The do's and don'ts of the prostate cancer diet

Overall, the best diet for prostate cancer chemoprevention most closely resembles the traditional diets of the southern Mediterranean and Japan. These diets are high in vegetables and healthful herbs. fish and soy foods take the place of red meats, and dairy products are kept to a minimum. When oils and fats are called for, they're included in the form of oils that help reduce the omega-6 to omega-3 balance. Whole grains are favored over refined grains and foods made with flour and sugar. Both diets contain abundant fiber.

These two diets do differ in many important ways: The Mediterranean diet is rich in tomatoes, which are the best source of cancer-fighting lycopene. Its main source of fat is olive oil, which (in its extra-virgin form) is high in important antioxidants. olive oil is high in omega-9 fatty acids, which do not promote inflammation, and contains a compound called oleocanthal that has anti- inflammatory properties. The Japanese diet includes a variety of medicinal mushrooms that have great value when it comes to cancer prevention. Japanese diets also incorporate sea vegetables—a more elegant name than "seaweed." soy foods and ginger are important parts of Japanese cuisine; Mediterranean cuisine is often flavored with rosemary and oregano. All of these foods have cancer-fighting properties.

The guidelines here will help you combine the most prostate-protective characteristics of these two cuisines in a way that won't feel too exotic even for the man who has, until now, subsisted largely on fast food and frozen meals from the supermarket.

Yes, ultimately, fast foods and prepared foods are more convenient, and they usually taste great. You'll have to face that it's never easier to make something from scratch than it is to unwrap a package and pop it in the microwave. You may need to take some time and put in some effort to learn how to prepare fresh, wholesome, delicious food at home, but it's worth it when your health and longevity hang in the balance. Changing your diet is the most important step you can take in your chemoprevention program.

Do: Eat mindfully

Believe it or not, the first step to making big shifts in your diet is becoming more conscious about what you eat. If you prefer a less esoteric way of describing it, start paying attention to what you're putting in your mouth.

Notice your eating habits—not what you eat, but how you eat. Ask yourself these questions before taking another bite. Do you tend to wait until you're famished, then toss as much food as possible down your throat in one sitting? Does this habit lead you to choose foods you know are not healthy for you or to eat until you're overfull? Do you often eat in your car or at your desk? Do you pay attention to the taste of your food and chew it thoroughly?

Being mindful while you eat will help you slow down in the course of your busy day, which will reduce stress. It will help you be more aware of how much you're eating and give you an enhanced awareness of the point at which you're full. You're all grown up now; you don't have to clean your plate.

Eating consciously means savoring your food, which will reduce cravings for intensely flavored sweet, salty, and fatty junk and enhance your taste buds' appreciation of healthy whole foods. Chewing food thoroughly (until it's liquid in your mouth) will mean fewer gastrointestinal complaints.

Don't: Red meat

Most studies on diet and prostate cancer have demonstrated that the more red meat a man eats, the higher his risk of developing the disease. Particularly harmful are meats that have been charred or otherwise cooked at high temperatures (they're some of the cooking methods that make your food toxic). If you love red meat, choose grass-fed, organic versions. Marinate in a mixture of olive oil, vinegar, and protective spices like garlic, rosemary, or turmeric, which reduces the production of carcinogenic substances during cooking.

When you do eat meat—any meat, including poultry and fish— keep servings to the size of a deck of cards or smaller.

Do: Reduce calories consumed

Many, many studies have found that the simple act of eating too many calories raises cancer risk, while underconsuming calories reduces it. A few researchers have demonstrated amazing age-delaying and anti-cancer effects in animals fed 30 percent less than they would eat if they were given free access to food.

Human beings with free will are highly unlikely to opt for a diet like this one, since it means being hungry all the time. But an awareness of roughly the number of calories you take in versus the number you expend will help reduce excess fat, which reduces inflammation and improves hormone balance.

Don't: Cured meats

Avoid cured meats like salami, bacon, lunch meat, and hot dogs, which contain cancer-encouraging nitrites.

Do: Eat fish

Flesh foods, eggs, and milk used to have a better omega-6/omega-3 balance when the land animals we ate—chickens, cows—grazed on omega-3-rich grass in the fields instead of eating omega-6-rich corn, as they do today. As it is now, your best food bet for a high omega-3 content is fish.

Fish is the best dietary source of the omega-3 fats DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Eating fish (one serving is about the size of a deck of playing cards) one to two times a week will help balance out that all-important omega-6/omega-3 ratio. Whenever possible, choose wild-caught, high-omega-3 fish like salmon and sardines. The colder the water the fish lives in, the more omega-3 oils its flesh contains; since omega-3 oils don't freeze, high content prevents these fish from freezing solid. Choose cold-water fish when you can.

Don't: Dairy products

Studies have found that men who consume more dairy products have a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer.

One review of 12 studies found that men who ate the most dairy had an 11 percent higher likelihood of developing prostate cancer when compared with those who ate the least dairy. This may be due to a link between prostate cancer and calcium intake, since dairy products are Americans' main source of calcium.

In that same review, men with the highest intake of calcium (including calcium from nutritional supplements) had a 39 percent increased risk. other research has found that while high intake of calcium does not seem to increase the risk of prostate cancer overall, it does seem to increase the risk of advanced or fatal prostate cancer. And some research shows that there is no relationship at all between dairy and calcium consumption and prostate cancer of any kind. The jury's still out on this one. For now, I recommend keeping dairy products to a minimum. If you love dairy, include it for flavor, but cut your usual amount by half or more.

One dairy food I often recommend is yogurt, because of the beneficial bacteria it contains. Choose organic yogurt and limit intake to a cup per day.

Do: Add as many vegetables as possible to meals and snacks

Here is your mission, should you accept it: Cram as many vegetables as possible into every meal and snack you consume. Try chopping onions, tomatoes, peppers, or chard and sautéing them in olive oil, then adding eggs and scrambling. Chop spinach, broccoli, or other vegetables and add to soups (baby spinach can be thrown into hot broth raw; it will blanch just enough to be cooked through). Eat one large green salad a day with a homemade dressing of olive oil and vinegar (or check out these healthy DIY dressing recipes).

Try doubling up on vegetables, and halve the size of refined carbohydrate and protein servings, or try these other vegetable-carb swaps. In restaurants, order a side of steamed vegetables or coleslaw instead of fries or rice. Hit every color and type of vegetable you can—the more colorful the better, as deeper color usually means greater antioxidant nutrition.

Don't: Saturated fats

In the standard American diet, main sources of saturated fat are meats, egg yolks, and dairy products. Coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and cottonseed oil are also high in saturated fats. If a fat is solid at room temperature, consider it saturated.

The issue at hand is likely to involve chemical toxins found in most sources of saturated fat, put there by modern factory farming methods. Toxins that can raise cancer risk concentrate in the fat of animals who eat a diet laced with pesticides and herbicides. even higher concentrations of these toxins accumulate in dairy products and eggs.

Minimize saturated fat intake, and if you do choose to eat foods that contain saturated fats, shop for organic, free-range versions. It will cost more, but you can just eat smaller portions.

Do: Go for greens

Also emphasize deeply colored leafy greens like spinach, salad greens, and swiss chard, which are especially rich in antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals; sprouts of every sort, broccoli sprouts in particular; and tomatoes, which are high in lycopene, an antioxidant believed to help reduce prostate cancer risk.

Don't: Trans fats

Trans fats are found in highly processed vegetable oils that have been bombarded with hydrogen atoms to make them fluffy solids at room temperature, which increases their shelf life and improves their texture for use as an ingredient in baked goods.

What's the link? With trans fats, a direct effect on prostate can- cer risk has been found. All authorities agree that these fake fats should be avoided completely.

Completely avoid trans fats. If a food label states that it contains "partially hydrogenated" or "hydrogenated" oils, assume that it contains trans fats, even if the label says it contains zero grams of the stuff. (Labeling requirements dictate that if less than half a gram is present per serving, the label can say that it doesn't contain any.)

Do: Concentrate on crucifers

In particular, include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale, all of which belong to the family of cruciferous vegetables. They containisothiocyanates and sulforaphane, chemicals that have been found to impact cancer initiation, angiogenesis (the process by which tumors sprout their own circulatory systems, facilitating their growth and spread), and the body's ability to neutralize carcinogenic substances. Phytochemicals from cruciferous vegetables also reduce body levels of harmful estrogens by encouraging their conversion to less harmful forms.

Don't: Foods high in white flour and sugars

Sugars fan the flames of chronic inflammation. The body responds to refined flour in much the same way it responds to sugar, so it's sensible to minimize intake of both. The low-fat diets once recommended for weight loss and health promotion tended to be high in these exact foods, and the result was a population that chronically craved refined carbohydrates (because without some fat and protein, blood sugars rise and crash, leading to more carb cravings) and ended up fatter than they would have if they had created a more balanced diet. obesity and a diet heavy in refined carbs is a direct cause of insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. none of this bodes well for a man's prostate; it exacerbates both inflammation and oxidative stress.

When you eat grains, choose them in a form as close as possible to the ones in which they occur in nature: brown rice instead of white and whole-grain or sprouted-grain crackers and breads, for example. Whole grains in the diet have an inverse relationship with prostate cancer risk. They're rich in fiber that helps remove carcinogens from the body.

Do: Sacrifice fresh breath for a healthy prostate

Allium-family vegetables like onions, leeks, scallions, shallots, chives, and garlic have been used throughout most of human history for medicinal purposes. Modern science shows that they are antimicrobial and antiarthritic as well as helpful for maintaining healthy blood sugar balance, joint health, and blood cholesterol levels.

They contain multiple antioxidant and anti-cancer substances, including the bioflavonoid quercetin, the anti-cancer mineral selenium, and organosulfur compounds. organosulfur compounds support detoxification of carcinogens, inhibit tumor cell proliferation, scavenge free radicals, inhibit DNA changes that lead to cancer, slow cancer cell growth, and induce apoptosis.

Do: Dive into deeply colored fruits like pomegranates, red grapes, and blueberries... and enjoy red wine

Deeply colored red and purple fruits are rich in ellagitannins and other compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions in the body. Cranberries were found in one study to enhance prostate cancer cell apoptosis. The two most exciting lines of study regarding fruits and prostate cancer chemoprevention involve red grapes and pomegranate.

Add pomegranate to your diet in juice form, or eat the arils fresh. The arils are tart-sweet and are good on their own or tossed into a green salad.

Do: Incorporate soy foods in moderation

Soy foods are the richest dietary source of isoflavones, plant chemicals that have been found to directly inhibit the growth of cancer cells in laboratory studies. Isoflavones act as weak estrogens and have apoptotic and antiangiogenic effects. Surveys of tens of thousands of Japanese men suggest that soy foods reduce the risk of developing localized prostate cancer, but they may not help reduce the risk of advanced prostate cancer.

In other words, we don't yet know enough about the effects of soy isoflavones on all varieties of prostate cancer to recommend piling on the soy in excess with soy protein powders, tofu, and soy milk. We do know enough to suggest that including a moderate serving or two of soy a day can help protect against dying from the disease.

Do: Try nuts and seeds, including walnuts and flaxseed (but not flaxseed oil)

Research has demonstrated that men whose diets include more nuts and seeds have a lowered risk of developing prostate cancer. Nuts and seeds are great sources of healthy fats, fiber, and the antioxidant vitamin E. In one study, rats genetically engineered to develop prostate cancer were fed standard high-fat diets where fat came from soy oil or diets supplemented with walnuts to equal the same amount of calories from fat. The walnut- eating rats had slower tumor growth than rats who ate the standard diet.

flaxseed is a superior source of a particular kind of fiber known as lignan; it contains some 800 times more lignan than other foods!

Do: Drink more tea (including green tea), pomegranate juice, and purified water

Stay away from sodas—even diet sodas, which have not been found to help with weight loss—and try more healthful beverages. Green tea is available in just about every flavor; sweeten with a small amount of honey or agave or the herb stevia.

Pomegranate juice is high in sugar, so feel free to chase it (or dilute it) with water.

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