Looking after prostate health becomes all the more important as men age. A third of men over 50 experience symptoms of prostate enlargement aka benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which range from difficulty urinating to getting up several times each night to rush to the loo.
More worryingly, cancer of the prostate is the most common cancer in men in the UK with 110 new cases diagnosed every day.
Diet plays a role in supporting prostate health and some foods contain nutrients that can help prevent and even shrink an enlarged prostate, not to mention reduce the risk of cancer.
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First and foremost, a wholesome diet is key. “You can help reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer by eating a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables,” says Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, Chief Medical Officer for Bupa.
Study after study has shown that a Mediterranean diet packed with fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, extra-virgin olive oil and fish is best. This sort of diet is abundant in foods that lessen the symptoms of BPH and help prevent and reduce enlargement, too.
It's also important to maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) and waistline through healthy eating and regular exercise. Obese men and men with type 2 diabetes are more prone to prostate enlargement and are at greater risk of developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
10 of the healthiest Mediterranean foods
Foods to avoid
Certain foods don't do prostate health any favours, and may even increase the risk of cancer. The foods to avoid or limit include red meats, processed foods and sugary confections. On the flipside, here are five essentials foods that have been shown to support prostate health.
Tomatoes are rich in a phytochemical pigment called lycopene, which is believed to protect against prostate cancer. One study showed that eating more than 10 portions of tomatoes a week reduces the risk by 20%, and other studies have reached similar conclusions.
As well as lowering the risk of prostate cancer, a 2016 review of 67 research studies suggests that a diet rich in lycopene can slow down enlargement of the gland. It's worth noting that cooking and serving tomatoes with extra-virgin olive oil makes their lycopene content more bio-available.
Find tasty tomato recipes
2. Red peppers
Like tomatoes, red peppers are loaded with lycopene, which gives them their characteristic crimson hue. The salad favourite is also an excellent source of vitamin C. Research indicates that diets rich in vitamin C are associated with a lower risk of prostate enlargement.
To get the most out of your red peppers, try to eat them both raw and cooked. The raw peppers will contain higher levels of vitamin C, which is destroyed by heat, while cooked peppers are richer in lycopene, which is released from the cell walls during cooking.
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Chorizo and red pepper tart
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3. Oily fish and seafood
Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are brimming with omega-3 fatty acids, which studies show can protect against a number of cancers. Research demonstrates that men who regularly eat moderate to large amounts of fish are two to three times less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who eat no fish.
On top of that, oily fish and seafood in particular are high in zinc. The mineral is crucial for good prostate health and may prevent enlargement and lessen the symptoms of BPH according to several studies.
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Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and kale are bursting with sulforaphane, an organic compound with potent anti-cancer properties. A growing body of research is uncovering the power of these veggies in helping to prevent prostate cancer.
A study carried out in 2017 by scientists at Oregon State University in the US revealed that sulforaphane switches off the RNA genetic coding of cancer cells and stops them spreading. Broccoli is also rich in prostate-friendly vitamin C and a whole host of other beneficial nutrients.
Beautiful broccoli recipes
Nuts, particularly walnuts, may protect against prostate cancer according to several recent studies. A 2014 University of California study reported that walnuts reduce the level of a hormone in the body associated with prostate cancer and slow prostate cancer tumour growth in mice.
Nuts are also associated with lower prostate cancer mortality. A study conducted in 2016 by researchers at the Chan School of Public Health and the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that men who ate nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, cashews or walnuts five or more times a week were 34% less likely to die from the disease.
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