November 02

For #Movember: Guys—Go Red to Fight Prostate Cancer!


By Sharon Palmer RD – The Plant Powered Dietitian

November is known for the start of the holiday season, but it’s also an important month for men’s prostate cancer awareness, as signified by “Movember.”  Movember is a month-long event during which people raise awareness of prostate cancer by growing out their mustaches to help “change the face of men’s health.” So, there’s no better time to step up the fight against prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the U.S. An estimated 218,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and more than 32,000 men will die from it. According to the National Cancer Institute, you can help fend off prostate cancer by avoiding smoking, losing weight, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising. In addition, it’s important for men to be aware of the benefits of early detection and treatment for prostate cancer. And that’s not all, studies show that men can boost their cancer protection through the power of tomatoes.

Tomato Products’ Anti-Cancer Nutrients

When it comes to diet, there’s one food that seems to be among the most promising for protecting men against prostate cancer—tomatoes. Tomato products contain an arsenal of nutrients that may be behind their cancer-protective benefits. They are naturally rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, potassium and carotenoids—which are powerful antioxidants. The most abundant carotenoid in tomato products is lycopene, the pigment responsible for the deep red color of ripe tomatoes. Tomato products—the second most popular vegetable in the country—account for more than 80 percent of the lycopene in the American diet. An Ohio State University study found that single daily servings of processed tomato products produce significant increases in lycopene concentrations in adults. And the lycopene from processed tomatoes versus fresh tomatoes is more bioavailable, because processing breaks down the tomato cell matrix, resulting in greater absorption of lypopene.

Tomatoes Take on Prostate Cancer

A number of studies have explored the prostate cancer-protective benefits of tomato products and lycopene. Researchers from Montreal conducted a meta-analysis that included 11 case-control studies and 10 cohort studies or nested case-control studies on the use of tomato, tomato products, or lycopene. Compared with nonfrequent users of tomato products, consumers of high amounts of raw tomatoes had an 11% reduced risk of prostate cancer, and those with a high intake of cooked tomato products experienced a 19% reduced risk. And in the most comprehensive scientific analysis of cancer prevention and causation ever undertaken, an expert panel of scientists for the American Institute of Cancer Research reviewed over 4,000 trials, studies, and reports in order to create the organization’s Second Expert Report –  Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. The report notes that there is a substantial amount of evidence on tomato products, and that food containing lycopene probably does protect against cancer.  In particular, foods containing lycopene are listed as providing a convincing decreased risk for prostate cancer.

Go Red!

So, this November, kick-start the healthy habit of painting your plate red. Stock your pantry with tomato products such as canned tomatoes, tomato paste, salsa, tomato juice, and tomato soup. Put a variety of tomato-based dishes on the menu, including lasagna, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, chicken cacciatore, pizza, pasta dishes, curries, stews, and soups. Try one of my family’s favorite recipes for Vegetarian Chili.



Join Tomato Wellness in the fight against cancer. To learn more about health benefits, cooking tips and recipes featuring tomato products, visit And check out my blog on the tomato harvest here.

Image: Heirloom tomatoes from my garden in LA, Sharon Palmer, RDN

Sharon Palmer
Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™ is a writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 850 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Today’s Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Blog. Her specific expertise is in plant-based nutrition, including Mediterranean, vegetarian and vegan diets. Her second book, Plant-Powered For Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipes, will be in stores summer of 2014.