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Why a Plant-Based Diet Might Prevent Prostate Cancer

September 04, 2023

Good nutrition is a common theme in preventing a lot of diseases, and prostate cancer is no exception.

Some men take it a step further than just a basic health diet and opt for a plant-based diet, in hopes of either avoiding prostate cancer altogether or making for easier treatments.

But does it work?

“It seems basic, but it’s true,” says Ryan Dorin, MD, a prostate cancer specialist with the Hartford HealthCare Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute and director of robotic surgery and chief of urology at The Hospital of Central Connecticut.

Here’s why switching to a plant-based diet could have a real impact on prostate cancer risk and treatment.

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Good nutrition keeps the body fueled.

After any cancer diagnosis, Dr. Dorin stresses that it’s crucial for patients to follow a good diet to stay as healthy as possible during treatment.

“Cancer and cancer treatments can deplete the body of protein and vitamins, so it’s very important to be smart about what you eat,” he says.

In addition, cancer and its treatment can sometimes slow the body’s metabolism and digestion. This can lead to:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Malnutrition

“Proper nutrition can help reduce these side effects as well,” Dr. Dorin says.

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This is especially true for prostate cancer patients.

Many patients with prostate cancer, especially advanced stages of the disease, undergo hormone therapy treatment.

“This approach to treating the patient’s cancer can, unfortunately, trigger some of the metabolic changes above,” Dr. Dorin explains.

Some men have found added benefit by following a plant-based diet, which strip out potentially harmful ingredients and emphasize healthier foods, Dr. Dorin says. The resulting benefits include:

  • Less fat and sugar in the diet leads to improved cardiovascular health.
  • Foods higher in fiber boost digestion and bowel function.

“Recent research also suggests that plant-based diets may be associated with better cancer outcomes and less progression of cancer, possibly by reducing inflammation and leading to a healthier intestinal microbiome,” he notes.

> Related: Is Plant-Based Protein as Good as Meat for Building Muscle?

Plant-based diets can even ease treatment side effects.

In addition to helping patients stay healthy during cancer treatments, Dr. Dorin says plant-based diet can also ease some of the negative side effects.

“This type of diet can help reduce side effects by improving energy levels and digestion, which can counteract constipation, nausea and fatigue,” he says. “Plant-based eating is also easier on the kidneys and can therefore reduce any kidney stress induced by some cancer therapies.”

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But what about protein?

Thinking about the switch, but concerned about your protein intake? Dr. Dorin suggests trying these plant-based protein sources:

  • Legumes, including black beans, tofu and chickpeas
  • Seeds
  • Protein-rich vegetables like peas, broccoli or dark leafy greens
  • Peanut or almond butter
  • Almond and oat milk
  • Nuts