Plant-based diet for prostate cancer prevention
Although seldom discussed among Asian men due to its low incidence compared to Caucasians, prostate cancer and its devastating effects should not be taken lightly. This walnut-shaped gland is part of the male reproductive system. It produces the whitish fluid known as seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
Early detection and intervention are key to a successful prostate cancer treatment. This type of cancer among men grows slowly but there are some cases when the cancer is rather aggressive. Difficulty urinating, weak urine flow, blood in the urine or semen, erectile dysfunction, unexplained weight loss, and bone pain are some of the common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer.
Experts recommend an annual screening of Prostate Specific Antigen through blood test among men beyond 50 years old, as well as, those with family history of the disease. Furthermore, the Philippine Urological Association recommends two ways of screening through Digital Rectal Exam and PSA annually.
The known risk factors for prostate cancer include age, race, genetics, and diet. Among these factors, diet is the only one that is modifiable. Observational studies have shown that diet and lifestyle play a role in slowing cancer progression, and lowering the risk of occurrence.
Studies have concluded that there is a positive correlation between intake of saturated fat from meat and dairy products and prostate cancer. This is due to the production of the growth hormone IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor – 1), which promotes tumor growth. Meat cooked in high temperatures form carcinogens. These are substances that affect the cell’s DNA causing mutations and cancer. Choline, which is abundant in egg yolk, has been found to be highly concentrated in prostate cancer cells.
Not all animal-based food, however, is related to prostate cancer risk. As a matter of fact, research on greater fish consumption has been shown to decrease the risk of getting this cancer and the chances of it recurring. Fatty fishes like sardines, tuna, swordfish or blue marlin, mackerel or tanguingue, cod, which is locally known as ‘bakalaw,’ and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation.
A plant-based diet lowers the risk of all cancers, most especially prostate cancer. The way people perceive plant-based way of eating may vary. Some may choose to entirely avoid animal products while others may opt to consume minimal amounts of animal products. Whichever way you choose, consuming mostly food from plant sources that are whole, fresh, or minimally processed will provide your body with phytonutrients or plant chemicals that help prevent the formation of cancer or combat cancer cells in the body.
Here is a list of food that you can incorporate as you transition to a more plant-based way of eating to prevent prostate cancer. The following food items contain phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that have been consistently associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer, its recurrence and metastasis.
Cruciferous vegetables contain isothiocyanates and indoles that inhibit growth and development of prostate cancer cells. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bokchoy, Chinese cabbage, arugula, kale, raddish, watercress, mustard seeds and leaves, turnip (singkamas) roots and greens, and brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables that are available locally.
Allium vegetables contain organosulfur compounds that help the body get rid of damaged cells that could no longer be repaired. This process is called apoptosis. These compounds also arrest the progression of cancer cell formation. Allium vegetables include our Filipino dish staples onion and garlic. Leeks, scallions, chives, and shallots also belong to this category.
Soybeans, edamame, and soy products in the form of tofu, taho, and soymilk contain geneistein, an isoflavone that inhibits inflammatory reactions in the body. Soy also contains daidzin and glycitin that induce apoptosis (elimination of irreparably damaged cells) and cell cycle arrest (inhibits the progression of cancer cell formation) when combined with the phytonutrient geneistein. American ginseng taken in the form of powder or liquid also contains a high amount of geneistein, which can help balance hormones. Prostate cancer is hormone related.
Lycopene found in red and orange fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants. Tomatoes, pink guava, pink grapefruit, and watermelon are readily available in the market and grocery stores. Cooked and processed tomato products provide readily absorbable lycopene compared to raw tomatoes.
Other superfoods to include in your plant-based diet for prostate cancer prevention are green tea, flaxseed, pomegranate, if available and if within budget.
Be plant powered. Prevent prostate cancer by adapting a more plant-based way of eating. Consult a registered nutritionist dietitian for proper guidance.
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