Eating a variety of brightly colored foods is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals the body needs. These foods are also rich in antioxidants, like lycopene.
What Is Lycopene
Lycopene is a carotenoid that occurs naturally within the body in the liver, blood, colon, prostate, adrenal glands and skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Carotenoids are pigments compounds that provide color -- they're also antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the cells of the body from the damage of free radicals. Free radicals are byproducts of energy production within the body and are also present in the environment.
Benefits of Lycopene
As previously mentioned, lycopene helps fight off free radicals that can damage the cells of the body. This damage can lead to aging of the cells and an increased chance of illness. Here are the major ways lycopene has been shown to benefit health:
Support proper prostate function in men of middle age and older.
Protect the heart against damage that may increase your risk for heart disease as well as hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Strengthen the immune system.
Keep the digestive system on track.
Helps keep vision sharp.
May reduce cancer risk, particularly of the prostate gland.
Lycopene continues to be studied for its medicinal qualities and health benefits, especially when it comes to potential anti-tumor capabilities. More research, involving human participants, will need to be conducted before a standard daily dosage can be recommended.
Getting More Lycopene
Lycopene is found naturally in certain foods, most notably tomatoes. There is research to suggest eating cooked tomatoes is preferable to raw ones in order to obtain more lycopene. Cooking them is said to help heighten the effects of the lycopene, but that doesn't mean eating raw ones isn't also a great idea. Here are some easy ways to enjoy more tomatoes:
Roast them in a pan and then toss with whole grain pasta and fresh herbs.
Puree fresh tomatoes as a base for tomato soup. Add stock, garlic and herbs and heat through.
Drink tomato juice with breakfast -- you can also combine it with other fruits or vegetables in your juicer.
Grill tomato slices before putting them on a black bean burger or chicken sandwich.
Toss freshly chopped tomatoes with cucumber and thinly sliced red onion. Season with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
In addition to tomatoes, lycopene is naturally present in papayas, watermelons and mango. These fruits all have vibrant orange and red hues, which is indicative of the presence of carotenoids. They can be blended into smoothies, juiced or just eaten plain to get the benefits of lycopene.
You can also try a lycopene supplement to get a stronger dose of the antioxidant. Just be sure to check with your doctor first if you're pregnant, breastfeeding or may become pregnant or if you're currently being treated for a medical condition.
You can find lycopene supplements and the latest health news at eVitamins. Have a great weekend!