Lycopene an antioxidant hydrocarbon nutrient in plants. Its pigment is red or pink in color and is a member of the carotinoid family of antioxidant hydrocarbon chemicals. It is commonly found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables, such as watermelons, gac melons, grapefruit, red bell peppers, red cabbage, papaya, mangos and persimmons. Lycopene is not present in cherries, red apples or strawberries. Although lycopene is chemically a carotene, it is not converted to vitamin A. Foods that are not red may also contain lycopene, such as asparagus.
Why is it Important? Antioxidants protect your body from damage caused by compounds known as free radicals. When free radicals outnumber antioxidant levels, they can create oxidative stress in your body. Oxidative stress is linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Lycopene is considered a strong antioxidant and has been shown to prevent or slow down the growth of breast cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer. Animal studies have shown that lycopene may protect your body against damage caused by environmental toxins such as pesticides, herbicides, monosodium glutamate and certain types of fungus.
Foods Rich in Lycopene: According to Harvard Medical School, one slice of raw tomato contains approximately 515 ug lycopene; tomato paste contains 13,800 ug of lycopene per ounce. Tomato cooked, 7298 ug per cup; tomato sauce, 16784 ug per ½ cup; minestrone soup, 1433 ug per cup; watermelon, 6979 ug per cup (154 grams); grapefruit, 3264 ug in 1 cup sections (230grams); papaya, 2651 ug per cup (145 grams); red bell peppers, 513 ug per cup cooked (106 grams).
Definition: micrograms ("ug", more commonly abbreviated "mcg") = 1/1,000,000th of a gram. 454 grams = 1 pound.
Advice to Readers: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved lycopene supplements for any health indications. It is marketed and labeled as a health food. The material provided here is for educational purposes only. Be a wise consumer, read the label carefully before you make your choice. For questions consult your physician or pharmacist and be sure to ask questions. Be wise and choose the best, but leave the rest. Choose wisely and save money.
Keith Miller, Pharm.D.