Nutrient to Know: Lycopene

by in Nutrients to Know, Tomatoes, July 28, 2009

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We already filled you in on antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E, but there are hundreds more of these beneficial nutrients, and some have crazy names! Case in point: lycopene. Find out why this antioxidant does your body good and which lycopene-rich foods pack the biggest punch.

What Is It?
Lycopene is what gives tomatoes, watermelon and other red fruits (yes, tomatoes are fruits) their ruby hue. Along with providing produce their gorgeous color, this antioxidant helps protect our healthy tissues from being wounded by cell-damaging substances known as free radicals.

Why Is It Good For You?
Regularly chowing down on foods with lycopene have been linked with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer and macular degeneration (that is, poor eyesight as you get older). It’s important to note that the studies that found these positive effects studied people eating actual tomatoes and not popping lycopene supplements. This tells me that it’s the combo of nutrients found in tomatoes (like lycopene, vitamin C and folate) that may be more effective than lycopene alone.

Where Can I Find It?
Tomatoes are by far the best sources of lycopene (as all our ketchup bottles like to tell us!), but you can also get it from pink grapefruit, watermelon, apricots and guava. Cooked tomatoes and tomato products like canned tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato paste, spaghetti sauce and ketchup actually contain more lycopene than fresh tomatoes. One medium tomato contains about 4 milligrams, but one cup of tomato soup contains close to 25 milligrams — that’s 6 times more!

There’s currently no standard recommendation for a daily dose of lycopene, but here are a few more examples of how much is in some foods. (Remember one fresh tomato has 4 milligrams.)
1 cup tomato juice = 20 milligrams
1/2 cup tomato or spaghetti sauce = 19.4 milligrams
1/2 cup canned tomatoes = 11.8 milligrams
1 cup watermelon = 7.8 milligrams
1/4 cup salsa (with cooked tomatoes) = 7 milligrams
2 tablespoons ketchup = 5.1 milligrams
1 cup pink or red grapefruit = 3.6 milligrams

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Comments (19)

  1. Erica says:

    Good stuff! I never realized lycopene was beneficial in SO many ways! Hooray for more delicious tomatoes ;)

  2. Sarah says:

    I saw something somewhere that said that people who ate a lot of lycopene (from tomato paste) recieved less sun damage than people who didn't eat much lycopene. Very interesting…

  3. Jack Delgado says:

    Thanks for all the advice, another delicious way of eating tomatoes is tomato jam, my mother raised eight kids in Africa and our breakfast was often tomato jam on toast, I make it myself and it is by far better than a few I managed to find in some Country stores, not found in the City Supermarkets.

    Jack.

  4. danawhite says:

    Hi Jack –
    I’m also a huge fan of tomato jam! I included a recipe in this week’s Market Watch.

  5. Nancy says:

    I just found a use for the juice in canned fruit, I'm adding it to my water. The Tropical Fruit is the best.

  6. Maria says:

    Oh, wow. I am SO going to start eating more tamotoes and watermelon. But I think the watermelon part won't be TOO hard to do. ;D

  7. Judy says:

    Well I love both so there's no problem there.. I love homegrown tomatoes best thought

  8. e russell says:

    m tomatoes out of hand, sprinkled with a little Kosher salt, is my favourite way to eat them,Eating plu Yum!
    eleanor

  9. Song Lyrics says:

    I just found a use for the juice in canned fruit, I'm adding it to my water.

  10. Thanks for all the advice, another delicious way of eating tomatoes is tomato jam, my mother raised eight kids in Africa and our breakfast was often tomato jam on toast, I make it myself and it is by far better than a few I managed to find in some Country stores

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