In the following interview, we speak to Registered Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach Rivkah Maya about maintaining prostate health through diet.
Issues with prostate health (prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer) have been associated with oestrogen dominance, inflammation, low antioxidant status, vitamin D deficiency and digestive disturbances. Dietary recommendations for a healthy prostate therefore aim to keep testosterone and oestrogen levels balanced, reduce inflammation, improve digestive function and increase levels of antioxidants in the body.
Foods to include
“Research suggests that anti-inflammatory foods lower inflammation associated with prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia, and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. These include berries, oily fish, turmeric (dried spice or fresh root), garlic, ginger and vegetables,” says Rivkah.
“Foods rich in zinc are also beneficial as prostate tissue has a high need for zinc and research suggests this mineral provides support for the health of the gland. Studies have also shown that it may reduce the size of the prostate in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia. Foods rich in zinc include beef, lamb, turkey, quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, sesame seeds, spinach, kefir and ginger.”
According to research, a high intake of antioxidant lycopene may also support the function of the prostate and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Tomatoes are a rich source of this.
“Eating more tomatoes or cooking with tomato sauce (2+ servings per week) is encouraged. Lycopene can also be found in pink grapefruit, red cabbage, berries and plums,” advises Rivkah.
Selenium, a mineral found in the soil and naturally occurring in water and some foods, also contains antioxidant properties and plays a key role in the metabolism.
According to Rivkah, foods rich in this mineral also ought to be incorporated into the diet. “Studies have also shown an increased risk of prostate cancer in individuals with decreased plasma selenium levels, so foods rich in selenium are beneficial. These include brazil nuts, meat, poultry, fish and wholegrains.”
Individuals with lower levels of polyphenols in their diet have also been found to have an increased risk of prostate cancer. Polyphenols are a group of over 500 phytochemicals that are naturally occurring micronutrients in plants. These compounds give a plant its colour and help to protect it against dangers. When we ingest these compounds, we also experience health benefit.
“Foods that contain high levels of polyphenol should be on your list of ingredients. Broccoli, green tea, herbs, spices, colourful vegetables, turmeric and pomegranate are all rich in polyphenol,” Rivkah says.
Another food type Rivkah recommends incorporating into the diet for a healthy prostate is the flaxseed. “Studies suggest they have anti-cancer properties as well as helping to balance testosterone and oestrogen levels in the body. Two tablespoons of ground seeds per day is the recommended daily dose.”
What foods to avoid and why
Just as there are particular foods that help to improve prostate health, there are some that ought to be avoided. “Research associates increased dairy intake with a greater risk of prostate cancer,” highlights Rivkah.
“Sugar and refined carbohydrates are also inflammatory to the body and can negatively impact testosterone and oestrogen balance, as can external sources of oestrogen. Avoidance of using plastic bottles and containers is recommended as these increase oestrogen levels in the body.”
Beneficial supplements for prostate health
There are a variety of supplements that may also help with the maintenance of a healthy prostate. These include:
- Lycopene: In addition to its protective properties and potential to decrease the risk of prostate cancer, studies showing the use of supplemental lycopene have demonstrated its ability to slow the growth of prostate tumours and decrease PSA levels;
- Saw Palmetto: Studies show it can reduce night-time urination frequency as well as other symptoms associated with prostate problems;
- Pumpkin Seed Oil: Research shows this can reduce symptoms (e.g. reduce serum PSA levels), particularly when combined with Saw Palmetto;
- Rye Grass Pollen Extract: This may improve urinary symptoms;
- Bitter Almonds: This may reduce urinary symptoms in early stages of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia and potentially help to protect against prostate cancer;
- Soy Isoflavones: Studies indicate that individuals with high serum levels of soy isoflavones have a reduced risk of prostate cancer;
- Selenium: This may have prostate cancer preventative properties;
- Vitamin D: A Vitamin D deficiency in this has been linked with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia and Prostatitis;
- Nettle Root: This may help to balance testosterone and oestrogen balance.
“When considering the use of supplements, talk to a health professional when as the needs of each individual are unique,” advises Rivkah.
To find out more about how diet can help to support prostate health or to make an appointment with Rivkah, please click here.