What Is Lycopene?

Health, Home & Family
on June 3, 2012

Lycopene is a carotenoid found in yellow, orange and red fruits and vegetables. The United States National Library of Medicine states, “Carotenoids are the natural pigments which are synthesized by plants and are responsible for the bright colors of various fruits and vegetables.” It is a natural antioxidant, beneficial to overall health.

Sources of lycopene. Lycopene can be found in several common fruits and vegetables. Many of these are readily available at grocery stores and farmers' markets or can be grown in a personal garden. Vegetables and fruits with lycopene include tomatoes, red bell peppers, papaya, apricots, watermelon, pink grapefruit and guava. According to the American Cancer Society, some studies have shown the body may absorb lycopene more easily when it is in the form of cooked tomato products, including tomato paste or sauce, than simply eating raw tomatoes. Consider a serving of homemade marinara sauce, made with tomato paste and fresh tomatoes, as a way to add a bit more lycopene to your diet.

Benefits of lycopene. As an antioxidant, lycopene may benefit asthma conditions induced by exercise, states the Mayo Clinic. Lycopene also may be used as a preventative treatment for the development of eye conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Lycopene may be beneficial in the prevention of various cancers, including cervical, ovarian, prostate, colon and lung cancers. It may reduce some male infertility issues, high blood pressure and high cholesterol conditions. The Mayo Clinic also reports that systemically administered lycopene may be an effective treatment for gingivitis.

Did you know? Lycopene can be found in your body. It is in the adrenal glands, colon, liver, lungs and prostate. If you are allergic to tomatoes, you may be allergic to lycopene. Before consuming large quantities or making any dietary changes, consult a trusted physician. Pregnant women consuming tomatoes or products such as tomato sauce or paste may increase their lycopene concentrations found in their breast milk. Check with your doctor to ensure your pregnancy diet and breastfeeding diet is safe for mother and baby.