Enjoy a variety of red and pink fruits and vegetables this summer while loading up on the antioxidant lycopene. Antioxidants help your body get rid of free radicals which occur as part of the natural aging process as well as by exposure to environmental factors and toxins like air pollution and smoking. Excessive free radicals damage your cells and can lead to chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
The yellow, orange, and red pigments in plants are known as carotenoids and they are powerful antioxidants. Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives fruits and vegetables their red and pink colors, including guavas, tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, papayas, and red bell peppers. An added feature of lycopene is that our bodies absorb it better when it’s cooked and combined with healthy fats like olive oil in dishes like tomato sauce and roasted red peppers.
The health benefits of lycopene include:
- Reduced cancer risk – studies have shown that it can slow or stop the growth of cancer cells
- Better heart health – reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing good (HDL), as well as improving blood pressure
- Skin cancer prevention – reduces UV damage to the skin from sunlight
- Pain relief – in addition to being anti-inflammatory, it also inhibits the sensation of nerve pain
It’s so easy to get lycopene from delicious food sources, it’s not necessary to look for it in supplement form.