You have probably heard of Lycopene. It seems to be all over the news and health publications for its supposed prostate health benefits. So are the claims true? And if so, how many tomatoes do you really need to eat?
Lycopene and Your Health
Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid, a natural antioxidant found in many red fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelon and papaya. It is one of many phytochemicals that work together to reduce cancer risk.
Recently, lycopene has been looked at most in prostate cancer prevention. Current research suggests that there are benefits to the red group of fruits and vegetables. Likely this is due to more than lycopene alone, and simply taking a lycopene supplement will not confer the same benefit as eating whole fruits and vegetables.
Again, this is a simple reminder that there are no shortcuts to a healthy diet and regular exercise!
Lycopene in Tomatoes
Cooked tomato products contain the most lycopene. One cup of a concentrated tomato product, like soup or sauce contains almost 25 mg of lycopene, compared to 4 mg of lycopene in one fresh tomato.
Obviously, this is because one cup of tomato sauce probably takes about 6 tomatoes to make! This doesn’t mean that you should only eat cooked tomatoes thought. Tomatoes are one of the top 5 food sources of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, viitamin A and vitamin E.
For prostate health, many experts recommend one serving of cooked tomato product each day for men. This could be something with tomato sauce, or a small can of low sodium V8. (I avoid regular V8 because of the sodium content!)
Tomatoes really are best stored at room temperature, around 68 to 78 degrees. Now, if you’re like me… our house in the summer is rarely below 78 degrees!
The hotter it is, the quicker they go bad, so we do have to store some in the fridge even though I prefer a “garden temperature” tomato. The best thing is to eat it just picked!
There are so many things to do with tomatoes. Have some slices on toast with egg and cheese; eat with basil, fresh sliced mozzarella and balsamic vinegar; top with cottage cheese and pepper; or just eat it sprinkled with a little salt and pepper.
Here is one of my favorite things to do with tomatoes. It’s perfect because cucumbers are typically in season at the same time as tomatoes and basil!
Cucumber, Tomato, Basil Salad Recipe:
- 1 larger or 2 small/medium cucumbers (you can really use as much as you want)
- 2-3 fresh slicing tomatoes
- 1 small onion
- Fresh basil (about 20 leaves or so)
- Balsamic or red wine vinegar
- Olive oil
- Slice the cucumbers and tomatoes thinly.
- Cut onion into thin slices, cut rings into half or fourths
- Alternate layers of cucumber, tomato, onion, and basil
- Pour enough olive oil and vinegar to marinate the salad
- Mix in salt and pepper to taste
- This salad tastes best if it has a few hours to marinate!
And of course, if you want to get more of the cooked tomato product, you can always make this ever popular Veggie-Licious Lasagna. I continue to give that recipe out and get many rave reviews!!