green tea, and coffee in moderation for prostate health.
Broccoli and prostate cancer: What's the connection? Prostate Cancer Foundation. Published August 26, 2021.https://www.pcf.org/blog/broccoli-and-prostate-cancer-whats-the-connection/.
Joseph MA, Moysich KB, Freudenheim JL, et al. Cruciferous Vegetables, Genetic Polymorphisms in Glutathione S-Transferases M1 and T1, and Prostate Cancer Risk, Nutrition and Cancer. 50:2, 206-213, DOI: 10.1207/s15327914nc5002_11.
Rawla P. Epidemiology of Prostate Cancer. World J Oncol. 2019;10(2):63-89. doi:10.14740/wjon1191.
Rohrmann S, Platz EA, Kavanaugh CJ, Thuita L, Hoffman SC, Helzlsouer KJ. Meat and dairy consumption and subsequent risk of prostate cancer in a US cohort study. Cancer Causes Control. 2007 Feb;18(1):41-50. doi: 10.1007/s10552-006-0082-y. PMID: 17315319.
What should I eat to prevent prostate cancer? Prostate Cancer Foundation. Published October 26, 2020. https://www.pcf.org/c/five-foods-to-protect-your-prostate/.