Cancer is an abnormality that includes unchecked cell multiplication, inflammatory processes and toxic reactions to normal cells. Lycopene, the pigment that colors watermelon, red bell pepper, tomato, pink grapefruit, pink guava and red cabbage holds those abnormal processes in check.
The color red, protect the plant from the damaging rays of the sun. Pigments (colors) also serve as a solar panel for produce, allowing the sun’s energy to create a health protective good eating addition to our menu.
The most popular source of lycopene is tomatoes and tomato derivatives such as catsup, tomato paste, tomato puree and tomato sauce. It products are featured widely in the disease preventative Mediterranean diet.
Cooked tomatoes release the maximum amounts of lycopene from their cells. Sun-dried tomatoes feature the highest concentrations of this antioxidant. The riper the tomato, the higher the amounts of lycopene.
In the 70’s, lycopene was shown to lower the risk of esophageal cancer. The 80’s brought the publication of Italian research describing how tomato products lowered the chances of gastric cancer. This is also called stomach cancer. These products showed an inverse relationship, if one goes higher the other goes lower. The more tomato (or tomato products) in the diet, the lower the chance of stomach cancer. There are also been studies showing decreased risk of both breast and cervical cancers with diets high in lycopene.
There is evidence that lycopene antioxidant may serve as a backup to vitamin E to help prevent heart disease. When cholesterol goes over to the bad side of town (becomes oxidized), vitamin E becomes the knight in shining armor and rescues cholesterol. If vitamin E is broadsided (becomes deficient), lycopene becomes the backup knight brings cholesterol to safety out of harms way. Current research shows that lycopene plays a protective role in helping vitamin E prevent long-term cardiovascular disease. This disease leads to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- Asparagus, dried basil and parsley don’t appear red but contain high amounts of the pigment.
- Overconsumption of the pigment causes the skin to turn orange-yellow. Takes up to 3 weeks of eliminating these products for the return of normal skin color. Lycopene is non-toxic.
- Get the antioxidant from foods rather than a supplement. Foods containing lycopene have other protective components. Supplements are expensive and are not regulated for strength listed on the label.
- Cooking whole tomato and using oil in the process enables lycopene to become more available to the body during digestion.
Previously, Renovating Your Mind wrote a piece on red sauce:
High Amounts Of Lycopene
Lycopene products are amazingly healthy and also delicious. Start a new tradition by serving a lycopene-containing product at least several times a week. Make bruschetta and include a bit of marina sauce on top. Add watermelon to your smoothie to power-up your antioxidant levels. Do you spit or swallow your seeds?
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