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Today’s article is a call to action intended not only for the men out there at risk of prostate cancer but all those who have men in their lives, whether they are friends, lovers or family members.
Cancer of the prostate is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in North America and the majority of cases occur in men over the age of 50.
Due to recent advances in treatment options, prostate cancer is among the least fatal cancers. Even so, less than ideal dietary habits among the general population mean that the rate of prostate cancer occurrence continues to rise.
Less people are dying from the disease on a yearly basis, but more people are getting it, and this is a problem.
Dietary habits are one of the key determinants of prostate cancer risk. A healthy balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes will go a long way to reducing your risk.
Within that pattern of healthy plant-based eating, there are certain food choices that you can make that will be especially helpful for reducing your risk.
You may have heard that lycopene, a compound found in great supply in tomatoes, is associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
What you may not have known, however, is that processed or cooked tomatoes (such as sauces, and pastes) have more lycopene readily available for your body to absorb and benefit from.
Lycopene is also better absorbed if consumed with some healthy fat added to the meal, so try adding avocado, nuts or seeds into your salad or add a tablespoon of your favourite vegetable oil.
If tomatoes and tomato-based products aren’t your thing, sautéed red bell peppers are the next best vegetable option for lycopene.
Although raw red bell peppers are also exceptionally healthy food choices, the lycopene in these foods is more readily available to our bodies when they are sautéed.
Papaya, grapefruit, watermelon and guava are the richest fruit sources of lycopene. Try to incorporate at least one of these fruits into your diet on a daily basis if and when it makes sense to do so.
Sunflower seeds are a relatively inexpensive source of dietary selenium, which is the other important nutrient that has been associated with prostate cancer prevention.
A keen observer will notice that all of the foods that I have suggested above mostly just fall into the category of eating more fruits, veggies and plant-based foods.
There are currently a few other specific foods of interests in prostate cancer prevention, although the evidence that they provide a protective against prostate cancer is not quite as strong.
Such as soybeans, edamame, soy milk, tofu and tempeh. If you are consuming a plant-based diet, the chances are these foods are already a part of your daily routine.
If you are not currently consuming a strictly plant-based diet, know that swapping these protein rich alternatives for animal products will do wonders for your health.
Flaxseed is a very interesting case. Flaxseed is a rich source of the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid known as ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid.
While there is some evidence to suggest flaxseed consumption may help prevent prostate cancer, there is stronger evidence to suggest that it may be more useful for reducing symptoms and progression of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as an enlarged prostate.
In either case, you will not be likely to do yourself harm by incorporating flax seed into your diet.
It is no secret that eating a diet rich and varied in vegetables is the staple for all good things as it relates to health and wellness.
There are helpful chemical compounds in cruciferous (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower) and allium (garlic, leeks, chives, onions) vegetables that may be of unique benefit to the prevention of prostate cancer and other chronic diseases.
I truly hope that today’s article has provided you with some valuable insights into prostate cancer prevention.
Cancer is a massive contributor to mortality in North America and even though prostate cancer fatality is low, it is still the cancer that the average North American man is most likely to be diagnosed with.
Although today’s article outlined some specific steps you can take, eating a diet that is generally rich in plant-based foods and living a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity is your best defence against prostate cancer and most other chronic disease.
Remember, it is never too late to change the way you eat and reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as prostate cancer. Whether you are reading this article for yourself, or for someone you care about, I hope it helps get you closer to where you want to be.
Andy is a private practice dietitian and avid nutrition blogger from Toronto, Canada. He holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Toronto and loves spreading the good word on healthy eating through his writing.
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