The key to better prostate health might be better eating.
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Ongoing research suggests that your prostate may benefit if you adopt a more plant-based diet. It appears piling more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes on your plate could lower your risk of prostate cancer, as well as other issues down low.
Hungry to learn more? Then let’s look at meal plan options with urologist Brad Gill, MD, MS.
What is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is pretty much what you’d expect from the name. Basically, if the food comes from a plant, you should consider it an ideal option for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks.
Of course, that leaves out food that comes from an animal — a list that includes beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy.
Someone on a vegan diet follows this plant-based eating plan 100%. It’s more common, however, for folks to simply shift some food choices toward plant-based products while still enjoying the occasional burger or other animal-based products.
How can a vegan diet help the prostate?
Eating more plant-based food isn’t just good for your prostate, which is part of the male reproductive system. Research shows that going a little greener in your diet also offers a full buffet of health perks, lowering your risk of:
- Heart disease.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Digestive disease.
- Colon and breast cancers.
- Excessive weight gain.
“Obviously, plant-based diets carry a lot of benefits in various areas of health,” says Dr. Gill. “The benefit to prostate health is a little less clear, but research keeps showing a possible connection between lower prostate cancer risk and avoiding some animal-based foods.”
The growing belief is that antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds packed into fruits and vegetables work to minimize your risk of prostate cancer and prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH).
Studies keep pointing toward healthier eating paying off for your prostate. Recent research highlights include the following:
- Embracing more of a plant-based diet can lower your risk of dying from prostate cancer by 19%. (The same study connects the same eating pattern with a lower risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, too.)
- More plant-based food in your diet decreases your chances of having elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. (Higher PSA levels may signal prostate cancer, which is why PSA tests are recommended beginning at age 45 to 50, depending upon your individual risk.)
- Eating patterns that focus on more plant-based food and fish (and less red meat) seem to help keep prostate enlargement in check. (The diet also can play a “beneficial role on erectile function,” too.)
Learn more about foods that can promote prostate health.
Do animal-based foods cause prostate problems?
“Cause” may be too strong a word, but research suggests a connection between eating animal-based foods and prostate issues, notes Dr. Gill.
The major evidence suggests a relationship between meat consumption and prostate cancer — and specifically cured meats, processed meat and red meat. Milk consumption also has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer (though it’s known to provide other health benefits).
Still, most studies and reviews conclude that while evidence regarding animal-based food and prostate health deserves attention, it still remains inconclusive, states Dr. Gill.
Sugar and prostate enlargement
Diets high in sugar can cause inflammation that can lead to rapid prostate enlargement, says Dr. Gill. It’s best to limit your intake of carbohydrates, too. (Your body naturally breaks carbs down into sugar.)
“If you’re looking out for your prostate, think about having a low-sugar diet, minimizing carbohydrates, and sticking to good, clean, healthy foods — fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and whole grains,” says Dr. Gill.
Changing your diet for prostate health
Dr. Gill cautions against making drastic diet changes — like going fully vegan or adopting a very restrictive or “fad diet” — without talking to a healthcare provider.
“If you start looking at a very restrictive diet, run it by your doctor or a dietitian first,” he advises. “There are essential nutrients you need in your diet to maintain good health. If you narrow your diet too much, you could end up with other health problems because of these deficiencies.”
But there are simple dietary changes you can immediately make to benefit your prostate and overall health. Dr. Gill suggests limiting items such as:
- Sugary sodas, juices, teas or drinks.
- Junk food such as potato chips.
- Fried foods.
- Red meats.
- Smoked meats.
- Processed or cured meats.
- Too much dairy.
“Maybe start with the mindset of making small changes instead of jumping into a drastic overhaul,” he says. “Think about eliminating the things that we know for sure aren’t good for us to eat. It can help your prostate and so much more.”