Diana Herrington March 28, 2015
Lycopene is a super star when it comes to good health and cancer prevention. We find it in the news regularly. So what is it?
Lycopene is what gives red fruits and vegetables their bright red color. You will find lycopene in red foods like tomatoes, watermelon, apricots, red grapefruit, guava, red carrots, papaya and rose hips.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that inhibits free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that have an unpaired electron and are therefore unstable. The molecule stabilizes itself by stealing electrons from live cell membranes. This damages the cell and promotes disease.
The super antioxidant, Lycopene neutralizes free radicals by binding to them and stabilizing them. The free radicals no longer create cell damage that can result in diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Lycopene has been found to help reduce prostate, lung, pancreas, colon and rectum, esophagus, oral cavity, breast, and cervix and stomach cancers according to Scientific studies.
As you can see above, tomato products are high sources of lycopene
— but raw tomato is significantly lower.
“The best sources of lycopene are tomatoes and tomato products, which is where about 80 percent of lycopene in the average American diet comes from.” says the Physician Committee for Responsible Health
According to the Oxford Journals, consuming tomatoes and tomato-based products have been shown to lower risk of a variety of cancers. The cancers which responded the most were the lung, stomach, and prostate gland. Research also indicated that lycopene may be preventive for cancers of the breast, cervix, oral cavity, colorectum, esophagus, and pancreas. Studies go on to say that it is important to consume tomatoes and tomato products rather than purified lycopene supplements.
Cancer and Tomatoes
Tomatoes reduce breast cancer due to high amounts of carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and total carotenoids), according to research from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Tomatoes may help prevent prostate cancer. A study found that men who ate more than 10 portions of tomatoes or tomato products per week have an 18 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to men who ate less than ten.
How To Get Lycopene In Your Diet
The best way to get lycopene into the body is to cook with tomatoes and eat them in a meal that provides a small amount of fat. One study showed that when oil was added to heated tomato juice, the blood lycopene levels increased more than when plain, unheated tomato was consumed. Now, that obviously doesn’t mean you should eat lots of chips with ketchup thinking you are helping prevent cancer. Too much oil has its own health risks.
As said above, lycopene supplement extracts do not work well. This is most likely because there are other phytochemicals in tomatoes that may be needed to do the job. Eat real food: eat your fruits and vegetables!
Don’t forget watermelon! Although a slice of watermelon has only one half the amount of lycopene as a glass of tomato juice, think about how much watermelon you can eat! Watermelon makes a great breakfast just by itself. This is important for those who don’t like tomatoes or avoid them because they are in the nightshade produce family.