Lycopene is a carotenoid—a family of pigments that give fruits and vegetables their brilliant red, orange, and yellow coloring. Lycopene is also a powerful antioxidant that eliminates dangerous free radicals that can damage DNA and other fragile cell structures. Numerous studies have shown that ingesting lycopene-rich foods can result in positive health benefits.
Lycopene is better absorbed in the body when it is combined with some fat as lycopene is fat soluble. The oil in tomato sauce, for example, makes it ideal for absorbing lycopene.
It is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect against degenerative diseases. It does this by neutralizing free radicals in the body. Lycopene may help prevent DNA damage in the cells and help the cells to function better. High levels of lycopene, in the blood and fatty tissues, correlate with reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration. The human body cannot produce lycopene so it must be obtained from food sources. Tomatoes and related tomato products are the major source of lycopene compounds, and are also considered an important source of carotenoids in the human diet.
Considerable evidence suggests that lycopene, a carotenoid without provitamin A activity found in high concentrations in a small set of plant foods, has significant antioxidant potential in vitro and may play a role in preventing prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease in humans.
TOP FOODS CONTAINING LYCOPENE
Micrograms of lycopene
|½ cup canned tomato puree||
|1 cup canned tomato juice||
|1 wedge of raw watermelon||
|½ cup ready-to-serve marinara sauce||
|1 tablespoon canned tomato paste||
|1 tablespoon catsup||
|½ pink or red grapefruit||
|1 tablespoon salsa||
|One sun-dried tomato||
|One slice of raw tomato||
|One cherry tomato||
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database
Lycopene as a supplement can be considered as part of a nutritional program, but most studies suggest the food source is the optimal way to deliver this antioxidant to the body tissues. Lycopene is mostly available in capsule and softgel form, with dosage guidelines from manufacturers ranging from 10 to 30 mg taken twice daily with meals. It is also incorporated in multivitamin and multimineral products. This fat soluble vitamin should be taken with meals so that it can be absorbed more easily. Absorption in humans is approximately 10% to 30%, with the remaining excreted. The estimated daily intake of the general population is 0.5 to 27 mg per person per day. (source)