As we age, there are some nutrients that we should be incorporating more of into our diets. As we age our eyes weaken and our skin becomes more sensitive. In addition, our brains begin to lose the sharpness they once had. So, once you discover all the benefits of lycopene in the body, you will not want to stop consuming foods that contain it.
Lycopene is a phytonutrient (a fancy word for a plant nutrient) that gives many pink and red foods their natural color. These are tomatoes, guava, watermelon, and pink grapefruit. It has powerful antioxidant properties that make it extremely beneficial for the health of the eyes, the brain and the heart, and it can also help protect your body from disease.
Benefits of lycopene for vision
Have you found yourself straining your eyes more than usual lately? As time goes by, we can start to lose vision naturally, a condition called age-related macular degeneration. In addition to the aging process, this condition is known to be caused by excess free radical damage to the eyes.
Lycopene, as an antioxidant, helps fight this free radical damage and preserves your vision. One study found that lycopene helped reduce the effects of oxidative stress in people with cataracts, while a review suggested that lycopene is an essential nutrient in the prevention of age-related eye conditions.
It's good for brain health
Just as we need to take more care of our eyes as time goes by, we also have to take more care of our brain. In the United States, it is estimated that more than five million people are living with Alzheimer's disease.
Conditions like Alzheimer's dementia are also characterized by oxidative damage to the brain, and lycopene can also help protect it.
A specific sign of Alzheimer's disease is the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. One study showed that lycopene helps reduce oxidative damage associated with beta-amyloid plaque build-up in the brain, making it a powerful protector of brain health.
On the other hand, the researchers in charge of another study found that it protected brain cells affected by Alzheimer's disease from oxidative stress. This means that including more lycopene in your diet could help prevent conditions such as dementia.
Helps reverse skin damage
As you surely know, our skin becomes more sensitive to factors such as sun damage as we age. However, lycopene is a nutrient that is responsible for protecting your skin from the inside out.
While it clearly cannot be considered a replacement for sunscreen use, studies have shown that lycopene can protect your skin from harmful UV rays. In one study, participants were exposed to ultraviolet rays before and after taking 16 milligrams of lycopene derived from tomato paste, or taking a placebo.
Those who consumed the tomato paste showed much less severe skin reactions to UV rays compared to the placebo group. A similar study found that taking eight to 16 milligrams of lycopene (through food or supplements) resulted in a 40 to 50 percent reduction in sun damage to the skin. That is pretty impressive!
Other benefits of lycopene
In addition to the benefits already mentioned, research has shown that lycopene can improve other aspects of health as well. Like many antioxidants, lycopene may improve the health of your heart by reducing oxidative damage to the heart and arteries, and promoting the reduction of cholesterol levels in the blood.
One study in particular found that diets rich in lycopene were associated with a 17 to 26 percent reduced risk of premature death from heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
And again, thanks to its powerful antioxidant powers, lycopene has been found to help fight certain cancers. Studies have shown that it helps slow the progression of tumor growth in breast cancer tissue, while other research has shown that it prevents kidney cancer cells from growing and multiplying.
How can you consume more lycopene?
Now that you know all about the benefits of lycopene, let's talk about where you can get it from.
You can buy a lycopene supplement for this, but as always, get approval from your doctor first before starting any new supplement regimen.
Besides supplements, a great way to get more lycopene into your day is to add it to your diet through food. As mentioned above, pink and red fruits and vegetables often contain lycopene.
The best food sources of lycopene are tomatoes (sun-dried tomatoes contain more, tomato puree ranks second, while fresh tomatoes contain less), guava, watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit. Try adding a few servings of these delicious foods to your daily diet.
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