Lycopene is classified as a carotenoid- a kind of natural colour pigment. It gives red tomatoes their red colour and gives pigmentation to a number of vegetables and fruits. Lycopene is also recognized as an excellent protector against cardiovascular diseases and certain kinds of cancers.
Use as an anti-oxidant
About 85 percent of daily lycopene intake is from tomatoes or from tomato-derived products. The pigment functions as an anti-oxidant inside the body and protects cells from damage wrought by free radicals which are formed when oxygen is burned by the body cells to extract energy.
In its antioxidant function, lycopene is proven the carotenoid which is most potent in quenching the singlet oxygen- a short lived and highly reactive molecule which can cause massive cell damage.
Importance of lycopene
It is seen that adequate lycopene in the diet means fewer probability of prostrate cancer. It also increases the energy.
Lycopene has been found to limit human cancer cell growth. It also protects the body from bacterial infections and inhibits brain tumour growth. It also reduces quantity and size of tumours induced by carcinogens. It strongly inhibits stomach and lung cancers.
Lycopene also inhibits to a lesser degree colon, cervical, pancreatic, and oesophageal cancers.
This carotenoid reduces the chance of suffering a stroke by 50 percent.
Since it is an anti-oxidant, lycopene can assist in the reduction of blood LDL cholesterol (aka the bad cholesterol).
Lycopene also protects against osteoporosis, varicose vein removal, infertility, prostate, eye disease, endometrial, and breast cancers.
The human body does not produce this carotenoid. It can be obtained only by consuming foods rich in this compound. In most modern diets, lycopene is sourced from tomato products like tomato juice, pizza sauce, ketchup, and spaghetti sauce.
The compound is absorbed well when consumed with cooked tomato products. Fresh tomatoes are ineffective in this regard. Since it is soluble in fat, an addition of little oil is possible. Other than tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon also contribute lycopene to diet.
Lycopene rich diet
A breakfast of tomato soup is an excellent way to have lycopene. An addition of fresh basil increases the taste.
While cooking spaghetti sauce, simply add tomato paste.
A glass of tomato juice makes a refreshing snack.
Consume omelets, baked potatoes and pork chops with salsa.
Opt for watermelon at salad bars