Posted on by Neal Barnard, MD, FACC
Movember – which takes place every November – raises awareness of men’s health issues. Learn how eating a plant-based diet – and avoiding meat and dairy products – can help fight erectile dysfunction, reduce the risk of prostate cancer, improve mood, and lead to overall better health.
1. Fight Erectile Dysfunction (and Heart Disease)
Erectile dysfunction is a sign of narrowed arteries throughout the body, including to the penis, and can be an indication of heart disease. One recent meta-analysis of 25 studies found that men with ED have a 59% higher risk of coronary heart disease or atherosclerosis, a 34% higher risk of stroke, and a 33% higher risk of dying from any cause, compared with men without symptoms of ED.
But a healthful plant-based diet can help unblock arteries, improving blood flow to the heart and brain, as well as to the penis. In fact, a plant-based diet is associated with reduced risk of erectile dysfunction, according to research recently published in the Journal of Urology. Previous research has found that men with the highest intakes of anthocyanins, flavones, and flavanones – compounds found in fruits such as strawberries, apples, blueberries and citrus – lowered their risk for ED by 14% when compared to those who consumed the least.
2. Protect Your Prostate
Eating a more plant-based diet may help protect the prostate. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men who followed a vegan diet had a 35% lower prostate cancer risk than those following a nonvegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diet. New research in the Journal of Urology found that men who consume the most plant-based foods decrease their risk of dying from prostate cancer by 19%.
Ditching dairy can also help. A study published last month found that a high intake of dairy products such as milk increased the risk of developing prostate cancer. Previous research has shown the same. High intakes of dairy products including whole and low-fat milk and cheese increase the risk for prostate cancer, according to a meta-analysis that looked at 32 studies.
3. Have Healthy Hormone Levels
Men on vegan diets have as much testosterone as men who eat meat. Researchers assessed diet records for 191 participants and tracked their testosterone levels, finding no differences in testosterone levels. And if you were worried about consuming tofu, tempeh or other soy foods, don’t! Research shows that neither soy foods nor isoflavone supplements from soy affect testosterone levels in men.
4. Improve Fertility
Avoid hot dogs, bacon, and other processed meat to help keep your sperm healthy. Researchers analyzed 364 samples of semen from 156 men who were having reproductive difficulties and asked the men to complete a food record. Those with higher intakes of processed meat products (more than one-third of a serving per day) saw more abnormalities in sperm count, size and shape, compared with men who ate less.
But eating more fruits and veggies could help keep you fertile. Researchers compared the dietary intake of antioxidants in 10 fertile and 48 infertile men and correlated the findings with sperm motility. Infertile men were twice as likely to have a low intake of fruits and vegetables (less than five servings per day) compared with fertile men.
5. Boost Your Mood
A Physicians Committee study found that eating a plant-based diet and removing animal products – including meat and dairy – from your diet can be helpful for improving mood and reducing depression and anxiety.
Plant foods provide fiber, which helps the digestive tract. In turn, that seems to protect against depression. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that the more fiber people ate, the less likely they were to be depressed. Beans, vegetables, fruits and whole grains provide fiber, but there is zero fiber in meat, eggs and dairy products.
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Paula is a highly qualified and experienced nutrition counselor on the staff at Village Green.
Margo's impressive knowledge base is the result of a unique blend of educational and professional experience.
Dr. Neal Barnard
Dr. Barnard leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research.
Dr. Joseph Pizzorno
Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, ND is a pioneer of integrative medicine and a leading authority on science-based natural medicine.
Debi is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition, a personal trainer, and whole health coach.
Teri is a is a Certified Coach Practitioner with extensive certifications and experience in holistic medicinal practices.
Dr. Rav Ivker
Dr. Rav Ivker is a holistic family physician, health educator, and best-selling author.
Susan writes about the connection between plant-based diets and a reduced risk of chronic diseases.
Dr. Rob Brown
Dr. Brown's blended perspective of healthcare includes a deeply rooted passion for wellness and spiritual exploration.