The foods that fight cancer, stop heart disease and strengthen bones after 40

It’s easy to think of food as just … food. But as you age, you can use food to boost your bone health, heart health, and to fight cancer and memory loss.

Sure, if you’re over 40, you probably already know that your testosterone levels start to decline. And you may notice that it is harder to get results from your workouts. Your middle might start getting thicker. Your bones and joints are not the same as they used to be. Maybe you are more easily distracted or more tired than you were in your 20s and 30s.

But what you may not know is that if you pay just a little more attention to your diet and eat better, you can maximize your health and naturally boost energy.

There are foods that are best for men after age 40. You should look for foods that support good heart health, prostate health, strong bones and a healthy sex life. Eating well improves your mental health and increases your immunity for fighting cancer and other diseases that are more common as you age.

Food for heart health

Your heart health is tied to many other measure of health in your body. When you eat well to support your heart, you are also eating for better sexual health: Good circulation is important for erectile health. Your diet should include heart-healthy fats like avocados, nuts and healthy oils such as olive oils. Use plant-based oils that include monounsaturated fats.

Eating foods rich in folate supports good cardiovascular health and protects the lining of your arteries.

Vegetables rich in folate include:

  • Spinach (also high in magnesium for helping to dilate blood vessels)
  • Asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Beets
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Bok choy
  • Cabbage

Foods for prostate health

Fresh fruits and vegetables are important for the health of your whole body, but they can also help you prevent an enlarged prostate, a more common problem as men age. Problems associated with an enlarged and aging prostate include urinary problems, ejaculatory problems and erectile dysfunction (ED).

Vegetables rich in nitrates (beets), lycopene (tomatoes) and folate (green leafy vegetables, asparagus and bananas) are all helpful at maintaining prostate size and sexual health, as well as preventing prostate cancer.

Cooked tomatoes are very high in lycopene, an antioxidant important for good prostate health and prostate cancer prevention. Beware of canned tomatoes: Bisphenol-A (BPA) from can linings can get into the acidic tomatoes. This chemical acts like estrogen in the body and is harmful to men’s health. Look for tomatoes in glass or BPA-free packaging. Watermelon is also high in lycopene.

Omega-3 fatty acids are good for prostate health and for prostate cancer prevention. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish (like salmon, sardines and tuna). Vegetarian sources like Sacha Inchi oil and chia seeds are great, but after 40 it gets harder to convert the type of omega-3 in vegetable sources (ALA) into the types used by the body (EPA and DHA).

Studies show that eating fish oils high in omega-3 may decrease inflammation of the prostate and help prevent prostate cancer from progressing. However, omega-3s from soy and flax may not be the best for men’s health because of their estrogenic effects.

Pomegranates are also an amazing food that can cause prostate cancer cells to die. Pomegranates are great for preventing prostate cancer and overall prostate health, because the fruit is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. The tasty treat also prevents and assists with symptoms of common prostate conditions like enlarged prostate and prostatitis.

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables provides you with phytonutrients and high levels of substances that fight inflammation such as antioxidants, polyphenols and vitamins. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage contain the phytonutrient 3,3-Diindolylmethane (DIM). DIM supports hormone balance and normal prostate size.

Foods for strong bones

Just like women, men are at risk of the bone-weakening effects of osteoporosis. But you can prevent bone loss with weight-bearing exercise and by eating the right foods. You may be surprised to learn that you should avoid calcium supplements and dairy, because they are associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer and a heart attack risk.

Eat foods that are high in natural calcium, including:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Bok choy
  • Arugula
  • Tofu
  • Almonds and almond butter
  • Sesame seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Figs

Getting your calcium from whole foods instead of supplements provides you with minerals and micronutrients that help you metabolize the calcium better and that also support good bone health.

Foods for better sexual health

Erectile strength and libido decrease with age, but you can eat foods that naturally boost testosterone, increase your libido and work as natural remedies for erectile dysfunction. Look to foods that are high in nitrates and lycopene. Beets are especially high in nitrates. These nitrates are converted to nitrites by bacteria in your mouth and then to nitric oxide in your stomach. Eating beets for erectile dysfunction is a more natural way to help with minor erectile dysfunction problems, and beets work by using the same concept as erectile dysfunction treatments. Drugs like Viagra work by increasing nitric oxide levels, and that dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the penis.

Vegetables high in nitrates include:

  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Celery
  • Turnip tops

Erectile function can also improve with lycopene. It is best to get lycopene, found in tomatoes and watermelon, through diet. It is most effectively absorbed if combined with spinach and oily items like avocado or olive oil. A study at the Madrid Urological Institute found that 50 percent of the men with ED who consumed tomato lycopene with extra virgin olive oil were able to achieve improved erections.  Garlic is an aphrodisiac that also goes nicely with tomato sauce, so toss some in when cooking.

Foods that support mental health

Here is something to think about: You can feed your brain the right foods to help lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and depression.

Foods that may prevent Alzheimer’s include omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines or herring as well as eating walnuts, flaxseed and olive oil.

Certain vitamins are important to brain health, including vitamin C (found in red peppers, broccoli and strawberries) and vitamin E (found in olive oil and almonds).

Berries are great for brain health because they contain polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that stop inflammation and help your brain cells work better.

Crossword puzzles aren’t the only way to keep your brain sharp. Studies show that people in their 60s who eat more spinach and other leafy green vegetables over time score higher in memory, verbal and other tests than people in their 60s who do not eat green leafy vegetables.

We all feel better when we eat chocolate and with good reason. Dark chocolate with a 70 percent cocoa content contains important flavonoids. These flavonoids can help fight heart disease and slow down the effects of dementia.

At the Univ. of Montana, they even discovered that dark chocolate can protect the brain from the effects of toxins in air pollution.

Foods to prevent cancer

You can prevent or fight cancer by consuming certain drinks and foods that have been found to prevent cancerBoth red wine and green tea have been shown to help prevent prostate cancer. The resveratrol found in red wine is an antioxidant and phytonutrient. Plus, the wine may bring on feelings of relaxation, which helps protect mental health.

The catechins in green tea are potent antioxidants.  A study published in the Journal of Inflammation Research found that EGCG, the main active component in green tea, shuts down the inflammation that causes prostate cancer cells to form

Also, try to eat five or more servings per week of raw cruciferous vegetables, which can help prevent cancer of the bladder, colon, liver and lung. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale contain high levels of glucosinolates. In the digestive tract, these become iosthiocyanates, which inhibit tumor growth. But isothiocyanates break down when heated, so you will get your best anti-cancer punch if you eat them raw. If you struggle with eating them, throw them in smoothies or dip them in guacamole or hummus.

Many of the foods we listed here appear in more than one category. That is because all your areas of health are connected. Foods that are good for prostate cancer prevention also may help your heart and sexual health. If health in one area declines, it can harm the health of other parts of the body. And if you don’t feel well, that can compromise your mental health. A whole body approach to wellness that includes diet, exercise and prostate supplements is your best bet for feeling your best and preventing disease as you get older.

Editor’s note: If you’re serious about stopping premature aging, avoiding age-related disease and living with a strong mind well into your 90s and beyond, don’t forget about your body’s master hormone. Many experts believe it’s the reason people, like Greek grandpa Stamatis Moraitis, residing in blue zones across the globe (like Okinawa!) are living it up! Click to read his story

Dr. Geo Espinosa

By Dr. Geo Espinosa

Dr. Geo Espinosa is a naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist and certified functional medicine practitioner recognized as an authority in holistic urology and men’s health. He is Clinical Assistant Professor and holistic clinician in Urology at New York University Langone Medical Center. As an avid researcher and writer, Dr. Geo has authored numerous scientific papers and books including co-editing the Integrative Sexual Health book, and author of the best selling prostate cancer book: Thrive, Don't Only Survive.