November is not only known as the Thanksgiving month, but is also known as Movember. The term "Movember" is the clever portmanteau of "moustache" and "November," fashioned from the idea of growing a moustache beginning Nov. 1 to help bring awareness to men's health issues. The creators of Movember carry the primary goal of "changing the face of men's health issues."
Prostate cancer is one of these leading health issues that ignite major concerns for men. In just this year alone, it was predicted by the American Cancer Society that an astonishing 233,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed, with a 29,480 persons death rate, making prostate health a serious concern for men.
As a registered dietitian, I understand the importance of nutrition and its effects on health. I also understand that just eating healthy foods alone may not prevent chronic disease or cancer, as there are several other lifestyle factors involved such as exercise, medicine, and smoking cessation. However, for the sake of this blog, I will focus my attention on the nutrition components. More specifically, I will focus on two foods containing potent phytonutrients that are promising in prostate health.
In recent years, scientists have explored maca and its potential ability in promoting prostate health. Maca has been shown to protect the body against prostate cancer because of its high levels of glucosinolates, a compound known to contain anticancer properties (1). Interestingly enough, maca contains higher levels of glucosinolates than its cruciferous cousins (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts), which are more commonly known to aid in the prevention of certain cancers (2).
The maca root is a family of 13 varieties in which only three have been researched: black, yellow, and red. Red maca appears to have a prostate-reducing effect on men with prostate enlargement, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), while yellow offers a mild impact and black has none (3). Regardless of the color, all three kinds can be beneficial for men's health. It has also been shown to increase energy and libido, treat erectile dysfunction, and increase semen volume and sperm count (4,5).
Another great food to consume for prostate health is the almighty tomato.
Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. Research has found that lycopene-rich foods can help suppress carcinogens, slow cancer cell growth, and reduce cell damage (6). Men who have lycopene-rich diets tend to have lower risks of prostate cancer (7).
It's not just eating raw tomatoes that will give you the lycopene benefits; it's the cooked tomatoes that ensure adequate lycopene absorption. Studies have found that the levels of lycopene in blood are higher after consuming cooked tomatoes than after eating raw tomatoes (8). So let's welcome some canned tomatoes and tomato sauces, but remember to always watch the sodium content of canned foods. Moreover, there is yet another trick to help the absorption of lycopene, and that is by pairing cooked tomatoes with a small amount of oil or fat. For example, you can drizzle oil in your tomato sauces or you can enjoy a cheese pizza. So I guess pizza is good after all! Remember to be mindful of portion control.
Of course, no food or diet can by itself prevent cancer. What maca and lycopene in tomatoes can do, as part of a healthy lifestyle, is help support your body's basic systems, boost your body's homeostasis, and help repair the destructive effects of aging. And that creates the best possible conditions for health.
It's never too late to take a look at your diet. This Movember, let's start with the best of foods.
Macamato Movember Smoothie
For this article, I have created a smoothie recipe geared toward promoting prostate health that includes both canned tomato sauce and maca powder. The spices used give the smoothie a warm welcoming, while the fruit finishes it off with a sweet after-taste. Cheers to good health and happy prostates!
½ pineapple, chopped
1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen
½ cup canned tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon maca powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
4 mint leaves
25 grams protein powder (rice, pea, whey, or soy)
Place all ingredients in the base of a blender. Puree until smooth. Add water to desired consistency.
Photo and Recipe by Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD
Manuel Villacorta is a nationally recognized, award-winning registered dietitian/nutritionist with more than 18 years of experience. He is a trusted voice in the health and wellness industry. He is the author of Eating Free: The Carb Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good (HCI, 2012) Peruvian Power Foods: 18 Superfoods, 101 Recipes, and Anti-Aging Secrets from the Amazon to the Andes (HCI, 2013) and his newest book Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss (HCI, 2015).
1) Ammermann, U., Li, G., Quirós, C. Glucosinolate contents in maca (Lepidium peruvianum chacon) seeds, sprouts, mature plants and several derived commercial products. Economic Botany2001; 55: 306-15.
2) Li G et al. Glucosinolate contents in maca (Lepidium peruvianum chacon) seeds, sprouts, mature plants and several derived commercial products. Economic Botany2001; 55: 255-62.
3) Gonzales GF. Ethnobiology and ethnopharmacology of lepidum meyenii (maca), a plant from the Peruvian highlands. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011 Oct 2. [Epub ahead of print]
4) Cordova, A., Chung, A., Gonzales, C., Gonzales, G., Vega, K., Villena, A. Lepidium meyenii (maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. (2001). Asian Journal of Andrology. Volume 3.
5) Zenico T et al. Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomised, double-blind clinical trial. Andrologia 2009; 41(2): 95-99
6) Campbell JK, Canene-Adams K, Lindshield BL, Boileau TW, Clinton SK, Erdman JW Jr. Tomato phytochemicals and prostate cancer risk. J Nutr. 2004; 134:3486S-3492S.
7) Etminan M, Takkouche B, Caamano-Isorna F. The role of tomato products and lycopene in the prevention of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004;13:340-345.
8) Giovannucci E. Tomato products, lycopene, and prostate cancer: a review of the epidemiological literature. J Nutr. 2005. Aug;135(8):2030S-1S.