While the tomato may or may not be on your list of “favourite foods”, it sure does hold its own when it comes to exceptional health benefits. Not much was known about the health benefits of lycopene till the later part of the twentieth century; however scientists and medical researchers have proved that the lycopene-rich tomato does in fact play a significant role in human health.
Once you consume lycopene-rich foods, your body uses it as a powerful antioxidant that protects against degenerative diseases by neutralizing free radicals in the body. Lycopene also helps the cells to function better by preventing DNA and cellular damage. High levels of lycopene in the blood and fatty tissues also reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration.
Lycopene cannot be produced by the human body, and therefore must be obtained from food sources. Some foods that have a high concentration of lycopene are:
- Pink Grapefruits
- Pink Guava
Lycopene is the compound that is responsible for the red colour in these foods. The food that is the richest in lycopene is the tomato. Cooked tomato products have higher levels of lycopene than raw tomatoes because the cooking process helps break down the cell walls of the tomato and make it into a simpler substance for the body to use. While one ripe tomato may contain 3.7 milligrams of lycopene, one cup of tomato soup contains almost 25 milligrams of lycopene.
Tip:Eating tomato products with a little oil helps the lycopene to be more readily absorbed by the body. Try topping your tomato salad with a little olive oil to increase the body’s ability to absorb the lycopene.
Prevention of illness and disease
This power-packed substance helps prevent many forms of cancer and aids in the prevention of many other illnesses and diseases.
- Lowers the risk of heart disease. Lycopene stops LDL cholesterol from being oxidized by free radicals and, as an extra plus point, cannot be deposited in the plaques which narrow and harden the arteries.
- Infertility. Recent research suggests that lycopene may help with infertility by boosting the sperm concentration in men.
- Prevents diabetes
- Prevents age-related macular degeneration and cataracts
- Reduces ageing of the skin
- Protects the skin from sunburn
- Prevents osteoporosis
- Reduces the risk of prostate cancer