You are what you eat” is a saying that can mean so many different things to people. With the increasing amount of information about food and nutrition, it is difficult to know what to choose.
As the awareness of health increases, most people understand that food can impact the chances of developing certain conditions and diseases as they get older. As men age, the risk of prostate cancer rises each decade. It is thought to be a lifestyle disease similar to heart disease, diabetes and other forms of cancer.
Therefore, following a heart healthy lifestyle has been shown to protect men from developing this most common form of cancer.
General recommendations for a cancer prevention diet include eating more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans (legumes), avoiding sugary drinks and high calorie foods, limiting consumption of red meats, while avoiding processed, cured meats, such as salami, bologna and pepperoni and limiting salty and packaged high sodium foods.
There is evidence suggesting a lack of vitamin D (sunshine vitamin) may be a risk factor for developing prostate and other forms of cancer. A third of the Canadian population has a vitamin D deficiency, and therefore it’s recommended to take a daily supplement of 1000IU vitamin D for good health and cancer prevention.
Risk of developing prostate cancer may be lowered by eating tomato-based foods, such as pasta sauce, tomato juice/soup and paste. These foods are high in lycopene, which acts as an antioxidant. Studies show that it’s more beneficial to eat foods rich in lycopene than taking the supplemental/pill form.
Including tofu, soy milk and other foods made with soy beans has been shown to give men a protective advantage against developing prostate cancer. Evidence suggests that soybeans have hormone-like qualities called isoflavones that may be responsible in delaying prostate cancer development.
Research indicates that food sources are safer than supplemental doses.
Ground flaxseed is another food source of isoflavones in the diet. Flaxseeds also contain other protective qualities, such as omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and fibre which have heart healthy benefits. Flaxseed oil doesn’t contain the plant estrogen or fibre and isn’t a good replacement for the ground flaxseeds.
Heart healthy diet includes eating fish regularly for their omega-3 fatty acid nutrition. Intake of fish twice weekly, such as salmon, sardines, oysters or tuna will offer these important cardiovascular benefits.
If eating fish is not part of your regular diet, taking an omega-3 or fish oil supplement will provide these essential fatty acids.
Selenium deficiency may be a risk factor for developing prostate and other cancers in North America. This may be related to the fact that there is a lack of this trace mineral in the soil in the Pacific Northwest and some locally grown foods may not have much selenium content.
The greatest benefit of the addition of selenium-rich foods are shown in those men who are deficient.
A brazil nut will provide 100 per cent of the recommended daily allowance. Small amounts of selenium are also found in whole wheat, barley, tuna and turkey (depending on where the food was grown or raised).
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that works in concert with selenium. If an individual is following a low fat diet, their intake of foods rich in vitamin E may be too low. A couple of surefire ways to get some vitamin E through diet would be to eat ¼ cup of almonds or sunflower seeds regularly. Also, a general multiple vitamin/mineral would offer a reasonable amount of this important vitamin, along with a small amount of selenium micromineral.
A single dose supplement of vitamin E is generally not advised, as it has been associated with adverse effects in those with heart disease and diabetes.
Pomegranates are rich in polyphenols, which act as potent antioxidants. There is emerging evidence that demonstrates that this fruit can offer some protection for men and prostate cancer.
Green and orange vegetables
Dark, colourful vegetables and fruits are a powerhouse of nutrition due to their phytochemical (or plant chemical) content. Phytochemicals are responsible for the flavour, colour and odor of plant foods.
To ensure adequate levels of these potent antioxidants, include a dark orange and a dark green vegetable daily. A minimum of five different colours of produce daily will give the body a good variety of healthful phytochemicals.
Daily activity is also an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. Men are encouraged to find ways to have regular aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, and cycling. Plus, to help prevent bone loss and strengthen lean muscle, some form of regular weight training will help to reduce fatique and maintain good quality of life in men of all ages.
With the amount of recreation programs and sports club drop-in opportunities in Port Alberni, there is no excuse for not having fun while being active.
Sandra Gentleman, RD, is an Alberni Valley-based registered dietitian and steward of Canal Beach.