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Worst foods for prostate health - Healthy eating

About 1 in 8 people with prostate gland will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their life. There is little humans can do to prevent cancer, and related health conditions, but avoiding certain foods, such as red processed meat and ultra-processed canned foods, may help.

A black man holding his crotch with both hands

Key takeaways

  • Scientists have carried out studies that suggest poor diet is a risk factor for prostate cancer and other related health conditions
  • Foods like alcohol, red, processed meat, and caffeine may not be great for prostate health, as they may contribute to or worsen prevailing prostate health problems.
  • A great diet for prostate health should have less processed food and saturated fat.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that rests just below the bladder in the male reproductive system. It is responsible for several crucial functions like producing semen, pumping sperm into the urethra and outwards during ejaculation, and controlling the urine flow out of the body. 

Along with exercising regularly and getting a regular prostate exam, making necessary changes to your diet can help you maintain a healthy prostate.  

Backed up by scientific research, here are some of the worst foods for prostate health:

1. Red and processed meat

Processed meats are meat products that have been cured and treated for preservative purposes. They may not be good for your prostate health. Research has suggested that red and processed meat is a risk factor for prostate cancer, one of the most common types of cancer that affects people assigned male at birth. 

According to a recent 2022 study, red and processed meat products like bacon, sausages, and hamburgers may increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer in men. This may be attributed to red meat containing a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat is a less healthy fat that can contribute to obesity and inflammation. It can make the prostate vulnerable to inflammation and diseases. 

2. Dairy

Dairy encompasses milk and milk products and is often nutritious. However, they may not be the best for your prostate health.

Whole milk, known to have the highest percentage of saturated fat, was recently linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer recurrence in a 2017 research that studied the link between milk, other dairy products, and prostate cancer. The scientists involved in this study evaluated and followed up with 1334 people with non-metastatic prostate cancer (early stage) based on food consumption for 12 years to observe recurrence. 

Researchers discovered that those who consumed more than 4 servings of whole milk per week had a 73% increased risk of recurrence.

3. Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the worst food for your prostate health. It is a diuretic that facilitates water loss through urination. This means excessive consumption of alcohol results in frequent urination, a sign of a dysfunctional prostate gland. This can lead to dehydration and can cause discomfort while urinating.

According to a study about the link between alcohol and prostate cancer survival after diagnosis, regular intake of alcohol led to an increase in the mortality rate of prostate cancer patients after 19 years of following up with the participants.

4. Spicy foods

The bladder and prostate gland are sensitive to spicy or acidic foods, especially when you have an existing bladder issue. Spicy foods may contribute to prostate inflammation, especially when there is an underlying prostate or bladder issue. Inflammation further increases the risk of infection and common prostate problems like prostatitis. 

5. Inflammatory diet

Foods that trigger inflammatory reactions are not good for prostate health. The body triggers inflammation when it senses a foreign body, such as a pathogen or bacteria. However, this process can get prolonged and trigger chronic inflammation when you consume certain foods.

Chronic inflammation can negatively impact the body as it has been linked to an increased risk of health conditions like cardiovascular disease, obesity, and cancer (including prostate cancer). 

Foods that trigger inflammation are popular, and many people consume them. Examples of high-inflammatory diets you should avoid for better prostate health include soda and carbonated drinks, refined grains, processed foods, and fried foods. 

6. Caffeine

Caffeine, the major ingredient in coffee, is popular for its stimulating effect on the human body, but it is also a diuretic that helps dehydrate the body. Consequently, people who consume large amounts of coffee are more likely to urinate frequently. Those with pre-existing prostate issues may find this particularly difficult, since urinating may be uncomfortable and sometimes painful.

People with existing prostate problems may consider consuming less caffeine to facilitate quick recovery and better prostate health. 

7. Excess saturated fat

Saturated fat contains a lot of hydrogen molecules that have single bonds with carbon molecules that make them solid at room temperature. Food products containing saturated fat are widely popular globally, but scientists have found a link between them and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

A clinical study published in 2016 linked saturated fat intake to aggressive prostate cancer. Aggressive prostate cancer is the advanced stage of this disease where cancer spreads beyond the prostate gland to affect other parts of the body such as the bones, lymph nodes, liver, and lungs.

An action step you can take is to substitute saturated fat with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. For example, use olive or canola oil instead of butter and lean meat instead of red meat.

8. High-sodium diet

A common source of sodium is salt because salt contains 40% of sodium and 60% chlorine. A high-sodium diet leads to dehydration and causes increased consumption of water. This results in frequent trips to the bathroom for urination, and frequent urination may be discomforting for people with prostate problems. 

Eliminating salt from your diet is not recommended because the body needs sodium and chloride to perform certain functions. Instead, you should consider reducing the intake of foods that contain high amounts of salt, such as processed foods. You can also choose healthy alternatives to sodium that can add some unique flavor and taste to your food, such as lemon juice, umami powder, and vinegar.

9. High calcium diet

According to a 2019 study of prostate cancer epidemiology, people who consumed more than 2,000mg of calcium a day were at a higher risk of prostate cancer. Furthermore, an accumulation of calcium can lead to kidney stones which can prevent urine from flowing freely out of the body. The retention of excess urine in the bladder puts pressure on the prostate, thus leading to further complications.

10. Fried foods

There is an increased risk of prostate cancer for people who consume meat prepared by high-temperature cooking methods like barbecuing, grilling, and frying. This is because, under these cooking conditions, the oil produces heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and these chemicals, also called carcinogens, are capable of causing cancer.

Symptoms of poor prostate health

Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle can help improve prostate health. However, people who have already received a diagnosis for prostate-related health conditions may need to see a doctor for proper medical treatment, as lifestyle changes alone may not be enough. 

Here are some symptoms of poor prostate health that you should immediately report to a medical expert when observed:

  • Frequent urination
  • Blood in semen or urine
  • Pain or discomfort when urinating
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Pain in the lower back region, hips, or pelvic area
  • Dribbling of urine

Some symptoms are specific to common prostate problems like prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and prostatitis. Still, you may not know unless you contact a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis. See a doctor when you observe one or more of these symptoms, as they could lead to other health complications.

Best foods for better prostate health

While there are foods that may put your prostate at health risk, there are also other food options that can help maintain and improve its health. Here are some of the best foods you can incorporate into your diet for better prostate health:

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are rich in antioxidants and nutrients like carotenoids and vitamins k, E, and C. A study shows a relationship between antioxidant-rich plant foods and a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Some examples of cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, kale, radishes, and Brussels sprouts. 

Fish

Fish produce is a great source of healthy fats compared to the unsaturated fat from meat produced. According to a study published in 2016, fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. This study further revealed that regions like China, Vietnam, and Japan that consume a lot of fish record low cases of prostate cancer. 

Berries

Berries are round and soft fruits with a sweet or sour taste. They are great antioxidants that contain other essential nutrients like vitamin c and fiber. Consuming or incorporating berries as part of your diet may reduce the risk of prostate cancer and other chronic diseases. Some great examples of berries include raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, and bilberries. 

Nuts

You can consume nuts in different ways to help lower the risk of prostate cancer and other prostate-related problems. This is because it includes a high amount of antioxidants like polyphenols which is even higher than the quantity fish product contains.  

Wrap up

Some of the worst foods for prostate health are those that cause inflammation. After reading this article, you would discover that alcohol, excess salt, caffeine, dairy, and other food products that contain a lot of saturated fat are not the best option for prostate health. If you are experiencing a symptom of one of the prostate health problems mentioned above, you should visit a doctor. 

Eating more fresh foods containing healthy unsaturated fat is often recommended for better prostate health.