Increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables is now one of the most common medical recommendations.
It is appropriate for many health conditions, especially heart disease. But metabolic problems and even cancer may benefit from a healthy diet.
What about Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)? In this article, we are digging on prostate health and its relationship with your diet.
Our primary focus will be on how vegetables can impact on your prostate health. Also, you will get additional recommendations on how to reduce BPH naturally.
The relation between diet and prostate health
What we eat is not only essential to fill the stomach. It is actually a fundamental modifier of human health and metabolism. Almost every process in the body depends on the nutrients we take from the environment.
Naturally, a low-quality diet will result in poor health outcomes. We usually see that in obesity and metabolic problems, but it also impacts prostate health (1).
If you’re a prostate patient, you have probably heard about foods you should avoid. Other foods are recommended and can be helpful in countering your prostate issues. Independently of your diagnosis, it will be beneficial if you follow this advice.
However, keep in mind that food does not behave like medications. You won’t get instant relief from your symptoms after taking a healthy meal. Scientists can’t point out a single food that cures prostate cancer or BPH.
Instead, what you get with a proper diet is a continuous benefit that translates in many health benefits (2,3):
- You get a lower risk of progression of BPH
- You’ll have a lower risk of prostate cancer
- You can even have your symptoms under control with a proper diet
- If you already have prostate cancer, it will be less likely to become aggressive and spread if you lead a healthy diet
- If you’re under treatment for prostate cancer, eating your veggies will reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
There’s a very long list of foods we can eat, and some we should rather avoid. We’ll dive into the subject introducing one of the best picks for prostate cancer: vegetables.
As you will see next, cruciferous vegetable consumption is associated with many health benefits. They include BPH risk and prostate cancer risk reduction, as well as other associated effects.
However, your diet is only one part of the story. As we will mention further, you should also live an active lifestyle. So, combine diet, exercise, and regular visits to your doctor. This combination will help you get the best results and maintain your quality of life (4).
Can vegetables lower the risk of BPH?
There are several nutrients and active compounds in cruciferous vegetables. They are actually a potent blend of ingredients with the exact ratio.
Vegetables can improve and maintain your health in various ways. In the case of BPH, researchers have found a few nutrients to be very useful. Other components, such as antioxidants, have a strong foundation, even though the evidence is still lacking.
For example, it is known that a high intake of vitamin C can decrease BPH’s risk. According to researchers, the best source is dietary vitamin C. In other words, vitamin C from foods like orange juice. But, did you know that bell peppers, guava, and broccoli are also excellent sources?
Kale, tomatoes, and peas also have a significant concentration of vitamin C. Moreover, they have carotenoids and other nutrients with proven benefits for prostate health (5).
Vegetable intake provides you with selenium, tocopherol, lycopene, and many other substances. They also increase the level of antioxidants in the blood. By doing so, vegetables will reduce oxidative stress and its effects on the prostate and the urinary system.
That’s probably why men with a low antioxidant level in the blood have more urinary symptoms. They are twice as likely to report them than men with high antioxidant levels (6).
No wonder so many studies have found a lower prevalence of BPH in patients who consume more vegetables.
Another interesting association is made with vitamin K. Modern investigators suggest that this vitamin can be the missing link to maintain our prostate health. Vitamin K deficiency is associated with varicocele. At the same time, this condition is also associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Moreover, vitamin K2 has a role in apoptosis. As such, it may become a vital chemotherapeutic to prevent prostate cancer. And if you look at the best sources of vitamin K, guess what? They are kale, Brussel’s sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, cucumbers, and many others. They are all green veggies (7,8).
Another nutrient in vegetables with a potential role in BPH and prostate cancer is folate. Also known as folic acid or vitamin B9, this one has some conflicting evidence.
It turns out that folic acid will only be useful to prevent prostate cancer when it comes from the diet. In other words, you need to consume more spinach, asparagus, green soybeans, broccoli, and lettuce. They are excellent sources of vitamin B9 for your prostate (9).
Apart from having many nutrients, vegetables provide other substances we can’t find elsewhere. Two of them are known as glucosinolates and isothiocyanates. These are phytochemicals, substances solely found in plants, used by plant metabolism.
However, in the human body, they protect healthy cells from oxidants. They may even prevent cancer growth by reducing the formation of new blood vessels (10, 11).
Another consideration that favors vegetables has to do with thyroid function. When your thyroid gland is diseased, it is likely the same happens to your prostate.
There’s an elevated risk of prostate cancer in patients with thyroid cancer. So, maintaining your thyroid function with iodine may reduce your risk of prostate cancer, too. Aside from fish, a good source of iodine includes seaweed and potatoes (12).
So, can vegetables lower the risk of BPH? The answer is a resounding yes, and there’s evidence to back up out claims.
What does the research say?
We always knew vegetables are a great source of health and wellbeing, including prostate health. But before February 2007, there was no substantial evidence to point in that direction. Then, an article was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The researchers evaluated data from over 32,000 males. They were healthcare workers and were participating in a study since 1986. Throughout the years, these patients completed a series of surveys that include prostate health questions and scores. What the researchers did was collecting the data and trying to figure out a relationship.
They found a relationship between vegetable intake and BPH. Fruit intake apparently had no significant relationship. But when they reported eating more vegetables rich in vitamin C, lutein, and carotene, their risk for BPH dropped.
Men who ate more vegetables were also more likely to use multivitamins and exercise. They were also less likely to smoke or drink alcohol. However, their mean age was older, and still, they reported less BPH surgeries and symptoms (13).
This study is a wakeup call for anyone who thinks that we will all have prostate problems sooner or later. Yes, the risk increases as we age, but decreases as we eat our veggies.
One year after this finding, another study was published around a similar topic. The researchers evaluated data from patients enrolled in another long-term clinical trial. This time, the main focus was prostate cancer, but BPH was also assessed in the study. The participants completed a series of surveys, and the study took 9 years, from 1994 to 2003.
The results clearly showed that people who consumed more vegetables had a lower chance of having prostate issues. On the contrary, those who reported consuming more meat had a higher chance. Some nutrients were spotted to have a more direct impact, including zinc, lycopene, and vitamin D. However, the benefits were greater by consuming a natural source (14).
This was another proof that cruciferous vegetable intake reduces prostate cancer risk and BPH. Moreover, according to this study, vegetables can be used for cancer prevention.
More recently, another study made among elderly Chinese men went a step further. This time, the researchers did not use data from long-term surveys. This was an actual clinical trial with a prospective cohort. In other words, 1998 patients over 65 years old were enrolled, evaluated, and followed-up. This time, they evaluated lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) and erectile dysfunction.
They found that patients who consumed more fruits and vegetables had a lower score of LUTS. A high intake of over 1000 calories a day or 350 grams of fruits and vegetables reduced the symptom score by 17.3%.
However, there was no association between erectile dysfunction and vegetable consumption. This is probably because erectile dysfunction is strongly associated with psychological factors instead of a dietary pattern (15).
These studies are only a part of the evidence that recommends vegetable consumption for prostate health. It is not only an assumption or a general recommendation for everybody. Vegetable consumption can reduce the incidence of BPH and those annoying urinary symptoms.
Best vegetables to include in diet
Studies have gone as far as to recommend vegetables for all patients with prostate issues. But they do not recommend one over the other. However, we can use other useful studies to choose the best vegetables to include in the diet. Here’s a list with the most important according to our research:
- Cruciferous vegetables: This is one of the most important groups. They include cauliflower, broccoli, kale, Bok choy, Brussel’s sprouts, rutabaga (cross), and cabbage. They are also known as Brassica vegetables, and you can make various recipes with them, as in roasted cauliflower. All of them have sulforaphane, a substance that causes apoptosis in BPH. Cells stop dividing, and some of them die in the presence of this substance. Thus, the prostate tissue stops growing and may even experience a reversal. To get the whole benefits, it is better to consume raw cruciferous vegetables (16).
- Broccoli sprouts: Similar to grown veggies, broccoli sprouts are also potential chemo-preventive agents. They reduce the risk of prostate cancer by delaying the expression of cancer proteins. It also has sulforaphane as well as other chemical substances (17).
- Spinach: They go excellent in salads, and you can even add some lemon juice for extra vitamin C content. Spinach has many nutrients, including folic acid or vitamin B9. It also has potent antioxidants that reduce BPH and prevent prostate cancer (18, 19).
- Radish: Radish is a highly chemo-preventive agent. It reduces the risk of several types of cancer, including lung cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. The mechanism is believed to be through the apoptosis of cancer cells. But the best thing about them is that they do not affect healthy cells like chemotherapy does (20).
- Onion: These plants are from the genus Allium, the same as garlic. Both of them have similar health properties and an application for prostate issues. Flavonoids in Allium plants can treat BPH, reduce the symptoms, or prevent them in the first place (21).
- Tomato: This vegetable contains lycopene, a potent antioxidant. In many studies, lycopene is associated with a reduction of BPH symptoms. Other studies suggest it is not very useful in BPH but can prevent prostate cancer (22).
As you have seen, there’s a wide variety of vegetables to choose from. The ones we recommend the most are those in the cruciferous family. Others can be perfect companions.
With a bit of olive oil or balsamic vinegar, your prostate-healthy salad will be ready. However, your preventative strategy won’t be complete without considering a few extra facts.
Other ways to naturally reduce risk of BPH
If you’re worried about your prostate, there are many things you can do besides eating vegetables. Your diet is a great place to start, but we’re not limited to it. In this section, we will provide helpful information to improve your prostate health. It will be appropriate if you’re trying to avoid prostate problems or want to relieve urinary symptoms.
Even prostate cancer patients may find a significant benefit. They can combine these natural ways with the therapeutic options recommended by a healthcare provider. However, they should always inform their doctor before making any change to their diet or supplementation.
Cut out dairy
Animal protein has been linked with several diseases, including prostate cancer. However, dairy is high in calcium, and it is not bad by itself. You need around 700 mg of calcium per day. But these can be obtained from different sources, not only milk and dairy food.
Broccoli and cabbage are great alternative sources of calcium. Nuts and soya beans also provide this nutrient. So, you will be fine if you reduce your dairy intake as long as you consume these alternative sources.
Avoid drinking more than 1.5 liters of milk a day. Some would even say that one liter is way too much. And if you choose a moderate amount, go for low-fat or skimmed milk (23,24).
Reduce red meat intake
Another recommendation associated with animal protein has to do with red meat. The recommendation by health authorities is reducing red meat, not necessarily becoming vegan. This will reduce the risk of colon cancer, prostate cancer, and other problems.
As mentioned above, red meat is also associated with prostate symptoms. Therefore, we could suggest reducing your meat intake as you age and have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and BPH.
If you’re worried about protein, you can have many other sources. Beans, fish, eggs, and pulses are great options. They also have dietary fiber, and some of them fight inflammation. And even though you can still have your meat, try not to reach more than 500 grams a week (24).
Physical activity is yet another source of health and wellbeing, even for the prostate. It is mainly associated with improvements in patients with prostate cancer and may also reduce BPH’s risk.
Recent publications suggest a strong link and recommend exercise to prevent prostate enlargement. The mechanism is still unknown but may be associated with a reduction of the sympathetic tone, a reduction in oxidative damage, and a lower risk of metabolic problems (25).
After reading all of the above and seeing how nutrients play a role in BPH, it is natural to conclude that natural supplements can also be very helpful.
Some of them can be very helpful, while others are better consumed in natural sources. Another option is consuming natural extracts, which maintain the nutrients of each food in their natural form.
The following are probably the best natural supplements recommended for your prostate:
- Curcuma longa
- Pygeum africanum
- Rosemary leaf
- Ginger root
- Some vitamins (Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin E)
- Various minerals and trace minerals (Zinc, Selenium, Magnesium, Iodine)
Consuming more fruits and vegetables appears to be a standard recommendation for almost all health problems. But vegetable intake has a lot of scientific evidence to prevent and treat BPH.
Many nutrients in vegetables can improve BPH or prevent prostate cancer. Other phytonutrients can be found in vegetables only. Therefore, it is crucial to have your share of veggies every day.
Other things you can do to reduce your risk of BPH naturally is cutting out dairy, reducing the intake of red meat, and increasing your physical activity levels. Many natural supplements can help you seize the benefits of key nutrients in plants. And some natural extracts contain a concentrate of the same nutrients and phytonutrients found in plants.