Lycopene Benefit

For informational purposes you should know that lycopene is part of the carotenoid family of substances (this is the main carotenoid in human plasma), which cannot be manufactured by the human body. Lycopene, is closely related to the well known beta-carotene. Indeed, many recent studies suggest that some of the benefits attributed to beta-carotene actually derived from lycopene.

Lycopene has an important biological value for the human immune system and allows the body to develop antioxidant activity neutralizing free radicals, generated by the normal metabolism of cells.

The levels of lycopene in our body are influenced by many biological factors and our way of life. Within our body it is found in the serum, in the adrenal glands, the liver, the testicles and the prostate.

Lycopene General Info

Lycopene is the phytochemical substance that gives the red color to tomatoes and its derivatives.

Lycopene can also be found in watermelon, in pink grapefruit, in the sanguine, the papaya, the guava and the strawberries.

In the fresh fruits and vegetables, the lycopene is entrapped in the plant tissue. Therefore, only a part of the lycopene contained in the fresh fruit can be absorbed.

The processing of fruit makes lycopene more biologically available, by increasing the surface available for digestion.

The chemical form of lycopene varies with temperature changes occurring during processing and thus it is more easily absorbed by the body.

Although lycopene is available in supplement form, it is likely to be more beneficial when taken from the whole fruit, where other substances of the fruit may increase its effectiveness.

Because of its solubility in fat (like vitamins A, D, E and beta-carotene), the absorption of the tissue increases when it is added to food oil.

Research shows that lycopene can be absorbed more efficiently by the body after it has been processed into juice, sauce, paste or ketchup.

After absorption from the intestine it is “deposited” in the liver, lung, prostate, colon and skin.

Benefits of lycopene

Until now considerable number of studies have shown that lycopene, especially the one coming from the tomato and its derivatives, can help fight various major diseases.

Other scientific studies have shown that lycopene protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation (protect arteries from plaque formation) and that this action of lycopene is greatly enhanced by the existence of another carotenoid, the lutein, which is found in spinach and corn.

Lycopene acts against heart disease, and myocardial infarction.

Lycopene acts against osteoporosis, male infertility, preeclampsia in pregnancy, in diabetes, but also in loss of vision and cataracts.

Studies have shown that lycopene helps prevent macular degeneration in the elderly people, which is the leading cause of blindness in these individuals.

Lycopene has a positive effect on the immune system (white blood cells of people who ate tomatoes were much more resistant to oxidative damage) and helps against aging, and most likely offering wellness and longevity.

There is some evidence that lycopene reduces the oxidation of LDL thereby helping to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood.

Lycopene against cancer

Lycopene protects against prostate cancer, digestive system (mouth, esophagus, stomach, colon), breast, cervical and ovarian cancers.

Regular and adequate consumption of tomatoes reduces the overall risk of cancer at a rate that can even reach up to 40%.

It has been found that lycopene may be used as an anticarcinogenic substance, greatly reducing the likelihood of developing certain cancers. In a 6 year study of 47,000 male individuals, professors of medicine at Harvard found that eating tomato products more than 2 times per week can be associated with a reduction in the probability of prostate cancer by 21-34%.

At the University of Illinois, women with higher levels of lycopene observed five times lower likelihood of developing cervical cancer than those with the lower levels of lycopene. So tomatoes are an important part of our diet and if the test is a factor, this could be an important step in addressing other cancers as well.

How much lycopene should be consumed?

An official recommendation for the daily consumption of lycopene has not been set. However, different studies suggested that for greater protection against cancer at least 6.5 mg per day should be consumed.

Lycopene food sources
In the table below you can see an indication for the intake of lycopene from different types of food

Product Lycopene (mg/100g) Portion size Lycopene (mg/portion)
 Tomato juice  9.5  250ml  25
 Tomato ketchup  15.9  15ml  2.7
 Spaghetti sauce  21.9  125ml  28.1
 Tomato paste  42.2  30ml  13.8
 Tomato soup  7.2  250ml  9.7
 Tomato sauce  14.1  60ml  8.9
 Raw tomato  3  125g  3.7
 Watermelon  4  370g  14.7
 Pink grapefruit  4  125g  4.9

 

Tomato Nutrition and Benefits

tomatoesTomatoes are low in calories and are loaded with a number of health benefits for the body and they should be a part of any kind of healthy diet. Tomato, which is actually a fruit rather than a vegetable, is a well known anti-oxidant and can be prepared in a number of different ways, e.g. raw, in salads, grilled, or as a boiled sauce.

Tomato Nutrition

To begin with, it is important to know that tomatoes contain a lot of vitamin C, which strengthens the body’s defense. Two-thirds of our daily needs in vitamin C, is already covered by two medium tomatoes. It also contains abundant folic acid, which is necessary for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the body cells. The scientists even argue that those who take medications, drink alcohol, eat too much meat, pregnant women and elder people, have an increased need for folic acid and as a result should consume a lot of tomatoes. This miraculous plant also contains vitamin E which is good for fertility and good for sexual life, vitamins from the vitamin B group which are good for proper metabolic function and strong nervous system, as well as chromium which is mostly good for diabetics as it helps to lower blood sugar levels. It also contains selenium, which belongs to the substances that protect against cancer, since it plays an important role in the immune system, potassium to support the heart function, magnesium which helps against the symptoms of stress and muscle cramps, and iron, copper and manganese.

Perfect skin

Tomatoes get the bright red color from carotenoid lycopene. Carotenoids are plant pigments found in vegetables and fruits with bright red, yellow or orange color. They are also contained in some vegetables with green leaves. The darker the color the higher the content of carotenoids. The carotenoids help to clear the free radicals out of the body, strengthen the immune system and thus potentially reduce the risk of cancer. Moreover, they give us smoother skin and faster and more beautiful tan. Apart from the tomatoes, the carotenoids are found mainly in carrots, pumpkins, peaches, apricots, melons, broccoli and spinach.

To stay healthy, the World Cancer Research Fund recommends eating regular foods with “red”, e.g. tomatoes, “green”, e.g. spinach, and “yellow” color, e.g. apricots. And if you complete your diet with “white” e.g. sheep yogurt, and “black” color, e.g. whole meal bread, then you make a big step towards maintaining a healthy, fit body in good shape and a perfect skin.

Lower Cholesterol

The traditional Mediterranean diet, with tomatoes in almost all recipes, is associated with numerically fewer cases of chronic heart diseases. Recent scientific research has shown that people often eating tomatoes as part of their daily diet are less likely to suffer from heart attacks than those who do not include it in their diet. That’s because tomatoes contain lycopene, an anti-oxidant, which prevents the oxidation of cholesterol LDL, which is the “bad” cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is the initial step leading to the formation of plaque in arteries and therefore to heart attack.

Tomato against cancer

According to recent surveys, regular and adequate consumption of tomatoes, preferably organic, can potentially reduce cancer risk by up to 40%. Tomatoes mainly protects against cancer of the prostate, lung and stomach. In a survey scientists have discovered that smokers who ate more than 14 times a month tomatoes (or carrots) had significantly lower risk of lung cancer than those who ate tomatoes or other vegetables more rarely. Recent research has shown that tomato, like grapes and wine, contain flavonoids. These vital substances are superb in flushing out of the body the free radicals and are found in the outer layer of the fruit, i.e. just below the skin. Of course, when tomatoes are peeled, a significant part of these substances is lost. So you should always eat tomatoes, as well as grapes, with their skin. Beta-carotene (ß-Carotene) is one more important substances contained in tomatoes. Beta-carotene along with vitamins C and E consist the main group of substances for flushing the free radicals out of the body.

Tips for the kitchen

It is interesting to note that lycopene contained in tomatoes is available to the body only when heated and only after adding some fat in it, e.g. olive oil. Therefore, it is not the raw tomato salad that is good for the intake of this substance, but a well boiled tomato sauce. As a result in order to take all vital substances we should eat both raw and cooked food. And here, as in everything in life, balance is important.

Season tomatoes have more vital substances and smell and taste better. Smaller are usually tastier than the larger ones. But tomatoes continue to ripen in the kitchen. So you should avoid as much as possible placing them in the fridge because they lose their flavor. Because tomatoes emit ethylene they should not be placed next to the cucumbers, otherwise they will get spoiled quickly. Finally, it is advisable to wash and slice the tomatoes like all fruits and vegetables just before eating them, in order to keep their precious substances.