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How can I get more lycopene in my diet?

Lycopene is a member of the carotenoid family of phytonutrients and is one of the natural pigments responsible for the deep red color of fruits such as tomatoes, apricots, papayas, guava, watermelon, and pink grapefruit. Studies have found that added intake of lycopene and lycopene-rich foods can help reduce the risk of heart disease among women and help protect men from prostate cancer and atherosclerosis. The health benefits of this nutrient are primarily related to its antioxidant activity. In fact, laboratory experiments indicate that lycopene may be a more effective antioxidant in certain ways than other carotenoids, including beta-carotene.

It is clear that foods containing lycopene can make an important contribution to your health. Below are several suggestions for meals, side dishes and snacks packed with lycopene:

  • Make it a habit to add fresh tomatoes or grapefruit sections to your green salads.
  • When you eat pasta, use marinara sauce instead of an Alfredo sauce. You'll reduce the amount of saturated fat in your meal, and you'll increase your lycopene intake.
  • Instead of a green salad, serve a refreshing tomato-based salad such as a Mediterranean salad with tomatoes, olives, garlic, and feta cheese, or a tomato-cucumber salad.
  • Make a quick salsa using chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, and chili peppers. Serve with chips as a snack, or as part of a Southwestern meal.
  • Serve apricots (fresh or dried) on hot cereal.
  • For a change from your morning orange juice, occasionally try grapefruit juice or guava juice.
  • Watermelon is a delicious summer treat, either as a snack or as an accompaniment to a summer meal.

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