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Diet

You should try to have a healthy diet when you have prostate cancer. Apart from a healthy diet, there isn’t any evidence that you should eat or avoid particular foods. 

Diet and prostate cancer

After a diagnosis of cancer, people often look at changing their diet. You should try to follow a healthy diet. This is important for your general health as well as helping you recover from cancer. It can also help you stay at a healthy weight and lower your risk of developing other conditions. 

There isn’t any strong evidence that you should eat or avoid particular foods. There is research looking into how diet can affect cancer.

Treatment for prostate cancer can cause problems with your diet, such as diarrhoea after radiotherapy. And some men find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, they might be over or under weight.

Your doctor can refer you to a dietitian if you have problems.

What is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet is about balancing the different foods and choosing foods that are tasty as well as nutritious. A healthy diet is:

High in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and pulses

  • Aim for at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day, they can be fresh, tinned, frozen or dried.
  • Try to have a range of different colours of fruit and vegetables to give you a variety of vitamins and minerals.
  • Aim to eat starchy foods every day, such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta.
  • Choose wholegrain versions of cereals, bread and pasta where possible.
  • Don’t forget pulses such as beans, lentils and peas, they are a low fat alternative to meat and a good source of protein.

Low in red and processed meat, saturated fat and salt

  • Avoid or reduce processed meats in your diet such as ham, bacon, sausages, salami and pepperoni.
  • Limit the amount of red and processed meat to between 700 to 750 grams raw meat per week, this is the same as 500 grams of cooked meat per week or about 70 grams of cooked meat per day.
  • For example, 2 sausages are about 60 grams of cooked meat.
  • Choose chicken or fish instead.
  • Choose lean meat.
  • Limit saturated fats found in foods such as fatty meat, biscuits, crisps, cheese, cream and butter.
  • Use healthier unsaturated fats like vegetable, olive and sunflower oil and use small amounts.

Low in foods that contain a lot of sugar

  • Limit the amounts of high calorie foods you eat.
  • These include chocolate, cake and fizzy drinks containing sugar.

Drink enough fluids

  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day.
  • You can drink water, lower fat milk, tea and coffee and sugar-free drinks.
  • Limit fruit juice or smoothies to 150 mls per day because of the amount of sugar they contain.

The diagram below is of a plate of food. Each slice shows how much of that food group should be on your plate to follow a healthy balanced diet. This guidance is from Public Health England (PHE).

Diagram showing eatwell guide

Remember, for most of us, eating is an enjoyable part of our daily lives so don’t worry about having the occasional treat.

Eating a well balanced healthy diet can help you:

  • recover from treatment
  • make you feel better
  • help you feel more in control
  • keep to a healthy weight

Alcohol and smoking

There is no evidence that alcohol affects the growth of prostate cancer. But keeping within the government guidelines can help you to maintain a healthy weight and is better for your overall health.

The government guidelines produced in 2016 state that there is no level of regular drinking that can be considered completely safe. If you choose to drink, the guidelines outline the amount of alcohol that will keep the health risks of alcohol to a low level. 

This guidance is:

  • to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week
  • if you drink this amount, to spread this evenly over at least 3 days
  • to have some alcohol free days in the week to help cut down on the amount you drink

Stopping smoking is generally a good thing to do to help you feel fitter. Some early research suggests that continuing to smoke following a diagnosis of prostate cancer may increase the risk of the cancer coming back and of developing second primary cancers.

Diet problems

Some treatments can lead to long term changes to your diet, affecting how you eat and what you can eat.

Advice about healthy eating can be different if you are underweight. For example, you can eat full fat products to add calories to your diet. Or some salt may help to make foods more tasty if you have taste changes and your appetite is poor.

Bowel problems – when to seek help

Radiotherapy to the prostate gland can change the way your bowel works. Bowel motions may be more frequent and loose. Changing what you eat can help with this.

Radiotherapy to the prostate gland can affect tissue and other organs in the pelvic area, causing more long term side effects. Speak to your doctor if you:

  • need to poo at night
  • need to rush to the loo to have a bowel movement, or you don’t make it in time
  • have bleeding from your back passage (rectum)
  • have other bowel symptoms that interfere with you living an active full life

You may not be able to follow a healthy balanced diet completely if you have these types of changes. Speak to your doctor or dietitian for help and advice about how to adapt your diet.

Last reviewed: 
29 Jul 2019
  • Eating well when you have cancer
    Dr Clare Shaw
    The Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook, 2015

  • Eatwell Guide
    Public Health England in association with the Welsh government, Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland, 2016

  • Lifestyle factors in cancer survivorship
    J Ligibel and others
    Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2012. Volume 30, Pages 3697-3704

  • The practical management of the gastrointestinal symptoms of pelvic radiation disease
    J.N. Andreyev and others
    Frontline Gastroenterology, 2015. Volume 6, Pages 53-72  

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