What is a Healthy Diet for Prostate Cancer Patients?
Many men with prostate cancer want to know what kind of foods they should be eating. In general there is no special diet that you must follow while on radiation. However, there are foods that can make you feel better and more energized, help you lose weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, and may even help keep the cancer in remission and cured. Did you know that the # 1 cause of death for prostate cancer patients is heart disease!? The proper diet can help fight the prostate cancer and lower your risk of heart attacks and other health conditions.
So what is the healthiest diet? It is not an easy answer. If you ask 10 doctors you will get 10 different replies. I myself have read about 40 books about nutrition, and I still have a hard time answering “what should I be eating, doc?” My own ideas have changed dramatically over the years. I used to follow Ornish low fat vegetarian, vegan, and even macrobiotic diets for 13 years, but over the past few years I have started eating meat again, and now I try to follow an anti-inflammatory Paleolithic diet.
Nutrition is a little like religion. You will find plenty of people who are zealous believers about their particular diet. You have the various prophets and bibles for the different diets, i.e. Atkins “Diet Revolution”, Ornish “Eat More Weigh Less”, Agatston “South Beach”, Cordain “Paleo Diet”, etc. Many of these diets will work and help you lose weight if you follow them closely. Individuals may respond better to one diet over another. For example, I have seen many people do well on a vegetarian diet like Ornish recommends, but other people do not. One thing that all diets seem to emphasize is to eat less sugar.
The Anti-inflammatory Paleo Diet
Inflammation can be created in the body by many of the foods we eat. Inflammation is what causes many diseases, such as heart disease, arthritis, obesity, and cancer. Inflammatory foods include 1) omega-6 oil in vegetable oils and the fat in factory farmed animals, 2) sugar and other refined carbs, 3) foods that may react with your intestine such as wheat, beans, and dairy. The Paleo diet emphasizes foods that the human body is genetically programmed to run better on: Vegetables, fruit, healthy meats, healthy oils, nuts & seeds, and various spices and flavorings. Some of the Paleo diet recommendations might seem blatantly wrong at first glance, such as butter is good and whole grains are bad. If someone had told me this advice a few years ago I would have laughed at them as I continued to eat my brown rice, beans, and tofu diet that was making me sick. So I can’t blame my readers for being skeptical. But I would encourage you to read some of the books and blogs that I list later on this page. It was only after I reviewed all the science in Gary Taubes book “Good Calories Bad Calories” that I came to believe that saturated fat could actually be healthy for you. Did you know that the French eat the most saturated fat in the Western world yet have one of the lowest rates of heart disease? It’s been called the French paradox, but it’s no mystery to Paleo diet believers.
Some basic principles in the Paleo Diet are as follows:
- Eat more vegetables. The more the better, all varieties, including root vegetables. Some people do not tolerate potatoes and peppers. Pickled vegetables are very good.
- Eat more fresh fruit. Berries are particularly healthy. Fatty fruits are very good for you, including avocado, olives, and unsweetened coconut.
- Eat much less sugar, i.e. less soda pop, drinks with sugar, cakes, pastries, cookies, candy, candy bars, sweetened foods, sweetened sauces. The less sugar you eat the better!
- Eat less vegetable oils: less margarine, vegetable oil, vegetable lard, soy oil, corn oil, cotton seed oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, canola oil, salad dressings, oily sauces, any oil that says hydrogenated.
- Use only healthy oils for cooking and dressings: olive oil, butter, coconut oil. Only eat fried food if it has been fried in one of these healthy oils.
- Natural eggs are OK but the hens should be free range and fed a natural diet, i.e. organic or pastured. Omega-3 (DHA) enriched eggs are good. Natural eggs are one of the best foods you can eat despite all the critics.
- Dairy can be OK, but not everyone tolerates dairy. Unsweetened Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are good choices. Dairy products should be organic and / or have a natural pastured diet with no hormones. You can get your calcium in other ways like dark leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, etc.
- Meat is good. Factory farm raised animals may have unhealthy omega-6 fat, so leaner cuts of meat should be chosen. Animals that are wild or free-range and eat a natural diet are healthier and have much healthier fat, and you can eat all their fatty parts and organs. 100% grass fed beef is more expensive but the best. If possible try to get meat at a farmer’s market, Whole Foods store, or a natural-oriented butcher shop.
- Eat much less grain, especially less wheat, i.e. less bread, cookies, cakes, flour tortillas, corn, etc. Wheat gluten causes intestinal irritation in many people, and most people are unaware of this. Even if you think you tolerate grains reducing them and other carbs will reduce the amount of insulin in your body which will make you healthier. A little white rice can be fine and is considered a “safe starch”.
- Eat less beans and legumes — although these appear to be so much healthier than a lot of other foods, many people do not digest them well and they can be a source of intestinal inflammation.
- Nuts and seeds are good — but avoid peanuts. Choose nuts that are raw or dry roasted, and limit yourself to up to 1 – 2 ounces per day.
- All spices, herbs, and flavorings are good that do not contain vegetable oil or significant sugar. Vinegar, broth, salsa, guacamole, etc.
- Soy products can be a problem because they are in the bean family, and they also have some female hormone effects. Soy has been shown to lower sperm counts! A little tofu and tamari soy sauce is fine, and tempeh is probably the healthiest soy product. Avoid all processed soy protein foods like veggie burgers.
- Food is always better when it is in its whole unrefined natural state. In the grocery store think meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, spices and herbs, etc.
- If you need some sweetener, try Stevia. It’s natural. A little honey is OK.
- Almost no one can follow a diet 100%. If you can follow the Paleo diet 80% of the time that is great and you will likely notice great benefits. This is the 80/20 rule. It can take a while to get used to new ways of eating, and may require baby steps at first. Maybe the first week try to take some bread out of your diet and add more vegetable and fruit. The next week try to switch from bad oils to healthy oils like olive oil and butter. The third week focusing on cutting sugars. The fourth week try to switch to organic / natural eggs and dairy. Etc.
- You should aim for about 2/3 plant based foods on your plate, and 1/3 animal based food.
Paleo Resources – Books and Blogs
Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes. Great Book.
Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet. Great Book.
The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
Mark’s Daily Apple blog by Mark Sisson. Great Blog.
Chris Kessler blog
Q) How is the Paleo diet different from other low carb diets like the Atkins Diet Revolution?
A) Unlike Atkins, the Paleo diet emphasis much more vegetables and fruit, healthy oils only, and meat and eggs from animals that are raised more naturally.
Q) Is it OK to lose weight while undergoing prostate radiation?
A) Yes, but I would recommend that you avoid any dramatic calorie reduction of less than 1500 kcal per day. I would also recommend that you get sufficient protein (80 gram per day +).