Lycopene, a compound that belongs to the nutrient family of carotenoids, is one of the compounds that gives some foods their red hue. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, lycopene has many positive effects on your health, including reducing your risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Eating lycopene-rich foods can provide the dietary benefits lycopene has for your body, and consuming the recommended amount of lycopene each day helps you reap these benefits.
Lycopene is in a family of substances known as carotenoids. A carotenoid refers to the pigment found in plants. Bright red, yellow and orange colors are made by plants in your diet. Some carotenoids, when ingested, create vitamin A. Lyocpene is not one of those carotenoids. Instead, it is a carotene that mainly works as an antioxidant inside your body. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, lyocpene is one of the most common carotenoids in the average American diet.
Role in Preventing Disease
Lycopene may help reduce your risk of developing certain cancers as well as your risk of having a heart attack. According to a review published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in 2000, high intake of lycopene-rich foods can reduce prostate, stomach, rectal, colon and bladder cancers. The protective antioxidant affects of lycopene may be the provider of a reduction in cancer. In addition, lycopene antioxidants can help reduce oxidized cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream, which can reduce your risk of having a heart attack.
A well-balanced diet is usually adequate enough for lycopene intake. Although there is no concrete recommendation on lycopene set by the Institute of Medicine, consuming lycopene every day proves beneficial. Overall, you should aim for 10 milligrams daily, according to Harvard Health Publications.
Foods Containing Lycopene
The largest contributor of lycopene in the diet is from tomato-derived foods. Tomato paste, puree and soup are high-lycopene foods. Tomato paste provides 75.4 mg in one cup, puree has 54.4 mg in a cup and tomato soup contains 26.4 mg in one cup. Raw tomatoes have 4.4 mg per cup. Other high-lycopene foods are watermelon, grapefruit and baked beans. Because lycopene is stored in the cellulose matrix of fruits and vegetables, cooking, especially tomatoes, can help degrade the proteins of the matrix and make lycopene more readily available for your body. In addition, combining lycopene-rich foods with unsaturated oils during cooking can help your body absorb the lycopene.
- Linus Pauling Institute; Carotenoids; Jane Higdon, PhD; 2005
- MSNBC.com; Eating Ketcup Can Keep My Heart Healthy?; Elizabeth Somer; February 25, 2004
- "Journal of the American College of Nutrition"; Role of Antioxidant Lycopene in Cancer and Heart Disease; A. Venket Rao, PhD and Sanjiv Agarwal, PhD ; 2000
- Harvard Health Publications: Lycopene-Rich Tomatoes Linked to Lower Stroke Risk
- Yellow cherry tomatoes & red plum tomatoes. Diversity image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.