September is recognized as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Nutrition plays an important role in prostate cancer. That being said, prostate cancer is a complex disease that no single diet/food can cure or prevent. There are various indicators that have been linked with an increased risk for prostate cancer, including age, environmental, hereditary, or behavioral.
Today, I am going to focus on the behavioral habits that increase prostate cancer risk. These are the things that YOU have the power to change. Increased prostate cancer risk is associated with high intakes of red meat and high fat dairy products. Men with these two dietary habits also tend to eat low levels of fruits and vegetables. In addition to dietary habits, inflammation of the prostate gland can be linked with a higher than normal risk for prostate cancer. The direct link between prostate cancer and inflammation is unknown, but inflammation has also been linked to a decreased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Here are some simple things that you can change to help reduce the amount of red meat and high fat dairy products in your diet. The first thing that you can do is to “Change the state of your dinner plate”. Mix things up, choose chicken and fish more often. See if you can try having fish as an entrée at least once a week. Can’t live without your weekly steak? No problem, change high fat red meat for one lower in fat. Let’s exchange a Rib-eye for a Filet Mignon or New York Strip. Such a small change can decrease your fat intake by 10-22%, per steak. Are you still using whole milk? In general the only people that “need” whole milk are toddlers and people that have a hard time getting most of the nutrients and calories needed on a daily basis. Let’s switch over to lower fat dairy products, starting with milk. Try using 2% milk first, and then challenge yourself to see if you can tolerate 1% (low-fat) milk.
It’s probably no surprise to find out that according to most statistics, men generally eat less fruits and vegetables than women. Fruits, vegetables and even whole grains have many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances. All of these foods decrease inflammation. The easiest way to get a variety of these fruits and vegetables is to eat a variety of colors. The wider the range of colors of the foods that you eat, the more nutrients you are getting the benefits of. Just a side note: Physical activity has also been shown to decrease inflammation in the body.
Overall, maintain a healthy lifestyle. Cut back on red meats and include a range of colors from fruits and vegetables.
Erika Watson-Lawson is a registered dietitian with Memorial Hospital.