Prostate Health: Foods to Eat & Foods to Avoid

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Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It affects one in six men in the United States. Although some prostate health-risk factors, such as age, race and family history, can't be changed, diet can. Making healthy food choices can promote your prostate health and reduce the risk of prostate problems.

About the Prostate

The prostate is a small gland -- part of the male reproductive system. It's similar in size to a walnut. Located under the bladder and in front of the rectum, its main function is to produce protective fluid for sperm. The prostate contains the urethra -- the tube that carries both urine and semen from the body. While the prostate isn't essential for survival, it's important for reproduction.

Prostate Problems

When the prostate becomes too large, problems can occur. This often happens after the age of 50. These conditions include prostatitis, a bacterial infection; benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, an enlarged prostate, which may cause a need to urinate frequently; prostatodynia, a chronic prostate disease that causes discomfort in the pelvic region; and prostate cancer -- the only potentially life-threatening disorder of the four. An article published in the "Journal of the National Cancer Institute" in July 2012 noted that men diagnosed with prostate cancer are less likely to die from the disease than other causes, such as heart disease and non-prostate cancer.

Foods to Eat

Follow a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and healthy oils, such as olive and canola. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that protect against prostate cancer. Eat fresh vegetables and cooked tomatoes, which are rich in lycopene -- a plant pigment that promotes prostate health. Insufficient vegetable intake, especially of cruciferous vegetables, is linked to higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer, according to Prostate Cancer Foundation. Eating healthy oils and nuts increases blood antioxidants, which protect your body's cells. It also reduces insulin and inflammation, which may discourage prostate cancer progression, according to Erin L. Richman, Sc.D., of the University of California, San Francisco Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Foods to Avoid

A major risk factor in developing prostate cancer is diet, according to Prostate Cancer Foundation. Reduce your consumption of red meat and dairy products to keep saturated fat intake to a minimum. Avoid processed foods and foods that contain trans fatty acids, such as margarine. Eliminate alcohol or consume it only in moderation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderate drinking as no more than two drinks per day for men. A standard drink includes 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.