Lycopene can be delicious.

Lycopene is a plant nutrient with powerful antioxidant properties. with many health benefits – sun protection, improved heart health and a lower risk of certain types of cancer. It can be found as a supplement but may be most effective when consumed from foods that are naturally rich in it – tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, and other red or pink fruits. It has been linked to health benefits ranging from heart health to protection against sunburns and certain types of cancers.

Antioxidants protect your body from damage caused by compounds known as free radicals. When free radical levels outnumber antioxidant levels, they can create oxidative stress in your body. This stress is linked to certain chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Research shows that lycopene’s antioxidant properties can help keep free radical levels in balance, protecting your body against some of these conditions.

In addition, test-tube and animal studies show that lycopene may protect your body against damage caused by pesticides, herbicides, monosodium glutamate and certain types of fungi.

May Protect Against Certain Types of Cancer

For instance, test-tube studies show that the nutrient may slow down the growth of breast and prostate cancers by limiting tumor growth. Animal studies further report that it may prevent the growth of cancer cells in the kidneys. In humans, observational studies link high intakes of carotenoids, including lycopene, to a 32–50% lower risk of lung and prostate cancers.

A 23-year study in more than 46,000 men found that men who consumed at least two servings of lycopene-rich tomato sauce per week were 30% less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who ate less than one serving of tomato sauce per month. A recent review of 26 studies found more moderate results. Researchers linked high lycopene intakes to a 9% lower likelihood of developing prostate cancer. Daily intakes of 9–21 mg per day appeared most beneficial.

May Promote Heart Health

Lycopene may also help lower your risk of developing or prematurely dying from heart disease. That’s in part because it may reduce heart disease risk factors. More specifically, it may reduce free-radical damage, total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and increase “good” HDL cholesterol. High blood levels of lycopene may also add years to the lives of people with a combination of health conditions that can lead to heart disease. Over a 10-year period, researchers noted that individuals with that condition who had the highest blood lycopene levels had up to a 39% lower risk of dying prematurely. In another 10-year study, diets rich in this nutrient were linked to a 17–26% lower risk of heart disease. A recent review further associates high blood levels of lycopene with a 31% lower risk of stroke. Lycopene’s protective effects appear particularly beneficial to those with low blood antioxidant levels or high levels of oxidative stress. This includes older adults and people who smoke or have diabetes or heart disease.

May Protect Against Sunburn: Lycopene also appears to offer some protection against the damaging effects of the sun. In one small 12-week study, participants were exposed to UV rays before and after consuming either 16 mg of lycopene from tomato paste or a placebo. Participants in the tomato paste group had less severe skin reactions to the UV exposure.

Food Sources

Must have a rich pink to red color generally contain some lycopene. Tomatoes are the biggest food source, and the riper the tomato, the more lycopene it contains. Sun-dried tomatoes: 45.9 mg

Tomato purée  Guava  Watermelon  Fresh tomatoes  Canned tomatoes  Papaya  Pink grapefruit:  cooked sweet red peppers

Lycopene Supplements: Lycopene can be taken in supplement form. However, it may interact with certain medications, including blood thinners and blood-pressure lowering medications. One small study also found that 2 mg of daily lycopene supplements during pregnancy could increase your risk of preterm labor or low birth weight. In these cases , please speak to your doctor if you need help deciding whether to take Lycopene.

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