Did you know that we all have free radicals in our body that can lead to early aging, heart disease, and some forms of cancer? The great news is that we can choose foods rich in antioxidants to help get rid of them, or at least reduce their effects. I like to think of it as a bunch of “minus/negative symbols” floating around that can harm us, but if we offer them an option of turning into a “plus sign” they can’t bring damage. One of these powerful antioxidants is lycopene. Lycopene is in the family of carotenoids and is found in red vegetables and fruit such as watermelon, guava, pink grapefruit, and tomatoes.
Here are five interesting facts about lycopene:
- Cooked tomatoes are the best source of lycopene.
- Lycopene is absorbed better in the presence of fat.
- Studies have shown that low blood levels of lycopene can be linked with increased rates of breast cancer while elevated levels have been linked with reduced rates of cervical cancer.
- Researchers have found a correlation between low blood lycopene levels and increased incidence of heart attacks and strokes.
- Beta-carotene and lycopene supplements do not produce the same results as actual food that contains these antioxidants.
Incorporating lycopene-rich foods, along with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in general, into our dietary intake as often as possible may help to reduce our risk of diseases and slow the aging process. Below is a link to a delicious and refreshing salad recipe that incorporates loads of lycopene and adds a source of healthy fat from the olive oil to increase absorption. You may also want to top it with a little feta cheese or black beans to add a source of protein.
Post and recipe by Noelle Martin, MScFN RD. Noelle is a dietitian and mom of three boys. She has a passion for educating, inspiring, and supporting others to make the healthiest choices possible with the resources available. Noelle has a blog (mealsformeandmyminis.wordpress.com) where she shares recipes, nutrition tips, and snapshots of her journey through motherhood. Noelle also has a private practice (www.rdservices.ca) and teaches courses at a Brescia University College in Ontario, Canada.
Check out Noelle on Instagram: @motherhoodandmeals