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For guys, prostate health is one of the most critical areas of wellness. Prostate cancer accounts for almost one-third of newly diagnosed cancers in the United States and is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men in the Western world. And nearly half of American men over the age of 50 have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), an enlargement of the prostate gland that can cause uncomfortable urinary symptoms, as well as bladder, urinary tract, or kidney problems. The good news: a handful of foods have been shown to promote prostate health. Here are seven of our favorites.
Avocados contain beta-sitosterol, a plant compound that has been linked with reduced symptoms of BPH. Some studies also suggest that plant sterols prevent or retard prostate cancer formation and progression. Avocado is also rich in lutein and other compounds that may protect against prostate cancer. Other foods high in beta-sitosterol include wheat germ, rice bran, soybeans, and peanuts.
Recipe tips: Add diced avocados and red onions to scrambled eggs; purée avocados with cocoa powder and honey for a healthy chocolate mousse; sauté onions, jalapenos, and garlic, add broth and chopped avocado, heat through, and purée until silky for a creamy, dairy-free soup.
2. Tomato Sauce
When it comes to foods for prostate health, tomato sauce—and tomatoes in general—are high on the list. Why? Because they’re loaded with lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant that helps protect against BPH and prostate cancer. Studies show that increased tomato consumption is linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer, and other research suggests that lycopene can slow the progression of BPH. Tomato sauce is more effective than raw tomatoes, since cooking makes the lycopene more available to the body. Adding olive oil further enhances its absorption. Papaya, watermelon, red peppers, and pink grapefruit are also good sources of lycopene.
Recipe tips: Sauté spiralized zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and garlic, and smother with tomato sauce and fresh basil; cook tempeh and onions in tomato sauce for vegan Sloppy Joes (see recipe, right); stuff bell peppers with cooked quinoa, olives, rosemary, tomato sauce, and cheese, and bake until bubbly.
3. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are one of the best food sources of zinc, a mineral that’s critical for prostate health. Research shows that zinc plays a role in prostate cell functions and survival and may help maintain DNA integrity. Studies suggest that men with BPH and/or prostate cancer have lower blood levels of zinc, and insufficient zinc intake is also linked to BPH. Dietary zinc is easier for the body to absorb than zinc supplements. Sesame seeds, almonds, legumes, eggs, and shellfish are also good sources of this key mineral.
Recipe tips: Purée pumpkin seeds, almond butter, garlic, and kale for a nutrient-packed pesto; make veggie burgers with ground pumpkin seeds, onions, black beans, mashed sweet potatoes, and spices.
Tempeh, as well as other forms of soy, is high in isoflavones, plant compounds that help protect against BPH and cancer. Soy isoflavones may improve signs and symptoms of BPH, and studies also suggest that soy products decrease prostate cancer cell growth, induce cancer cell death, and regulate other cancer-related cellular processes. It’s also a great protein alternative to meat: some research shows that people who follow a vegan diet have a 35 percent lower risk of prostate cancer. Tofu and edamame are other good sources of soy isoflavones, making them equally good foods for prostate health.
Recipe tips: Cut tempeh into thin slices, season with tamari, and sauté in olive oil until crispy; coat tempeh with paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and salt for blackened tempeh burgers; steam crumbled tempeh and use as a filling for spring rolls.
Broccoli is rich in glucosinolates, compounds found in plant foods that protect against prostate cancer. In one study, increasing cruciferous vegetable intake to more than three servings per week was associated with a 41 percent reduction in risk for development of prostate cancer. Broccoli is also high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that can reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Other vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruit, tomatoes, peppers, kale, kiwi, and Brussels sprouts. Kale, cabbage, cauliflower, arugula, and Brussels sprouts are also high in glucosinolates.
Recipe tips: Finely chop broccoli florets and toss with cherry tomatoes, red onions, and Caesar salad dressing; riff on fried rice with broccoli florets, shiitake mushrooms, scallions, and cooked quinoa; thinly slice broccoli lengthwise, toss with olive oil and sliced leeks, and roast until crispy.
Onions contain organosulfur compounds, phytochemicals that can protect against BPH and prostate cancer. Garlic, leeks, scallions, and other members of the allium family have similarly protective effects. One study found that men who ate the most garlic and onions had lower rates of prostate cancer. Research has also shown a preventive effect of allium vegetables against prostate and other cancers, and one study found that men with the highest intake of onions, garlic, and scallions had a significantly lower risk of prostate cancer.
Recipe tips: Cook finely chopped onions with honey, white balsamic vinegar, and minced rosemary until soft for onion jam; cut yellow onions into thick slices, brush with olive oil and garlic powder, and grill until tender; sauté onion rings in olive oil, drop an egg into the center, cook until firm, and top with minced cilantro and salsa.
7. Green Tea
Green tea makes the list of prostate-protective foods because it’s high in catechin antioxidants, especially epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which has been linked in a number of studies to reduced risk of prostate and other cancers. In one study, green tea catechins significantly reduced the incidence of prostate cancer in men with an elevated risk. Research shows that prostate cancer risk declines with increased consumption of green tea, especially in men drinking five or more cups per day.
Recipe tips: Purée matcha green tea powder with honey and coconut milk, freeze in an ice cream maker, and serve between cookies for an ice cream sandwich; whisk matcha into melted white chocolate chips and form into balls for truffles; stir matcha and ginger powder into waffle batter and serve
with warm honey.