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  2. Nov 4, 2021

Fight Erectile Dysfunction and 4 More Reasons to Go Plant-Based This Movember

by Josh Cullimore, MD, MPH

eggplant
Photo: Getty Images

Movember—which takes place every November—raises awareness of men’s health issues. Learn how eating 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.

Watch Foods That Can Help Erectile Dysfunction on The Exam Room Live.

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.

Watch a Plant-Powered Approach to Prostate Cancer on The Exam Room Live.

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.

Watch Does Soy Lower Testosterone? on The Exam Room Live.

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.

Watch Foods That Affect Fertility.

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.

Watch Foods That Help Depression on The Exam Room Live.

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