While undergoing prostate cancer treatment, there are foods you can eat — and others you should avoid — that can benefit your health. Although there is no magic diet cure for prostate cancer, your eating habits can change your outlook.
“Across all cancers, especially prostate cancer, heart-healthy, sensible, and moderate sugar intake is absolutely helpful for cancer treatment,” says Mark Pomerantz, MD. He is a medical oncologist at the Center for Genitourinary Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Treatments for prostate cancer can affect your metabolism (how food is converted into energy), strength and endurance, he says. When you eat foods that support your heart and improve your overall health, your body is better able to process these treatments.
“Along with exercise, a diet that helps you maintain the leanest possible body is very valuable and will help us treat advanced prostate cancer as aggressively as we want,” says Pomerantz.
A plate filled with colorful fruits and vegetables increases your fiber and antioxidant levels. Both will benefit your cancer treatment.
The high fiber content in fruits and vegetables can help lower your testosterone levels. This can be useful because testosterone helps stimulate tumor growth. Fiber can also bind to cancer-causing substances and remove them from your body.
Antioxidants help rid your body of free radicals – molecules that damage your cells. They can affect the growth of cancer. A diet full of antioxidant fruits and vegetables helps keep free radicals at bay.
According to Pomerantz, researchers are looking into whether certain antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin E and selenium, might actually increase some people’s chances of developing prostate cancer.
“There is evidence that there is a subset of people with prostate cancer who benefit significantly from antioxidants and others with a rare specific genetic variant who do not,” says Pomerantz. “Studies are underway to see if we can figure out exactly who fits into which category.”
Always consult your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.
The most common form of treatment for advanced prostate cancer is hormone therapy. It lowers the amount of testosterone in your body, which directly affects the amount of fat you gain and keep in your body.
“Testosterone is what gives men their favorable muscle-to-fat ratio,” says Pomerantz. “And when we take away this hormone, we put men at risk of losing muscle mass and gaining fat tissue, particularly in the abdominal area. It is this fatty tissue that has been linked to heart disease and diabetes.”
That’s why it’s especially important to move away from high-fat choices like red meat and dairy and get your protein from heart-healthy sources like fish, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and plants.
You can choose from:
Avoid processed lunchtime meats with nitrates and charred meats, which have been linked to cancer.
Sugar may not cause or worsen cancer, but there is an indirect link between the two. So while you don’t have to cut out sugar entirely, it’s still a good idea to keep your levels down.
“If you change the level of sugar in a petri dish, it absolutely affects cancer cells,” says Pomerantz. “What I’m not so sure about is whether you can recreate these conditions in your body in the same way and affect the course of cancer.”
Foods high in sugar like cakes, cookies, and sodas increase the amount of calories you eat without much nutritional value. Eating a lot of sugar is a fast route to weight gain and extra body fat, increasing the risk of health problems and the likelihood of your cancer coming back.
Alcohol is full of carbohydrates. If you drink a lot of it, you’re adding sugar to your system. You could gain weight, which puts pressure on your heart and can make your cancer more likely to come back.
Drinking too much alcohol can also limit your doctor’s treatment options.
“Alcohol affects your liver,” says Pomerantz. “And a lot of the cancer drugs that we use are metabolized by the liver. When you put undue pressure on your liver, it can affect our ability to deliver certain drugs.”
Alcohol can also prevent your body from processing and absorbing certain essential vitamins and nutrients.