Lycopene: Fight High Blood Pressure with This Potent Antioxidant

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH


About lycopene and tomatoesLycopene is one of the essential nutrients that your body needs every day. Studies show that incorporating this potent phytonutrient into your diet helps reduce the risk of several health issues including high blood pressure and cancer. From boosting cognitive function and promoting heart health to fighting early signs of aging, making sure you are getting enough lycopene in your diet is an inexpensive and effective way of protecting your health and well-being.

What Is Lycopene?

Lycopene is a pigment and phytonutrient belonging to the carotenoid family that is responsible for the characteristic deep red color of many fruits and vegetables. Like other phytonutrients present in plant life, lycopene is a potent antioxidant that is abundantly found in deep colored fruits and vegetables. Unlike some, however, the bioavailability of this nutrient in vegetables increases with cooking. Researches have shown that cooking the tomatoes actually increases their antioxidant power, and the longer the tomatoes are cooked, the more lycopene content is found.
Some of the top dietary sources of this potent phytonutrient include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Carrots
  • Papaya
  • Pink grapefruit
  • Guava
  • Red cabbage
  • Red bell peppers
  • Mangos
  • Asparagus

Tomatoes are the richest source of this powerful antioxidant carotenoid. However, there are many other foods that are high in this phytonutrient. Make sure to buy fresh organic produce from the local farmer’s market. This enables you to avoid any pesticides and genetically modified foods that may actually do more harm than good to your health. Make sure to wash your fruits and vegetables several times under running water before preparing them.

What Lycopene Protects You From

About lycopene and blood pressurePlants produce the phytonutrient lycopene which serves as a powerful defense against environmental damage such as toxins, pests, and UV rays. Similarly, the human body is also subjected to various environmental damages such as toxins and UV ray exposure which can raise the levels of harmful free radicals in cells.

Incorporating phytonutrients into your diet protects your body from the damaging effect of these free radicals. The human body is not capable of producing phytonutrients. That is why it is so important to fill your plate with lycopene-rich, deep-colored fruits and vegetables. Regular intake of these foods ensures you get adequate phytonutrients for supporting great health.

Inadequate intake of this nutrient can cause various chronic diseases including cancer and heart problems. In fact, a long-term lack of carotenoids can cause free radical damage in the body which can lead to tissue damage and raise the risk of several health issues.

Stress is the major root cause of various health issues including high blood pressure that raises your risk of having a heart attack. The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response System is your body’s natural stress-fighting mechanism. It is an intricate network of various organs and six circuits that function together to help deal with stress. A pair of walnut-shaped adrenal glands located above the kidneys is also an important part of the response system.

When your body detects stressful situations, the NEM signals your adrenals to secrete the anti-stress hormone cortisol. However, when stress is persistent, your adrenals are forced to produce more cortisol, which can overburden them. As a result, your adrenals are no longer in a position to secrete adequate cortisol. This can reduce your body’s natural stress-fighting ability, which can lead to adrenal fatigue.

When you frequently experience extreme fatigue along with symptoms of insomnia, brain fog, difficulty in waking up, anxiety, low energy levels, constipation, low concentration levels, stubborn weight gain, or craving for salty and fatty foods then chances are high that you might be dealing with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels is important for adrenal health.

New studies have linked the nutrient lycopene with systolic blood pressure (SBP). A meta-analysis conducted during the study showed that the nutrient supplement can help reduce systolic blood pressure by about 5 mmHg. Subgroup analysis suggests that a higher dosage of the supplement significantly reduced SBP in participants with an SBP greater than 120mmHg. Hypertension can lead to a host of health issues including vision loss, kidney damage, atherosclerosis, and memory loss. Including foods rich this carotenoid in your diet can help maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Incredible Lycopene Health Benefits

A powerful antioxidant, phytonutrient, and carotenoid pigment, incorporating lycopene into your everyday diet can provide immense health benefits.

Here are the top benefits of this phytonutrient:

Protects the NEM System

Pesticides used on foods are extremely harmful to your body. They can interfere with your stress response system and affect your body’s stress-fighting ability. The powerful antioxidant effects of this phytonutrient reduce the effect of pesticide-induced damage. They also protect your body from the damage of free radicals. This cuts down the risk of several diseases including cancer, cardiovascular problems, and early aging.

Helps Fight Cancer

Being an extremely potent antioxidant, the phytonutrient helps fight several types of cancers including prostate and breast cancer. Studies have linked the intake of lycopene-rich foods with a reduced risk of prostate and lung cancer by up to 50 percent. It is interesting to note that dietary intake of the phytonutrient is more effective than the supplement form. Clinical evidence shows that increased intake of the phytonutrient can help reduce cancers of the colon, rectum, pancreas, esophagus, oral cavity, cervix, and breast.

Boosts Cognitive Function

Known to possess impressive neurological benefits, the phytonutrient can help fight neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease by protecting brain cells. It is also known to help reduce epileptic seizures and memory impairment and restore neurological function.

Promotes Heart Health

The carotenoid helps reduce high blood pressure thus promoting heart health. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems such as arterial blockage, coronary heart disease, and atherosclerosis.

Supports Bone Health

This potent antioxidant carotenoid protects your bones from the damage of oxidative stress and slows down apoptosis. Consuming an adequate amount of the nutrient on a daily basis makes your bones stronger, healthier, and protects against osteoporosis.

Ensures Healthy Eyes

Intake of these potent, carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables supports eye health by providing protection against oxidative stress, reducing the risk of cataracts, and fighting muscular degeneration mainly caused by aging.

Protects Against Sunburn

A 12-week clinical study shows that participants consuming 16 mg of lycopene directly from tomato paste had reduced severity of skin reactions and less intensity of skin redness after UV exposure. However, the phytonutrient should not be considered a replacement for sunscreen.

Prevents Early Aging

Lycopene is converted to retinol by your body which helps fight signs of early aging. Retinol promotes the production of collagen and melatonin which promote healthy skin and retains skin elasticity.

How to Eat More Lycopene

Dietary sources are the best-recommended method of taking this phytonutrient. Supplements can have their own side effects and can react with certain medications which can give rise to unpleasant symptoms.

Here is a recipe loaded with the goodness of this health-promoting phytonutrient:

Red Cabbage Carrot Salad With Toasted Sesame Seeds

Ingredients A

  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 small red cabbage, julienned
  • 1 carrot, julienned

Ingredients B

  • 1 tbsp organic tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 pinch Himalayan pink salt

Method

  1. Steam cook the ingredients A and place in a bowl,
  2. Whisk the ingredients B in a small bowl to combine and drizzle over ingredients A. Toss to combine.

Conclusion

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, phytonutrient, and carotenoid pigment found in plant life, and it has profound health benefits. The human body is not capable of synthesizing the phytonutrient alone. Therefore, it is important to include a variety of foods rich in this carotenoid in your everyday diet to reap the health benefits of this vital nutrient.

Tomato is the richest sources of this phytonutrient. Other dietary sources include watermelon, carrots, papaya, pink grapefruit, guava, red cabbage, red pepper, and asparagus. Having an adequate amount of the phytonutrient every day can help protect the NEM system, promote heart health, boost cognitive function, support bone health, ensure healthy eyes, fight cancer, protect against sunburn, and prevent signs of early aging.

 
© Copyright 2015 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

There are no serious side effects of lycopene when taken through dietary sources. Few reports have linked high intake of the nutrient with nausea, diarrhea, and cramps. In rare cases, the nutrient is known to cause skin discoloration referred to as lycopenodermia. The non-toxic reaction eases within a few weeks of a lycopene-free diet. Research shows that supplementation form of the nutrient can react with certain medications.


About lycopene and tomatoes

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