Lycopene is a carotenoid pigment found in red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables. It is the compound that gives foods these colors. Lycopene gives tomatoes their red color. Lycopene provides many health benefits through its antioxidant capabilities and cancer fighting agents.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, which helps to keep cell membranes strong. Cell membranes protect the cell and are responsible for what is allowed into and out of it. They will permit good nutrients to enter the cell, but will prevent toxins from going through. Healthy cell membranes are essential in the prevention of many diseases like cancer and heart disease. When toxins such as free radicals get into cells, they can damage the DNA. If the body cannot repair the harm caused, abnormal, cancer cells are born. A reduced risk in developing prostate cancer is most frequently associated with lycopene intake. However, studies suggest it can decrease the risk of developing breast, lung, and skin cancers.
Lycopene is available in supplement form, yet it is recommended that it be consumed through foods. There is likely a complementary effect when it is obtained from the whole fruit as opposed to a supplement because other components of the food enhance the effectiveness of lycopene. Studies have shown no benefit in reducing the risk of cancer through use of lycopene supplements.
Lycopene is found in fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, watermelons, red cabbage, red peppers, pink grapefruit, and carrots. In addition, it is found in foods that may not have the red color commonly associated with lycopene, such as asparagus, parsley, and basil.