Playing diet defense

Roughly 50 percent of men over the age of 50 have an enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. By the age of 80, nearly 90 percent of men will live with BPH.

The good news is that a diet rich in certain vitamins and minerals can keep your prostate healthy and lower your risk for BPH. Being overweight is another risk factor for developing the condition. So making nutritious food choices is also a great way to lower both your weight and your risk.

Sesame seeds are rich in zinc. The mineral is essential to the health of the prostate, according to a study in the Indian Journal of Urology. Men with either BPH or prostate cancer have lower levels of zinc in their bodies, sometimes up to 75 percent lower than those with healthy prostates.

Zinc that comes from food is easier to absorb than zinc supplements. Help your body by snacking on sesame seeds. Almonds, adzuki beans, and pumpkin seeds are also high in zinc.

A study on rats show that pumpkin seeds may also be beneficial for managing BPH.

Obesity may increase your risk for an enlarged prostate, according to the Mayo Clinic.

One review suggests increasing omega-3s along with exercise to decrease obesity and weight gain. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats can protect you from:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • cancer
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • inflammation
  • weight gain

If you’re not a fan of fish, you can get your omega-3s from walnuts, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, and canola oil. Smaller amounts are found in kidney beans and soybeans.

According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin C found in vegetables may play a role in fighting BPH. Bell peppers contain a lot of vitamin C: One cup of raw bell peppers contains nearly 200 percent of your daily required intake of vitamin C. Other vegetables rich in vitamin C that you may want to add to your diet include:

  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • kale
  • Brussels sprouts

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, the bright carotenoid, which gives the plant its red color. Lycopene may lower the risk of developing prostate cancer. It can also help men with BPH, according to the National Cancer Institute.

One study saw lycopene slow the progression of BPH in participants. Lycopene also helps lower the prostate specific antigen (PSA) connected to prostate inflammation, BPH, and prostate cancer. Just make sure to include your lycopene rich food with a fat like avocado, nuts, oil or butter to enhance absorption.

You can get lycopene in:

  • tomatoes
  • watermelon
  • apricots
  • pink grapefruit
  • papaya

Avocados are rich in beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol thought to reduce symptoms associated with BPH. Some men taking beta-sitosterol supplements say they have better urinary flow and less residual urine volume. However, the Mayo Clinic warns that the safety and effectiveness of beta-sitosterol supplements have not been proved.

Besides avocados, other foods rich in beta-sitosterol include:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • wheat germ
  • soybeans
  • pecans

Eating more vegetables can help lower your risk of BPH. Green leafy vegetables are especially important because they are rich in antioxidants. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli also reduce the risk of prostate problems, including BPH and prostate cancer.

People who eat onion and garlic regularly may also benefit from a lower risk of BPH. Onions and garlic are often used in natural medicine to fight infection and help strengthen your immune system.

One older study saw that soybean isoflavones reduce BPH growth. But a more recent one suggests that soy only decreases cancerous cell growth in prostates.

Another study found that soy isoflavones help with symptoms and signs of lower urinary tract symptoms due to BPH.

For other sources of soybean isoflavones, try these whole soy foods:

  • soymilk
  • tempeh
  • edamame or cooked soybeans
  • roasted soybeans
  • soy yogurt