What is lycopene?
Lycopene is an antioxidant that is commonly found in fruits and vegetables that are red in color. Lycopene has been linked to cancer prevention (particularly prostate) and playing a role in preventing and healing heart disease. The great thing about getting your lycopene from fresh plant sources is that it frequently brings you many other pluses, because in nature nutrients always exist in concert with other nutrients that facilitate better absorption (co-factors) and a broader spectrum of benefits. Taking an isolated, synthetically manufactured lycopene pill will not compare.
Where should I get my lycopene?
The following foods are all available in Zimbabwe. They are abundant, inexpensive and can even be grown in your own backyard. Some of them, like tomatoes, are also available year round, while others can be found seasonally in the diaspora.
Yes those things that every other Zimbabwean has growing in their back yard. In addition to being extremely high in vitamin C (another super general wellness agent, immunity booster and anti-cancer champion), it also is packed with, yes – you guessed it – lycopene.
Lycopene is especially high in cooked tomatoes and most Zimbabwean dishes incorporate them in some form. You can also enjoy these as tomato soup, in salads and sandwiches, and as the base of a pasta sauce. You can even throw in blended sun-dried tomatoes in your sauces for extra richness, thickness and sweetness.
This sweet, hydrating treat is surprisingly high in lycopene. You can juice the whole fruit, including the rind for a refreshing summer drink, or eat it as is. It could help you lose weight and has the added benefit of being a diuretic, so is helpful for any conditions of excess fluid in the body.
Pink and Red Grapefruit
Both varieties of this citrus fruit have significant amounts of lycopene. Additionally, they are loaded with vitamin C and are helpful for weight loss. Enjoy the juice of the fruit for breakfast, or eat the fruit as is. You can also add a few half segments of the fruit to your daily salad for more variety.
Chillis and Piri Piri
As it so happens, those spicy piri piri dishes you enjoy benefit more than just your taste buds. Chillis of all sorts are lycopene powerhouses an help reduce blood pressure and aid in digestion. Try adding a pinch of cayenne pepper or any of your favorite chilli powder to your chocolate drinks or lemonade for an interesting treat. Chillis are also very naturally warming to people on a plant based diet in the winter time.
So there you have it. No excuses for not getting enough lycopene in your diet are plausible. The whole family can enjoy them. Lycopene rich foods are easy to find, inexpensive to buy, simple to grow and are both tasty and just plain good for you. Remember to buy organic, pesticide free or grow your own clean produce whenever you can.
*Keep your eyes posted on the blog and new ECCT website (coming soon) for our first worldwide fundraising campaign, “Sponsor a Zimbabwean Cancer Patient” launching in a few weeks.