You’ve probably heard of lycopene at some time in the past, especially if you are a man. Many people have heard that it is good for them in some way, but what exactly is lycopene and what does it do anyway? Let’s find out.
What is Lycopene?
Lycopene is a phytochemical found in many red fruits and vegetables. So that we’re not too technical, a phytochemical is simply a chemical found in plants. Lycopene is what makes these fruits and vegetables red. That means that lots of red things contain lycopene, including the tomato, watermelon, papaya, grapefruit, or even baked beans.
Where Do You Get Lycopene?
The most well known and common source of lycopene is in the tomato. Even better than the tomato is the cooked tomato, such as what you would find with tomato sauce, tomato paste, spaghetti sauce, or even ketchup. This is because lycopene cannot be absorbed as well by the body in its rawest form since it is not water soluble. The process of cooking it makes it easier to digest. Also, lycopene is fat soluble. So the bonus is, eating that tomato sauce with a big meatball actually helps to absorb lycopene into the body for those desiring to do so. Mind you, this means adding fat, but that’s another topic.
What Does Lycopene Do?
So, what does lycopene do? Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. Of that we can be sure. It is also thought to have various disease preventing abilities. Many studies have linked lycopene with reduced risk of certain cancers and even heart attacks. In particular, some studies have suggested that lycopene is an important tool in aiding prostate health, which is why it has become a highly studied chemical with regards to men’s health.
Are You Sure?
The United States Food and Drug Administration, however, has not fully supported some of these health claims, as other studies have ended up inconclusive. Despite this, it is clear that eating tomatoes and similar red fruits and vegetables do have certain health benefits. Many more studies are ongoing to prove whether lycopene is the cause of certain health benefits or if some other component of the tomato is the real hero. For the moment this remains inconclusive.
Should I Get More Lycopene?
There are no real known side effects for taking lycopene, so the benefit of it’s antioxidants alone make it a worthwhile addition to your diet. To make sure you are getting lycopene in your diet, eat tomato sauces and red fruits and vegetables. If there really does end up being a proven correlation between lycopene and disease prevention, that is just a bonus.