What Is Lycopene?
Lycopene is an anti-oxidant, more specifically, a carotenoid that is responsible for the bright red color of most fruits especially tomatoes. However lycopene is not responsible for the color of red cherries and strawberries. Lycopene is a very essential anti-oxidant. Some nutritionists even consider lycopene a stronger anti-oxidant than even beta-carotene!
A recent study showed that women who feed on lycopene-free diets are more susceptible to osteoporosis as compared to those who freely consumed foods with lycopene.
The regular dietary allowance of lycopene is not known but the benefits of lycopene are very potent for a healthy body, so it’s better to incorporate foods with lycopene into your daily diet. One word of caution, though, excessively eating foods with lycopene can turn your body organs especially your liver a yellow color and that is definitely not healthy.
Why Is Lycopene Important to the Body?
- Eating foods with lycopene on a regular basis protects the body from harmful free radicals that strip healthy cells of oxygen molecules thereby, weakening them and making them susceptible to various diseases.
- Averting various types of cancer including skin, cervical, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, breast, prostate and stomach cancer is one of the benefits attained from regularly consuming foods with lycopene.
- When it comes to bone health, lycopene is very potent to strengthen weak bones. A lycopene free diet may lead to oxidative stress in the bones leading to osteoporosis.
- Tomatoes have long been linked to heart health. They have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lycopene also prevents unnecessary clumping of platelets in blood when healing a wound.
Top Five Foods with Lycopene
- Water Melon Water melons are bright red inside their green skin because they contain the red pigment, lycopene. 100 grams of watermelon contain 4.1 grams of lycopene. Watermelons are mostly made up of water– 92% consists of water -which makes them great summer foods.
- Tomatoes These juicy red fruits are more commonly known for containing high amounts of lycopene than any other food-even watermelon! There are 3.1 grams of lycopene per 100 grams of tomatoes.
- Red Guavas 100 grams of red guavas contain 5200 mg of lycopene. Red guavas are also rich in vitamin C, vitamin A and beta carotene. The rich fiber content is necessary for regular bowel movement and prevention of Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Pink Grapefruit Grapefruits have a red to pink color, also due to the presence of lycopene. There are about 3.4 grams of lycopene per 100 grams of grapefruit. Besides being a great food with lycopene, grapefruit is also a rich source of vitamin C and dietary fiber. With these nutritious compounds, grapefruits help lower total cholesterol levels in the body and may also lower blood sugar levels.
- Asparagus 100 grams of fresh asparagus provide 30 mcg of lycopene. This dark leafed vegetable is necessary for optimal health as it Aside from containing significant amounts of lycopene; asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K, E and folate.
More Lycopene-Rich Foods
- Apricots There is approximately 0.86 mg of lycopene per 100 grams of apricots. Apricots are also loaded in beta carotene, which is very essential for a healthy heart and prevention of degenerative diseases.
- Persimmons This sweet fruit provides about 159 mcg of lycopene per 100 grams. Persimmons are also rich in Vitamin A, lutein and beta-carotene for healthy eyesight.
- Papayas About 2 to 5 mg are contained in 100 grams of papaya. Red fleshed papaya has 3.4 grams of lycopene. Papaya is also a rich source of vitamin A for healthy night vision and vitamin E for healthy skin and hair.
- Red Cabbage An average sized red cabbage contains 168 mcg of lycopene. A serving cup of shredded or chopped up red cabbage holds 18 mcg of lycopene.
Lycopene - Quick Facts!
- Lycopene is insoluble in water.
- Lycopene is fat-soluble, therefore is assimilated better with fatty or greasy foods, e.g. pizza
- While nutrients like Vit C get diminished while cooking, Lycopene is actually made more valuable to the body through cooking!
- Lycopene is known as one of the most efficient anti-oxidants known to man.
- Lycopene is also known as internal sunscreen, that helps protect your skin from harmful sunrays from the inside out!
How to Incorporate Lycopene Into Your Diet
Here are some common and creative ways to add foods with lycopene into your daily diet. The best part is with foods with lycopene is that the lycopene contained in them can’t be destroyed by cooking or using any preservation methods like canning. Studies show that cooked tomatoes have just as much lycopene as raw tomatoes!
- Make a salad One of the easiest ways to eat tomatoes, asparagus and red cabbage is by tossing them into a fresh and colorful vegetable salad filled with all kinds of healthy veggies. With watermelons, you can cut them up in sizeable chunks and add to your breakfast fruit bowl.
- Munch away Without doubt watermelons are fruits that you just crunch away on a hot summer day. You don’t need to make a dish out of them-just cut up big wedges of this highly delicious fruit and crunch on them on your front porch.
- Juice them Fruits like guavas, watermelon, grapefruit and tomatoes can easily be blended for a healthy, multi-vitamin lycopene-rich drink!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Joyette Helen Fabien from Dominica on November 06, 2014:
Very interesting and informative. You did good research!