Lycopene, which is commonly found in tomatoes, has recently gained much attention in the scientific community. This is because studies have associated it with a reduced risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. A team of researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the Robert Gordon University in the U.K. reviewed existing evidence on the health benefits of lycopene. From this, they proposed mechanisms through which the carotenoid confers cardiovascular protection. The researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, as previously noted.
Lycopene is a plant nutrient with antioxidant properties. It’s the pigment that gives red and pink fruits, such as tomatoes, watermelons and pink grapefruit, their characteristic color.
Lycopene has been linked to health benefits ranging from heart health to protection against sunburns and certain types of cancers.
This article looks at the health benefits and top food sources of lycopene.
Strong Antioxidant Properties
Lycopene is an antioxidant in the carotenoid family.
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 (1Trusted Source).
Research shows that lycopene’s antioxidant properties can help keep free radical levels in balance, protecting your body against some of these conditions (2Trusted Source).
In addition, test-tube and animal studies show that lycopene may protect your body against damage caused by pesticides, herbicides, monosodium glutamate(MSG) and certain types of fungi (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
May Protect Against Sunburn
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 (23Trusted Source).
In another 12-week study, daily intake of 8–16 mg of lycopene, either from food or supplements, helped reduce the intensity of skin redness following exposure to UV rays by 40–50%.
In this study, supplements providing a mix of lycopene and other carotenoids were more effective against UV damage than those providing lycopene alone (24Trusted Source).
That said, lycopene’s protection against UV damage is limited and not considered a good replacement for using sunscreen.
Top Food Sources
All natural foods with 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. But you can find this nutrient in an array of other foods as well.
Here’s a list of foods containing the most lycopene per 100 grams (33):
- Sun-dried tomatoes: 45.9 mg
- Tomato purée: 21.8 mg
- Guava: 5.2 mg
- Watermelon: 4.5 mg
- Fresh tomatoes: 3.0 mg
- Canned tomatoes: 2.7 mg
- Papaya: 1.8 mg
- Pink grapefruit: 1.1 mg
- Cooked sweet red peppers: 0.5 mg
There is currently no recommended daily intake for lycopene. However, from the current studies, intakes between 8–21 mg per day appear to be most beneficial.”
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Read More … Article Source: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lycopene#food-sources
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