Lycopene is a phytonutrient and a natural chemical that gives fruits and vegetables a red color. It is part of the group of what are called carotenoids. Lycopene can be found in: tomatoes, blood oranges, watermelons, pink grapefruits, apricots, rose hipsn papaya, Seabuckthorn, Goji-berries (wolf berries) and guavas, among others. The vast majority of the population obtains lycopene primarily through the consumption of tomato products such as ketchup, tomato juice and tomato sauce. But as with many vitamins and minerals, there is a distressing shortage of this healthy substance.
Health benefits of lycopene.
There are several scientific studies underway on the power of lycopene and its importance to our health although a lot of additional research work is needed to thoroughly evaluate everything. Currently we see the substance especially active in the fight against breast and prostate cancer (and some other cancers), the fight against free radicals and thus anti-ageing, it lowers the risk of aging of the blood vessels (the vessel wall remains firmer and more elastic and the cardio-vascular health is promoted) and an additional advantage is that more and more research shows that it also protects the skin from the inside against sun damage and sunburn and thus wrinkles and loss of firmness. (In combination with Silicon from e.g. Silix Hair-Skin-Nails, see my other article).
How do you get the maximum amount of lycopene?
Eating only one tomato salad a day will not give you enough lycopene. This is due to the fact that lycopene becomes optimally available during the processing of tomatoes. A portion of fresh tomatoes contains between 4 and 10 mg of lycopene. However, cooked tomatoes in e.g. a tomato sauce contain about 20 mg. Heating changes the lycopene present in the raw product into a form that can be better absorbed by the body. If you add some extra virgin olive oil to the raw product you increase the absorption even more. It has even been established that the combination of cooked tomatoes and oil can increase the amount of lycopene in the bloodstream two to three times. And it is also a tasty way to get more lycopene in your diet.
Choose a healthy fat like extra virgin olive oil or unrefined flaxseed oil to increase the effect and certainly not chemical, light fats like Olean or Olestra that do not do the job.
Can I eat tomatoes if I have rheumatoid arthritis?
Some people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis report more physical discomfort and flare-ups of their condition after eating nightshades such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers,…. Those foods contain solatin or tomatin and they are thought to be the culprit. According to doctors and scientists, there is not 100% evidence that it would be specifically due to nightshades. They point out that the body is subject to many factors and so it is important to really start investigating what the trigger is at that time through a proper elimination period. Sometimes stress, eating unhealthy fats, sugars and excessive exercise are also the culprit. Therefore, keep a very accurate food diary. Listen to your body in that case and look for a non-nightly as a source of lycopene or a proper supplement. Since these conditions are due to inflammatory reactions in the body, it is crucial though that you first and foremost maintain a healthy diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy carbohydrates, protein and fats. We must be honest with ourselves that the cause often lies there and not always with 1 specific thing….
How much lycopene do you need?
A real minimum and maximum reference value for the intake of lycopene is currently not available but that it is important that it is on your menu is certain. The figures are between 1 and 15 mg per day depending on the specific condition of the patient.
To absorb enough lycopene it is best to eat a highly concentrated tomato sauce several times a week. That is why I often put dishes with a lot of tomato puree, tomato passata, cooked fresh tomato sauces, canned tomatoes, healthy ketchup, dried tomatoes, … on my weekly menus. But on top of that, my daughter and I also take extra lycopene daily through my Two-Per-Day multi-vitamin complex from LifeExtension that I alternate with their world-famous LifeExtension Blend at certain times of the year. You can also purchase lycopene in a separate, single nutrient formula from their sit. The lycopene in high quality supplements like from Life Extension are about as easy for the body to use as the lycopene from food but make sure you get quality both in your diet and in your supplements. If you have questions about supplementation and nutrition you can always book a health consultation with me where I will work with you in 1 hour to analyze your health status and get you on the road to a healthier and more active lifestyle. Feel free to send me a message through the contact pages if you are interested in that.
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