As men age, we become increasingly aware of health issues that are specific to us, stemming from that walnut-sized gland located under the bladder: the prostate. It can become infected and inflamed, causing prostatitis; increase in size, causing benign prostatic hyperplasia; and/or it can become cancerous. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men. It affects one in nine men, and the average age of diagnosis is 66 years old. It is commonly understood that even if a man is not diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, he will die with it to a greater or lesser degree (it just may not be the cause of his death).
While the best route to treating cancer lies in its prevention, this still leaves the question of how to treat it, or prevent its recurrence, after it has been discovered. With regards to prostate cancer, a lot of attention has been paid to dietary intervention—this applies to both the prevention and recurrence front. Epidemiological studies have shown that prostate cancer is more prevalent in Western, industrialized countries, including North and South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. In contrast, China and Japan have traditionally had low rates of prostate cancer. That is until recently with the increased influence of Westernized lifestyle and diet.
As a result, a handful of foods common to Asian diets have been identified as being potentially beneficial in protecting against prostate cancer. These include:
Soy. Traditionally-prepared soy (as opposed to soy isolates found in many protein powders, shakes, and bars) has been shown to help slow the rate of prostate cancer growth, as well as lower prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels as a preventative measure.
Cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables are part of the cabbage family and include kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and cauliflower. Regardless of which veggie you eat, try preparing it with lots of fresh garlic for its own anti-cancer properties and delicious, aromatic flavors.
Green tea. Antioxidants found in green tea—specifically, epigallocatechin gallate—have been found to possibly slow down the rate of cancer cell growth.
In 2014, a study published in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease demonstrated the benefits of using a nutritional supplement made from extracts of broccoli, green tea, pomegranate, and turmeric. This study was double-blinded, randomized, and placebo-controlled, and involved men who had prostate cancer, were post-radical treatment, and were being carefully monitored to check for disease recurrence. The results were that, after six months of use, the patients taking the nutritional supplement had a significantly lower rate of PSA rise than the placebo control.
One thing that we can take away from this study is the potential long-term benefit of regularly consuming these plant-based foods as a means of protecting against cancer and maintaining a healthy prostate as men enter into their 40s.