Lycopene, an natural antioxidant found in a number of fruits and vegetables, seems to surpass beta-carotene and vitamin E in its ability to fight free radicals. Free radicals can cause oxidative damage, which seems to underline both cell mutation and arterial plaque.

Recent studies indicate that Lycopene, the red pigment of the tomato, as well as watermelon, guava, papaya and grapefruit which is a powerful caroteniod, seems to be one of the most potent antioxidants that works also for prostate cancer prevention and prevention of cardiovascular disease. There is mounting evidence that caroteniods prevent damage to DNA and help keep cancer from forming.

Lycopene is considered one of the more effective antioxidants because it is not converted to vitamin A when ingested, and conversion to vitamin A weakens the antioxidant properties of carotenoids like beta carotene.

While tomatoes are the best source of lycopene, many studies have suggested that tomato products such as tomato sauce, ketchup, tomato paste and coctail sauce seem to contain a much higher concentration of the chemical. Processing and cooking, because of the high temperatures involved, release lycopene from its food matrix and make it more easily absorbed by the body. Researchers have also found that a little bit of fat, such as oil, with tomato products enhances the body's absorption. 

Food Item
Lycopene in milligrams
Tomato Soup, 1 cup 
24.8 mg
Tomato or Spaghetti Sauce, ½ cup
19.4 mg 
Canned Tomatoes, ½ cup
11.8 mg
Watermelon, 1 cup
7.8 mg
Ketchup, 2 tablespoons
5.1 mg
Fresh Tomato, 1 medium
3.7 mg
Pink or Red Grapefruit, ½ cup
1.8 mg
Source: USDA/NCC Carotenoid Database for U.S. Foods -- 1998 & Tomato Research Council

To salute your good health, we are pleased to offer these creative recipes that will help you reap the benefits of this groundbreaking research. Including tomatoes in your daily diet is a delicious and effective way to please your palate - and may also help fight some types of cancer. So, indulge in the mighty tomato!

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Lycopenes are part of the family of pigments called carotenoids, which are natural compounds that create the colors of fruits and vegetables. Research shows that lycopenes are the most powerful antioxidant in the carotenoid family. Like essential amino acids, they are not made in the human body.

Antioxidants, which includes vitamin C and E, are important in protecting the body from free radicals which degrade many parts of the body.

Lycopene can also be taken in the form of soft-gel capsule supplements.

Dosages may vary according to  manufacturer.

Lycopene obtained from eating fruits and vegetables has no known side effects and is thought to be safe for humans.

The potential side effects of lycopene supplements are not yet known.

BETA-CAROTENE (the plant precursor to vitamin A) is a well-known infection fighter that protects the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, nose and sinuses. It's abundant in the dark green and vibrant  orange vegetables that make great winter soups, salads and casseroles: broccoli, squash, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, kale, and escarole.

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