Adding more foods containing the powerful antioxidant lycopene to our diets not only reduces inflammation, but also improves heart health and longevity, as well as lowers the risk of certain types of cancer. Lycopene is a member of the carotenoid family, fat-soluble yellow, orange, and red pigments found in fruits and vegetables that act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents in the body.
According to Well+Good, lycopene is abundant in certain vegetables like tomatoes and watermelon, which provides their vibrant red to light pink color. Fortunately, since 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 heat increases, some people experience an increase in inflammatory symptoms, namely pain, redness, swelling, and sensitivity to heat. Higher ambient temperatures coupled with humidity can directly increase both heat and swelling in the body.
Adding more lycopene-rich foods can help ease summer’s increased inflammation, as well as improve blood pressure, cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol and prevent a variety of cancers, says Laura Iu, registered dietitian and founder of Laura Iu. Nutrition.
Fresh, canned, and sun-dried fruits and vegetables can be excellent sources of lycopene. “In fact, various processing methods can improve the availability of lycopene in specific foods by breaking down the cell wall,” says Iu.
Iu’s tips 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 serving of fresh tomatoes. Iu says that we should ideally 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 and fiber content, they are also packed with lycopene. Carry a baked sweet potato with you throughout the day for a healthy snack between meals or cook it as a side dish.
- pink grapefruit. Tasty and versatile, pink grapefruit is a summer favorite in salads, drinks, or as a healthy dessert. These fruits are also rich in vitamin C and lycopene.
- Watermelon. Don’t wait for the 4th of Julythe to enjoy this summer’s seasonal fruit. It’s a refreshing snack and has as much or sometimes more lycopene than tomatoes, depending on the variety and growing conditions, Well+Good says.
- Papaya. Papaya, a wonderful fruit for relieving indigestion and constipation, is also rich in lycopene. Toss a few pieces into your morning smoothie or add to a fresh salsa.
- Red peppers. Add bell peppers to almost any dish, from salads to stir-fries, to add more lycopene to your diet. Eating red bell peppers in the summer is especially hydrating since these vegetables are 92% water.
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