Saturday, March 7, 2009

loving lycopene

In my recent post on peppers I mentioned lycopene.  I thought I would mention just a little more about it because it is so beneficial to us.  Lycopene is a carotenoid that produces red color.  There are other carotenoids like beta-carotene, zeaxanthin or lutein; carotenoids produce yellow, orange or red colors in our food.  There is some evidence to suggest the possibility that a diet high in lycopene may be helpful in protecting against prostate cancer although more research is needed.  It is also believed to be helpful in preventing or treating macular degeneration, cataracts and skin cancer.

Lycopene is fat soluble, which means your body absorbs it best when you eat it with some fat.  Think sliced tomatoes with fresh basil and a generous drizzle of a good quality extra-virgin olive oil.   Avocados are another good source of fat to pair with a juicy ripe red tomato.

You don't find lycopene just in red peppers or red tomatoes, it's also there in watermelon, pink guavas, pink grapefruit and papayas.  As we get closer to real-tomato-season (as opposed to the tomato-looking things currently in the grocery store) think about fresh salsa, homemade tomato sauce, gazpacho and other delicious dishes to boost your lycopene.  And if you haven't tried guavas or papayas give them a chance, they're tasty and wonderful just the way they are.

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