Big, juicy filets. Bacon and bleu burgers. Milkshakes! If you have prostate cancer, none of these things should be on the menu. But that doesn't leave you without options. In fact, the alternatives will leave you feeling much better overall - cancer or no cancer.Summary
- Red and processed meat, pork, and eggs
- More than one or two servings of dairy per week, including low-fat dairy products
- Saturated fat, trans-fat, and animal fat
- Refined carbohydrates like white bread and pastries
Instead, seek foods with:
- Alternative protein sources high in good fats like omega 3s
- Low in saturated fat and sugar
- Packed with antioxidants like lycopene and carotenoid
- Whole grains & high fiber
- Fruits and cruciferous vegetables
The Devil’s Cheeseburger
For most people, it is said that moderation is the key to a healthy diet. Of course, there are foods that contribute to our health positively and negatively. With prostate cancer, when you are on active surveillance, watchful waiting, undergoing treatment, or in remission, it is especially important to limit (if not altogether avoid) foods with a negative impact, like red meat and dairy.
Red and processed meat contain carcinogens that cause a buildup of free radicals in our bodies over time, and free radicals cause cell damage and genetic mutations which set the stage for cancer. As for dairy products like milk and cheese, they act like anti-probiotics by negatively affecting the healthy bacteria in your biome (aka gut).
Red Meat – Carcinogens & Hormones
Many carcinogens form in red and processed meat and pork during cooking. These toxins include things like saturated fat, sodium, and nitrites. The longer you cook red or processed meat the more of these carcinogens are created[i]. If you’re not going to eliminate red meat from your diet (what man doesn’t like a juicy steak) look for lean cuts. Limit your servings to once a week, focus on a portion size of 4-6 ounces - and don’t order your steak well-done.
Carcinogens also cause inflammation and disrupt hormone regulation. Inflammation is our body's response to foreign chemical invaders. It is triggered by things like red meat, fried food, sugary sodas, and refined carbohydrates like white bread and pastries. Persistent inflammation, or chronic inflammation, over time has been linked to not only prostate diseases, but other forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's.
The disruption to normal hormone regulation carcinogens cause is particularly problematic when it comes to prostate cancer and other prostate diseases like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and prostatitis. This is because the prostate gland’s primary function is to convert the male sex hormone, testosterone into another hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is the fluid in semen that feeds and transports sperm. High levels of DHT cause the cells in the prostate to become inflamed and to enlarge.
One important note – eggs should also be consumed in moderation. One study showed that men who ate two and a half or more eggs per week had an 81% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer compared to men who consumed less than half an egg per week[ii]. I know, who eats half an egg per week!? Just some food for thought.
You still need your protein though. Doctors agree that high fiber, low fat, and “good fat” proteins from things like fish, legumes, and beans are the way to go. They give you energy and help you feel satisfied without the lethargy – and cell damage – from greasy, fried, processed meat.
Dairy - Bad News Bacteria
When we were kids, adults were constantly telling us to drink milk to grow “big and strong!” Why then do dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt become problematic later in life by worsening your risk for prostate cancer? It’s like Popeye’s spinach turned Superman’s kryptonite.
Dairy products, even the low-fat ones, negatively affect the bacteria in your gut – aka your “intestinal biome.” Multiple studies over the last decade show that fermented dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt increase the proliferation of cancer cells by causing a spike in insulin[i].
One study showed that whole milk was especially dangerous for overweight and obese men. Those who consumed more than four servings of whole milk per week increased their risk of prostate cancer recurrence by 73%[ii].
What can I eat while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer?
There is no research that definitively proves that having even the “cleanest,” healthiest diet possible helps when it comes to battling prostate cancer. There is still no obscure supplement (like "deer antler velvet") or a perfect plant-based panacea.
Researchers do know, however, that there are some things that help, like anti-inflammatory foods, and foods that contain antioxidants, which are a counter to free radicals.
Great additions to your diet include:
- Fatty fish. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines contain the right kind of fats your body needs, like omega 3s
- Pro tip - Grocery stores have a TON of options now for getting your fish fix on the run, with lightly seasoned tuna and salmon packets. At only 90 or so calories and roughly $1 - $1.50 a piece, they are an excellent snack option!
- Tomatoes. They’re high in lycopene, an antioxidant that may have a protective effect on prostate health.
- Try - packing cherry tomatoes as a snack every now and then. They're small, sweet flavor bombs you can eat like candy!
- Whole grains. They’re high in fiber and help you feel full and energized. Healthy grains include oatmeal, quinoa, barley, millet, buckwheat, and brown rice.
- RE: granola bars - Be sure to check the ingredients list. Though marketed as part of a healthy, active lifestyle, many are packed with sugar and other chemicals. Consider making your own granola bars or bites.
- Nuts containing good fats: like almonds and walnuts. Studies have associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- Olive Oil. It also contains good fats and is a far better alternative to butter, margarine, and lard.
- Cruciferous vegetables. Like broccoli, bok choy, brussel sprouts, horseradish, kale, cauliflower, and turnips. These veggies are packed with isothiocyanates, which may also protect against prostate cancer.
- Fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids. Carotenoids are a family of antioxidants found in dark green and orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, winter squash, and dark green, leafy vegetables.
- The most common dietary carotenoids include beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and again, lycopene.
Fruits loaded with antioxidants. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges are known to reduce inflammation because they also contain polyphenols, which are protective compounds found in plants.
What diet plan would include helpful foods?
If you're looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet. It's high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.
What if I want more information?
There are lots of opinions about diet and cancer that can leave patients feeling confused. Patients should always consult their doctor before making any radical changes to their diet. Going through a prostate cancer diagnosis, treatment planning, and research can leave you feeling drained, and often in a bad mood. Luckily, a more natural, less processed diet can improve your emotional health, too. So get motivated, make a self-care routine and make your diet a gratifying part of it.
If you or a loved one are seeking alternative options for treating prostate cancer or BPH, give us a call at 760-469-8057. To schedule a complimentary case assessment and have a HALO Diagnostics team member contact you, click the button below:
[I] Aune D, Rosenblatt DAN, Chan DSM, et al. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;101:87-117.
[ii] Tat D, Kenfield SA, Cowan JE, et al. Milk and other dairy foods in relation to prostate cancer recurrence: Data from the cancer of the prostate strategic urologic research endeavor (CaPSURE™). Prostate. 2018;78:32-39.
[i] “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality,” An Pan, Qi Sun, Adam M. Bernstein, Matthias B. Schulze, JoAnn E. Manson, Meir J. Stampfer, Walter C. Willett, Frank B. Hu, Archives of Internal Medicine, online March 12, 2012
[ii] Richman, Erin L et al. “Egg, red meat, and poultry intake and risk of lethal prostate cancer in the prostate-specific antigen-era: incidence and survival.” Cancer prevention research (Philadelphia, Pa.) vol. 4,12 (2011): 2110-21. doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-11-0354
You should always consult with your doctor(s) when considering treatment options. HALO Dx provides MRI-guided prostate screenings, MRI-guided prostate biopsy, liquid “biopsy” tests, and genomic testing to facilitate informed decisions between doctors and patients. Learn more about HALO Dx's advanced, minimally invasive prostate cancer and BPH treatments including Laser Focal Therapy and TULSA-PRO for whole gland and partial ablations. With the appropriate diagnostic results, our prostate disease experts help you answer any questions you may have about prostate cancer or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, or BPH.