Lycopene is not a traditional vitamin or mineral, it is a powerful antioxidant that falls into the group of phytochemicals called carotenoids that are found in fruits and vegetables. Lycopene is what gives fruits and vegetables their red color. You can find lycopene in any fruit or vegetable that has a reddish hue including watermelon, radish, tomatoes, and apricots.
Tomatoes and tomato products are one of the most abundant sources of lycopene (note their deep red color!). When tomato products are heated, the lycopene changes forms and becomes easier for the body to absorb. This translates to cooked tomato sauce being an excellent and easy way to get your desired lycopene in!
In those with high blood pressure, taking lycopene supplements has been shown to decrease your blood pressure. However, it does not seem to have any effect on those with pre-hypertension, or borderline high blood pressure. But lycopene doesn’t just help us regulate our blood pressure, a 2012 study shows that high concentrations of lycopene in the body may lead to lower stroke risk. Studies have also shown a significant decrease in C-reactive protein levels in women when supplemented with tomato juice containing about 29mg lycopene per day. C-reactive protein levels are a direct measure of the inflammation in the body, lower is best!
How much Lycopene?
Unfortunately, there has not been enough research to determine the recommended daily amount of lycopene for most individuals. It has been shown for the treatment of high blood pressure 15mg daily for 6-8weeks has been effective for decreasing blood pressure.
Too little lycopene?
Due to lack of research, there are no established results or parameters of a lycopene deficiency.
Too much lycopene?
Lycopene toxicity parameters have not been established due to lack of research. However, the research that has been conducted has not studied the long-term use of lycopene supplements. It is generally accepted that consuming food-sources of lycopene regularly is safer than taking a supplement long-term.
How to include lycopene every day
Obtaining needed nutrients in your diet is always preferable to supplements. Luckily, lycopene-rich foods are abundant and easy to spot! Just look for fruits and vegetables that are pinkish to red. The darker the color, the more lycopene it has to offer!
Add these foods to your cart to make sure you are getting enough lycopene in your diet each day. (Units are in micrograms. 1000 micrograms equals 1 mg and your goal is to consume 15 mg daily.)
- Tomato puree
- Spaghetti/marinara sauce
- Minestrone soup
- Tomato-based steak sauce
- Cocktail sauce
- Baked beans
- Vegetable chips
- Guava pastries
- Vegetable enriched macaroni
- Acai berry juice
- Ruby red grapefruit juice
- Tomato and vegetable juice
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Tomatoes red-ripe, raw
- Red sweet peppers
- Red cabbage
- Pink grapefruit
Supplements of lycopene can be seen at most health food stores. It is important to note that lycopene supplements are recognized as generally safe when containing up to 120mg of Lycopene and used for one year.