Adding more foods that contain the powerful antioxidant lycopene to our diets, not only reduces inflammation but boosts heart health and longevity, as well as reduces the risk of certain cancers. Lycopene is a member of the carotenoid family ─ yellow, orange, and red fat-soluble pigments found in fruits and vegetables that act as potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents in the body.
According to Well+Good, lycopene is abundant in certain vegetables like tomatoes and watermelon, providing their vibrant red to light-pink color. Thankfully, as many lycopene-rich fruits and vegetables are at their peak right now, it’s easy and affordable to add more of this antioxidant to your diet.
As the weather get hotter, some people experience an increase in inflammatory symptoms, namely pain, redness, swelling and heat sensitivity. Higher environmental temperatures coupled with humidity can directly increase both warmth and swelling in the body.
Adding more lycopene rich foods may help alleviate increased summer inflammation as well as improve blood pressure, cardiovascular health, reduce cholesterol and ward off a variety of cancers, says Laura Iu, a registered dietitian and founder of Laura Iu Nutrition.
Fresh, canned, and sun-dried fruits and vegetables can be great sources of lycopene. “In fact, various processing methods can actually enhance lycopene availability in specific foods by breaking down the cells wall,” says Iu.
Iu’s suggestions for choosing the best food sources of lycopene:
- Tomatoes. Sun-dried tomatoes have a whopping 45.9 milligrams of lycopene per 100 grams. That compares to 3.0 milligrams for a similar portion of fresh tomatoes. Iu says that ideally we should consume eight to 21 milligrams of lycopene per day. Canned tomatoes and pureed tomatoes are also good sources.
- Sweet potatoes. While sweet potatoes are known for their high vitamin A content and fiber, they are also chock full of lycopene. Carry a baked sweet potato with you during the day for a healthy between-meal snack or cook as a side dish.
- Pink grapefruit. Tasty and versatile, pink grapefruit is a summer favorite in salads, beverages or as a healthy desert. These fruits are also rich in vitamin C as well as lycopene.
- Watermelon. Don’t wait for July 4th to indulge in this summer seasonal fruit. It is a refreshing snack and has as much or sometimes more lycopene than tomatoes, depending on the variety and growing conditions, says Well+Good.
- Papaya. Papaya, a wonderful fruit for relieving indigestion and constipation, is also rich in lycopene. Blend a few chunks in your morning smoothie or add to fresh salsa.
- Red bell peppers. Add peppers to almost any dish, from salads to sautés, to add more lycopene to your diet. Eating red peppers in the summer is especially hydrating since these veggies are 92% water.
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