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How Do You Get the Most Lycopene Out of Tomatoes?
Why would you want to know how to prepare tomatoes in order to release into your body the highest amount of lycopene possible?
The answer is that there are so many benefits from eating tomatoes, especially from a nutrient called lycopene, it really is essential to know how to get the most of it out of the fruit. Preparing tomatoes in the correct manner can increase the amount of lycopene the body absorbs by up to 300%, so this is a need to know matter.
And the best thing is that it is all so simple. You don’t need to be a highly trained chef to get the best out of tomatoes, anyone can do it.
If you haven’t read any of my other articles about the amazing health benefits of tomatoes, and the magical lycopene that is responsible for so many of its healing and curative properties, let’s start with a quick rundown of its main gains for our health :
What health benefits are there to eating foods that have lycopene in them?
Prevents heart disease
Promotes bone health
Brain and nervous system health
Helps prevent vision loss and blindness
Promotes kidney health
Decreases blood pressure
Let's now have a look at some of those lycopene health benefits in a little more detail......
Anti-aging – Studies have shown that a diet high in lycopene reduces skin damage from the sun’s harmful UV-rays and increases production of procollagen which is responsible for keeping the skin in shape. It also prevents damage to mitochondrial DNA which also helps slow the aging process. Time to throw away your anti-aging products!
Anti-cancer – Clinical studies have found among many lycopene benefits that it reduces incidence of breast cancer and can actively fight prostate cancer cells. Similar results were also found for lycopene in also combatting lung cancer.
Prevents heart disease – Lycopene can reduce the chances of heart disease by lowering the amount of harmful cholesterol (LDL) in your arteries and promoting the production of beneficial (HDL) cholesterol. This in turn prevents ‘furring’ of the arteries and the onset of heart disease known as atherosclerosis.
Promotes bone health – A diet rich in lycopene foods (it isn’t just in tomatoes!) have been shown to actively promote bone health, especially in helping fight against brittle bones (osteoporosis) in old age. This is especially important for women.
Brain and nervous system health – Foods that have lycopene in them help prevent age related degeneration of the nervous system. It has also found to be of benefit to a range of neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s.
Eyes – Lycopene is a factor in preventing a range of conditions which could contribute towards vision loss and blindness.
Kidney health – Lycopene promotes healthy kidney function and prevents kidney failure.
Blood pressure – Lycopene has been shown to be a factor in reducing blood pressure which in turn can significantly decrease the risk of having a stroke. Lycopene has been shown to be as effective as statins at lowering blood pressure.
Diabetes – Clinical studies have shown that lycopene can reduce glucose levels and increase insulin production, thereby reducing the incidence of Diabetes.
How to prepare tomatoes to help the body absorb the most lycopene
So, now we know the potential lycopene health benefits (there are many more benefits than we have listed here,) let’s move on to the best way to get the most out of a diet rich in lycopene foods.
Whilst tomatoes are rich in lycopene, the body’s ability to absorb it and in turn put it to work in the ways we have describe above is limited, although there are ways we can improve how much lycopene is released when we eat it.
The first thing to be aware of is that lycopene is more readily absorbed by the body when it comes from sources that have been processed. This means rather that fresh tomatoes, however great they taste, don't pack the lycopene punch that you will get from sources such as tinned tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce and salsa for example. When purchasing processed tomato products, always have a look at the ingredients label, these products can often have other ingredients that may not be so healthy for you. Tomato paste for example can have added salt, as can tomato juice. If you are diabetic, tomato sauces are often packed full of sugar, especially pasta sauces, so be wary
The next thing to know is that heating your tomato based meals will hugely increase the amount of lycopene that is released into the body. Studies have shown that heating tomatoes can release as much as two and a half times as much of the nutrient, so why not go for a lovely bowl of refreshing tomato soup heated thoroughly?
Finally, adding a little olive oil also helps to increase lycopene absorption. This is because lycopene is fat-soluble too. You could use another oil, however, with the host of health benefits being attributed to olive oil these days, why would you consider a different option? Health benefits of consuming olive oil in modest amounts regularly are thought to include protection from cancers, diabetes, heart health, bone health, and it is even possible that it can help combat depression.
The list of health benefits of olive oil seems to correlate highly with those attributed to lycopene, so if you want to pack the biggest lycopene punch and get the additional benefits from olive oil, you now know what to do.
Top tips for helping the body absorb more lycopene from tomatoes!
- Eat processed tomatoes such as paste, sauce, tinned, etc (always read the label in case there is hidden sugar and salt in the product)
- Heating tomatoes or processed tomato products help lycopene absorption by up to 250%
- Drizzle your tomatoes with olive oil for even more lycopene absorption and even more health benefits from the olive oil itself!
If I don't like tomatoes, can I get lycopene supplements?
If you have read all of this and are not a fan of tomatoes, or if your life is busy and you don’t have time for messing around with processed tomatoes, or cooking home cooked meals every day, there is an alternative. Lycopene supplements are available and can give you the all the benefits of lycopene in either capsule, tablet or powder form. There are many different products available and I have included a link here to one of the products that I have used myself in the past, although, I have to admit, I prefer getting my lycopene fix straight from tomatoes myself.
Health Benefits of Tomatoes
- If you want to reduce your cholesterol without statins or going to the gym, read this immediately!
How I beat heart disease with the help of tomatoes!
An in depth look at the healthy properties of tomatoes