Get your daily dose of life-saving lycopene

Getty Images file photo

Getty Images file photo

The summer’s last vine-ripened tomato may be a sweet memory, but you still can get your daily dose of its cancer-fighting, heart-protecting phytonutrient lycopene. This superhero isn’t just found in tomatoes. You can find it in other red and orange fruits and veggies (but not strawberries or cherries), and it knocks out a full crew of disease-causing bad guys.

You’ve probably heard that lycopene can lower prostate cancer risk by 23 percent with just two servings of cooked tomato products a week. But more recent discoveries show that one serving a day could reduce your level of heart-threatening, lousy LDL cholesterol as much as 10 percent. And dishing up more servings could lower stroke risk up to 55 percent, support strong bones and even help you get a good night’s sleep!

All these health benefits come from lycopene’s unmatched ability to devour excess free radicals — at healthy levels, those oxygen molecules roam your body, powering cells, helping the immune system and converting calories into cellular energy. But when you eat fried foods, pack on extra weight and live with negative stress, you throw free radical production into overdrive. And excess free radicals cause chronic inflammation, unhealthy gene changes and generally rust you from the inside out.

Enter lycopene. We like it as Mother Nature intended it, from a tomato that you eat at breakfast, lunch or dinner. True, supplements and tomato extracts are all the rage in Europe, and they’re showing up on natural-food store shelves in North America, but over and over, science has shown you can’t get all the powerful health-preserving benefits of nutrients found in food if they are taken in one at a time as a supplement. Even superstars like lycopene rely on a cast of supporting players to get their job done. So, if you absolutely will not eat tomatoes, we think a supplement is a good idea (just make sure you get one that contains lycopene — some tomato extracts don’t!). But for the rest of you, here’s our plan to help you get your daily dose of lycopene from food. It’s such a powerful health booster that you only need a little (about 10 milligrams a day) to get big benefits.

Start with cooked tomato products. Your body can absorb lycopene that has been heated more easily. You’ll get about 4 milligrams of lycopene in a medium-size fresh tomato, but there’s 25 milligrams in a half-cup of tomato puree, a cup of tomato soup or vegetable juice cocktail. Even a tablespoon of catsup contains 2.5 milligrams! And for pasta dishes, dodge the sodium bomb that comes with many prepared or canned sauces. We checked, and some have 650-820 milligrams sodium per half-cup — one-quarter to one-third of the total daily sodium quota for most people. Instead, toss together our favorite fast sauce: Sautee onions and garlic in a little olive oil; stir in a large can of no-salt-added whole plum tomatoes plus a 6-ounce can of tomato paste. Mash up the tomatoes as they heat. Season with fresh or dried oregano, basil, rosemary or thyme.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Michael Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.sharecare.com.FeaturesHealth & Fitness

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Scooter companies have expanded their distribution in neighborhoods such as the Richmond and Sunset districts. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board signs off on changes to scooter permit program

Companies will gete longer permits, but higher stakes

A health care worker receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
City sets ambitious goal to vaccinate residents by June

Limited supply slows distribution of doses as health officials seek to expand access

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.  (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)
Joe Biden issues call for ‘unity’ amidst extreme partisan rancor

‘I will be a president for all Americans,’ he says in inauguration speech

MARIETTA, GA - NOVEMBER 15: Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff (R) and Raphael Warnock (L) of Georgia taps elbows during a rally for supporters on November 15, 2020 in Marietta, Georgia. Both become senators Wednesday.  (Jenny Jarvie/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Vice President Harris swears in senators Padilla, Warnock, Ossoff

New Democratic senators tip balance of power in upper legislative house

The charismatic Adarsh Gourav, left, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas star in “The White Tiger,” Ramin Bahrani’s adaptation of the novel by Aravind Adiga.<ins> (Courtesy Netflix)</ins>
‘White Tiger’ takes in-depth look at India’s caste system

‘Identifying Features’ depicts human effects of Mexico’s drug wars

Most Read