Much has been written in this blog about the health benefits of eating tomatoes regularly. And there’s one magic word that keeps popping up when these benefits are described: lycopene. But what exactly is this miracle substance, and what does it do?
Lycopene is a phytonutrient, one of a group of plant substances that perform a certain activity or function in the body. Lycopene also gives the tomato its red colour. This is because it is formed during the ripening process. That’s why the redder the tomato is, the more lycopene it contains. But you can’t just assume that it can be found in every red-coloured fruit or vegetable. Strawberries don’t contain lycopene, for example. However, besides tomatoes, it is found in peppers, carrots, water melon and papaya, to mention but a few.
Various studies have shown that eating fruit and vegetables containing lycopene can have a beneficial impact on our health. The human body can’t produce this substance itself but has to obtain it from plant foods. Lycopene has an antioxidant effect in the body. This means that it binds with substances that can harm the cells in our bodies. Cell damage is one of the factors responsible for causing cancer. Research has also shown that lycopene may help reduce the risk of heart and vascular disease.
The advice is to obtain lycopene from fresh products as it produces better results than eating the refined version in the form of colouring. It is also recommended to use olive oil in the recipe because it helps the body absorb lycopene more easily. It is also handy to know that cooking vegetables doesn’t harm the lycopene contained in them.
Our tip: make a tasty salad and drizzle with a little olive oil!