Friday, 27 September 2013

Protecting the prostate of the Jamaican man

Cut out intake of excessive alcohol and fatty foods
Cut out intake of excessive alcohol and fatty foods

It is a well-known fact that prostate cancer is the number-one cause of cancer deaths in Jamaican men. I wish the cure could be found because many have lost loved ones and many more of our men are ailing from this dreaded disease.

There is no scientific evidence that any particular food or nutrient can cure or prevent prostate cancer. Most researchers and health professionals worldwide have agreed that choosing a healthy lifestyle, which includes making healthy food choices, will lower the risk of developing prostate cancer.

The following lifestyle habits practised in our Jamaican culture may be the cause for our men being at such high risk of developing prostate cancer:
  1. Consumption of high-fat foods such as fried chicken, escoveitched fish, oxtail, fried dumpling/plantain/ breadfruit/fritters, ackee and salt fish/mackerel /corned pork, bread and butter, and patty.
  2. Eating small amounts of fruits and vegetables, despite the availability all year round.
  3. Eating small amounts of peas, beans and nuts. Most only eat less than a cup of peas per week in 'Sunday rice and peas' and stew peas or peas soup. Most will have nuts when they consume peanut porridge or punch, which is usually loaded with sugar.
  4. High intake of alcoholic beverages.
  5. Inadequate physical activity or exercise, thus causing weight gain. Research has shown that eating a high-fat diet, especially lots of animal fat, increases the risk of prostate cancer. Low intake of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and peas can also contribute to our men developing this disease. The more fat that is on the body can be harmful also.
So what could our men start doing to protect the prostate glands? Make healthy food choices and change lifestyle.

  1. Remove skin and visible fat from chicken, beef, oxtail, pig's tail.
  2. Consume low-fat or non-fat milk.
  3. Eat more fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna packed in water.
  4. Bake, roast, steam, grill or stew instead of frying. Do not add butter, oil or margarine when preparing meals because animal meats naturally have fat between the fibres of the meat. Do not grease baking tray when baking or roasting meats.
  5. Use vegetable - or plant-based oil when frying and remove food from hot oil and place on paper towel or clean kitchen towel to remove excess oil before eating.
  6. Skim fat from soups and stews and throw it away.
  7. Limit the amount of fatty foods eaten such as bread and butter, patty, fried foods, donuts, etc.
  8. Eat more fruits and vegetables because of the fibre, vitamins and other nutrients. Eat between five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. One serving of fruit is half cup or four ounces juice or one medium-size fruit. One serving of vegetable is half cup cooked without additional fat or one cup raw. Eat fruits and vegetables with different colours because of the other nutrients/substances such as lycopene in cooked tomatoes that have been proven to reduce the risk of cancer development. Vitamins A, C and E (antioxidants) in fruits and vegetables prevent the damage of cells that may lead to cancer. The fibre in fruits and vegetables causes one to feel full, reduces the amount of food eaten, and helps to promote weight loss or weight maintenance.
  9. Increase the intake of legumes - peas, beans, nuts and seeds. Peas and beans are low in fat, high in fibre and have a substance called isoflavones. Legumes that are high in isoflavones include red peas, chick peas, peanuts and soybeans and its products such as soymilk and tofu.
  10. Consume fewer than two drinks of alcohol per day. One drink is eight ounces of beer or one ounce of distilled rum or four ounces of wine.
  11. Exercise for at least three days per week for 30 minutes to maintain healthy weight or to lose weight. A man with a healthy body has eight to 24 per cent body fat.

Men, protect your prostate by eating a variety of foods from all Caribbean food groups with a reduction in fat, especially animal fat; drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, and increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, peas, beans, nuts and seeds, and increase your activity level.

Marsha N. Woolery is a registered dietitian/nutritionist in private practice and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: