Lycopene, found primarily in tomatoes, is a member of the carotenoid family -- which includes beta-carotene and similar compounds found naturally in food -- and has potent antioxidant capabilities.

Red Fruits

In Europe, researchers have found a statistically significant association between high dietary lycopene and a 48 percent lower risk of heart disease. Lycopene supplementation has also boosted immune function in the elderly. In that trial, 15 mg of lycopene per day increased natural killer cell activity by 28 percent in 12 weeks.

Tomatoes and tomato containing foods are high in lycopene. In a Harvard study, the only tomato based food that did not correlate with protection was tomato juice. In an unblinded, controlled trial, lycopene supplementation, but not tomato juice, effectively increased the body's lycopene stores.

These studies suggest that the lycopene present in tomato juice is poorly absorbed. However, other research indicates that significant amounts of lycopene from tomato juice can, in fact, be absorbed. Other foods that contain lycopene include watermelon, pink grapefruit, and guava.


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