LycopeneLycopene is a pigment and powerful antioxidant giving tomatoes, Guava, watermelons, rose hips and pink grapefruits their healthy red or pink color. Found most abundantly in tomatoes (Lycopersicon esulentum), lycopene is a member of the carotenoid family. As a carotenoid, it is one of the phytonutrients and a contributors to the health of the human race.
There are over 500 different carotenoids currently identified by science, and about 10% of them are found in human blood plasma and tissue. Important phytonutrients include allicin from garlic, capsaicin from chili peppers and beta-carotene from a number of sources including carrots.
Lycopene, Lutein, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are the most abundant carotenoids found in human blood and tissues. A mother’s breast milk contains 19 carotenoids, including lycopene. Through human history, carotenoids like lycopene have evolved as an integral part of human biochemistry, and an important part of our health and well-being. Mammals cannot synthesize lycopene, so it must be obtained from the diet.
Research has established that a higher intake of tomatoes or higher blood levels of lycopene correlate with a reduced risk of cancer. Lycopene appears to concentrate in the prostate area more so than in other parts of the body or than other antioxidants. From this, it is suggested that lycopene is an ideal supplement to prevent prostate cancer.
Lycopene is not easily absorbed by the body. Absorption is better in the presence of fat. Mediterranean type diets that use liberal amounts of olive oil enhances the body’s ability to absorb lycopene effectively. Lycopene in tomato based foods, supplements or diets need to include fat to improve the chances of absorption. To improve the absorption of lycopene mix a healthy oil such as olive oil or flax oil with you tomato dishes after cooking. Fride potato chips covered in tomato sauce may be more healthy than we expect!