Men have some specific needs when it comes to diet, and many studies suggest eating the right foods can keep the prostate healthy and testosterone levels balanced. Here are 9 foods with protective powers to include in your clean-eating rotation.
It’s rich in magnesium, which can lower the body’s levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that binds to free testosterone and makes it inactive. In a study published in the International Journal of Andrology, boosting magnesium intake resulted in a 24% increase in free-testosterone levels; optimal magnesium status has also been linked with higher testosterone levels in observational and intervention studies.
Other foods rich in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, Swiss chard, halibut, and almonds. Find out if you're deficient in this critical mineral.
They’re loaded with lycopene, an antioxidant that’s been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Better than raw: cook them with olive oil (as in pasta sauce); research shows the absorption of lycopene is greatest when tomatoes are cooked with olive oil. And add some chopped broccoli to that sauce; in a study published in Cancer Research, researchers noted, “the combination of tomato and broccoli was more effective at slowing tumor growth than either tomato or broccoli alone.”
In addition to reducing inflammation, ginger may also increase testosterone levels and improve sexual function. In a controlled study conducted on men undergoing infertility treatment, researchers found ginger helped decrease levels of sperm DNA fragmentation (lower levels are linked to improved fertility and less chance of miscarriage). Animal studies have found testosterone levels nearly doubled after ginger intake; as the amount of ginger increased, so did testosterone levels. However, further studies on humans are needed to verify the testosterone-doubling benefits.
These delicious seeds are rich in zinc, which is essential to prostate function. Research shows pumpkin seeds may limit prostate growth and help prevent benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a common condition that enlarges the prostate gland and can cause problems with urination and, occasionally, sexual function. In several studies, pumpkin seed oil reduced symptoms of BPH, improved urinary function in men with overactive bladders, and improved quality of life.
This fatty fish is one of the best food sources of vitamin D. Studies have shown vitamin D can increase testosterone levels, often dramatically. In a study conducted at Medical University of Graz in Austria, people who spent more time in the sun showed increased levels of both vitamin D and testosterone. In a follow-up study, men who took vitamin D daily saw an average increase of testosterone levels by almost 25%.
The sun is still the best source of vitamin D, but if you don’t get outside much, or can’t tolerate fatty fish, you’ll find D in pork, beef liver, caviar and eggs.
Prostate specific antigen (PSA) is a blood marker for prostate cancer. Men whose PSA levels double in a short period of time have a higher risk of death from prostate cancer, and pomegranate appears to slow PSA increases. In a study published in Clinical Cancer Research, 1 cup of pomegranate juice per day significantly reduced PSA doubling time after surgery or radiation among men with prostate cancer. Studies show pomegranate extract can slow the growth of prostate cancer cells and may lead to apoptosis—or cell death—in cancer cells.
This fish is high in omega-3 fats, which have powerful immune-enhancing and anti-inflammatory effects and may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Eat tuna sandwiches with a slice of avocado, and you’ll increase your prostate protection. Avocados are rich in both vitamin E and lutein, a carotenoid antioxidant. Both the vitamin E and lutein in avocado have been shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells.
What’s the #1 food source of zinc? Oysters! Zinc blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. Deficiencies are linked to low testosterone and boosting zinc leads to a significant increase in testosterone levels. Zinc is especially important if you work out, since intense exercise can deplete testosterone; in a study published in Neuroendocrinology Letters, wrestlers who took zinc daily maintained testosterone levels after a month of high-intensity training.
Other good sources: red meat, chicken, crab, lobster, beans, and nuts.
A top source of vitamin K, which protects prostate health. In one study of over 11,000 men, a high intake of vitamin K2 was linked to a 63% lower risk of prostate cancer.
Including the right foods to support your male reproductive system is crucial. But eliminating specific foods is also crucial.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods