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Lycopene, Home Grown Tomatoes
and Your Health
In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, researchers showed that men who
consumed high levels of the antioxidant, Lycopene, reduced the chance of a stroke by
55%. The study conducted in Finland, included 1,031 particpants, all male, ranging in
ages of 42 to 61.
Lycopene is an antioxidant found primarily in tomatoes but can also be found in
watermelon, grapefruit, papaya and mango.
According to the USDA, tomatoes are the number one plant grown in the home
vegetable garden in the United States by more than 5 to 1 of it's next closest
competitor, the pepper or cucumber, depending on which survey you read. That
translates into a lot of people "growing" their own lycopene right at home.
"Lycopene is a carotenoid compound that accounts for the red color in tomatoes. It is
the most abundant form of carotenoids (of a total of 600) in the US diet," says Dr. Lori
Shemek the health expert for ABC's Good Morning Texas. "The bioavailability of
lycopene is increased following cooking. And so cooked tomato products have higher
levels of lycopene than raw. - This is because the cooking process breaks down the cell
walls of the tomato which makes the lycopene more available"
According to Dr. Shemek, who also authored the book Fire up your Fat Burn, she says
lycopene is so powerful because it has been shown to protect against degenerative
diseases by neutralizing free radicals in a person's body. "Lycopene may help prevent
DNA damage in the cells and help the cells to function better," continues Dr. Shemek.
"High levels of lycopene, in the blood and fatty tissues, correlate with reduced risk of
cancers, heart disease and macular degeneration. The human body cannot produce
lycopene so it must be obtained from food sources."
While no studies currently exist showing if lycopene levels are higher or lower in home
grown tomatoes compared to store bought ones, no one can disagree with how easy
they are to grow at home, and taste much better.
When I asked Dr. Shemek how much lycopene one can expect to get from a tomato,
she said that one fresh tomato accounts for about 4mg, where as a cooked tomato can
be as high as 25mg. Leading to a fact that such items as tomato soup and sauces will
yield higher levels of this powerful antioxidant.
Because lycopene is a cartenoid and phytonutrient found in red fruits there are other
options than tomatoes. Along with the four mentioned earlier, you will find lycopene in
various quantities in guavas, red cabbage, and chili peppers. Just think red, think fresh
and you are sure to get a good supply of this healthy fighter.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
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