Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes and a bunch of other fresh produce their deep red color. However, lycopene is revered not for the bright coloration it brings, but the incredible antioxidant properties it possesses. In this article, we will tackle some of the health benefits of lycopene as well as its various food sources.
There are many carotenoids (plant pigments) around that serve as powerful antioxidants. According to experts, however, none of them can rival the ability of lycopene to shield the cells from damage brought about by oxygen and light exposure — not even beta carotene, a very popular carotenoid revered for its benefits to the immune system, skin and eyes.
Without further ado, let’s check out some of the health perks lycopene offers:
- Promotes a healthy prostate. Based on studies, men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer who regularly consumed lycopene-rich foods saw improvements in their conditions.
- Reduces breast cancer risk. Numerous studies also revealed that the consumption of high levels of lycopene helped reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
- Wards off other types of cancer. It’s also revealed that lycopene could help prevent various types of cancers that are related to hormonal changes, such as cervical cancer and ovarian cancer.
- Prevents insulin resistance. Experts say that the inclusion of lycopene-containing foods in the diet can help inhibit insulin resistance, thus preventing hyperglycemia which is increased glucose levels in the blood.
- Keeps good cholesterol levels high. Lycopene is known to prevent the oxidation of good cholesterol, which helps control bad cholesterol. In other words, the carotenoid can help lower bad cholesterol levels.
- Reduces high blood pressure. Since lycopene helps increase good cholesterol and at the same time lower bad cholesterol, the blood pressure can be kept within the normal range.
- Lowers heart disease and stroke risk. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are heart attack and stroke factors, and that’s why supplying your body with lycopene regularly can help prevent them.
- Prevents osteoporosis. Because lycopene has antioxidant properties, it helps put oxidative stress to a stop. According to experts, oxidative stress can cause all sorts of problems, including osteoporosis.
- Enhances male fertility. Based on a number of studies, high doses of lycopene may help increase infertility in males. The carotenoid does so by boosting sperm count.
- Keeps vision sharp. Just like its cousin beta carotene, lycopene is very good at keeping your eyesight in a great shape by preventing cataracts as well as macular degeneration related to the aging process.
- Fends off premature aging of the skin. Superb antioxidant properties of lycopene help protect the skin cells from oxidative stress, thus delaying the formation of wrinkles.
- Serves as an all-natural sunscreen. The consumption of lycopene creates a barrier that helps shield the skin from the UV rays of the sun which can cause premature aging signs and skin cancer.
- Treats asthma that’s related to exercise. Based on studies, people who suffer from exercise-induced asthma can benefit tremendously from the intake of lycopene.
Lycopene can bring all of these amazing health benefits! So how can you take advantage of lycopene? Well, you can get your hands on lycopene supplements. But why do that when you can simply consume lycopene-containing foods on a regular basis? Some of the top food sources of lycopene include:
- Tomatoes. There is no denying that tomatoes are the number one food sources of lycopene. Do remember to cook them to really bring out the said carotenoid.
- Tomato-based products. Aside from fresh tomatoes, you can also get lycopene from anything that has tomato in it, such as ketchup and tomato sauce.
- Watermelons. The bright red color of watermelons is a clear sign that they are loaded with lycopene. Further, they help keep your body stay hydrated, too.
- Grapefruits. The pink coloration of grapefruits reveals that they contain lycopene. As a bonus, grapefruits also boost your immune system as they’re rich in vitamin C.
- Asparagus. Only a few vegetables contain lycopene, and asparagus is one of them. Look for asparagus whose tips are purplish or bright green.
- Red cabbage. Wondering why red cabbage is touted as something healthier than its green counterpart? It’s because the former is a wonderful source of lycopene!