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Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that may protect your body against all types of cancer: heart, lung, ovarian, prostate, colon and breast. Did that grab your attention? Lycopene is a carotenoid compound that is responsible for the reddish coloring of tomatoes, guavas, watermelons, papayas and pink grapefruits. Yes, lycopene is an antioxidant, meaning it fights cancer-causing free radicals with a vengeance!

Lycopene is a nonessential nutrient, but that doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial for the body! Natural plant antioxidants guarantee enormous health benefits for the body, and lycopene is no different. This antioxidant is a real go-getter, helping reduce bad cholesterol and lower blood pressure in the body. It is a potential anti-carcinogenic agent, meaning that numerous studies have identified a correlation between ingesting lycopene-rich foods and a decreased risk of developing cancers or cardiovascular diseases. Cornell researchers even say that lycopene devours 10 times more free radicals than vitamin E. And although there is a trend within these studies, the results cannot be 100 percent attributed to lycopene ingestion.

Some research even suggests that lycopene may boost sperm counts in men struggling with infertility. Yet another way lycopene rocks our worlds: This antioxidant has anti-aging properties in that it helps defend the skin against UV rays!

>> Read more: 10 Ways You’re Making Vegetables Less Nutritious

tomatoes

Dr. Andrew Weil suggests nine milligrams of mixed carotenoid supplements daily for teenagers and adults. But, they need not actually be supplements. By regularly eating red-colored fruits and vegetables, you will certainly absorb enough lycopene for your health. Tomatoes and tomato-based products are the best sources of lycopene; 80 percent of lycopene in the average American diet comes from tomatoes. Actually, studies from years past show that cooking tomatoes increases the antioxidant power of lycopene. Another interesting tomato tidbit is that the lycopene is maintained and sometimes even increased in processed tomato products, such as ketchup and tomato sauce.

You’re not a tomato fan? No problem! A report published in¬†Agriculture Research Magazine says that watermelons have just as much, or possibly more, lycopene as tomatoes do! Lycopene deficiency is not considered a medical problem. The best and most thorough way to absorb all your nutrients (cross your Ts and dot your Is) is by regularly cooking and eating fruits and vegetables. Some doctors do not recommend taking a lycopene supplement because a pill with only one or a few nutrients does not benefit the body the same way as eating whole foods do.

>> Need more antioxidants in your life? Check out these 10 foods!