Registered dietitian Julie Bouwman is a fan of keeping food simple and natural, an approach that can improve your health in a variety of ways.
One way is fighting cancer.
We asked Bouwman, who works for Kaiser Permanente in Colorado, to share which foods you should eat and which you should avoid if you want to help prevent prostate cancer, which affects about 13 out of 100 men at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What kind of diet should men follow if they want to try to lower their risk of prostate cancer?
There has been research linking lowered risk of prostate cancer with a higher intake of lycopene, an antioxidant thought to have anti-cancer properties. Lycopene is found in red fruits and vegetables, particularly in tomato and tomato products. Carrots, grapefruit, red bell pepper, and pomegranates also contain lycopene. In general, it’s a good idea to have a healthy diet that includes 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
You are not a fan of processed food but are there any processed foods that are OK to eat?
When it comes to lycopene-rich foods, it’s OK to eat tomato paste, ketchup, or sundried tomatoes, all of which are processed. In fact, lycopene in processed tomato products is more easily absorbed than when you eat tomatoes whole or raw.
Besides red foods, what else can you eat to help keep prostate cancer at bay?
I would put cruciferous vegetables high on my list. Think cauliflower and kale, in particular. Some studies show that when men regularly eat cruciferous vegetables — meaning at least 3 times a week — they had a lower risk of prostate cancer.
Soy is another group that I’d recommend eating more of — a few meals a week with tofu, tempeh, edamame, or other soy products. Research has found that soy consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. The food’s isoflavones — a type of plant compound, or phytochemical — might be a factor. It does make sense considering that there is a low incidence of prostate cancer in Asia, where people eat a lot of soy.
Other legumes, such as lentils and peas, as well as nuts and whole grains are thought to slow the growth of prostate cancer.
Anything men shouldn’t eat if they want to try to lower their risk of prostate cancer?
I recommend limiting red meat to 18 ounces a week – or 3 meals with 6-ounce portions – and not cooking meat over high heat, which can release chemicals that have been shown to lead to cancer. Cutting back on red meat and eating more of a plant-based diet has a variety of benefits — not only does it reduce cancer risk, but it contributes to weight loss, boosts your energy, improves heart health, and ultimately helps you live a longer life.