Many men experience problems with the prostate gland, with risk increasing as they age. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as enlarged prostate, affects 40 million American men, and can cause several urinary issues, such as weak stream or frequent trips to the bathroom at night. Prostate cancer is also common, with one in eight men diagnosed during their lifetime. The good news is that choosing certain foods can have a positive effect on the health of the prostate. 

Let’s look at the role of diet in prostate health.

What is the prostate? 

The prostate is a small gland (the size of a walnut) in men that surrounds the urethra and is located below the bladder. Its primary function is to produce semen, the milky fluid that carries sperm from the testicles when a man ejaculates. 

The prostate grows and changes with age, which can make urinating difficult. This benign prostatic enlargement, or BPH, can obstruct the flow of urine from the bladder and through the urethra when men urinate. The most common signs of BPH include:

  • a weaker urine stream
  • a sense of incomplete emptying
  • needing to wake up at night to go to the bathroom

These symptoms occur very gradually with age, so most men who develop BPH may not require treatment unless their symptoms are quite bothersome. Furthermore, not all men with bothersome BPH need medications or surgical treatment. Some of these symptoms can be managed and prevented with some lifestyle and dietary modifications that we will discuss below. 

Finally, as men age, their risk for prostate cancer increases. However, prostate cancer generally does not cause urinary symptoms. It usually occurs in a separate part of the prostate that does not interfere with urinating, except in rare situations where the patient has advanced stage disease. 

Because the risk for prostate cancer increases with age and patients with prostate cancer do not experience any symptoms, prostate cancer screening is recommended. For men between the ages of 50 and 70, most guidelines include a blood test called PSA (prostate specific antigen) and a digital rectal exam (DRE) with their primary care provider. If these tests are concerning, they are then referred to a urologist for further workup. While there are no FDA-approved medications or supplements to prevent prostate cancer, there is a good amount of evidence for lifestyle and dietary modifications that can reduce its risk.

Foods for a Healthy Prostate

The adage “you are what you eat” makes sense. If you eat nutritious foods, your body gets what it needs to keep you healthy. Research has shown that a diet focused on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, and healthy fats promote a healthier prostate and can slow its growth. These foods are rich in nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that combat oxidative stress and inflammation, which are linked to prostate issues.

This approach to nutrition is like the Mediterranean diet, which has proven benefits to heart and brain health as well. In fact, it’s even linked to living longer. You can learn more about it in this article

Men who want to keep their prostate in good working order might consider adding the following foods to their regular diet:

  • Healthy fats: Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your overall health and may contribute to a healthier prostate. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the prostate gland. Be sure to include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as flaxseeds, and walnuts. When cooking, stick with extra virgin olive oil, which also has proven health benefits. 
  • Lycopene: Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. Research suggests that a diet high in lycopene may be associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Focus on including tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit in your regular menu. 
  • Selenium and Zinc: These minerals play a pivotal role in prostate health. Brazil nuts, seafood, lean meats such as chicken and turkey, and pumpkin seeds are great sources for these important nutrients.
  • Limited red meat and dairy: Consuming high amounts of these foods has been linked to an increased risk for prostate cancer. Moderation is key, so limit your intake of red meat and high-fat dairy products. Instead, choose seafood or white meat such as chicken or turkey, and opt for low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Liquids and a healthy prostate

  • Water: Staying well-hydrated is crucial for overall health, including prostate health. Adequate water intake supports urinary function and helps flush out toxins from the body. Unfortunately, men with bothersome BPH will often cut back on how much water they drink to reduce frequent trips to the bathroom. This can have a negative effect on your health. Staying hydrated throughout the day is key. If your sleep is interrupted by multiple bathroom trips, avoid drinking large amounts of fluids right before bedtime. You can learn more about dehydration and how much water to drink in this article.
  • Green Tea: Green tea, known for its rich polyphenol content, has been associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. Incorporating green tea into your daily routine may contribute to overall prostate well-being. Consider switching that cup of coffee for some green tea instead.

Foods to avoid if you have urinary symptoms due to BPH

Some foods and drinks are known to irritate the bladder. For men with an enlarged prostate who have bothersome urinary symptoms, it’s best to avoid or limit those items, including:

  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • spicy foods
  • chocolate
  • citrus
  • carbonated drinks

Your food choices can have a direct impact on your prostate as well as your overall health and well-being. While diet is important, other factors also affect your health. Maintain a healthy weight, get regular exercise, quit smoking, and see your doctor for regular check-ups and screenings

Remember, while an enlarged prostate is common, eating a healthy diet can help to keep your prostate healthy and reduce symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms of BPH or other issues, our team of experts can work with you to identify the best treatment options, and help you get back to your life. 

Learn more about our program and how we can help you.

Sari Khaleel, MD

Sari Khaleel, MD

Dr. Sari Khaleel is a surgeon with the Minimally Invasive Urology Institute (MIUI) at The Miriam Hospital, the Lifespan Cancer Institute and Brown Urology, Inc.  He is an assistant professor in surgery (urology) at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Dr. Khaleel specializes in the care of patients with prostate, testicular, kidney and bladder cancers. He has expertise in both traditional and robot-assisted surgery.