Meals with lycopene likely to help prevent cancer, protect immune system

One small step to prevent cancer can be as easy as eating pizza or spaghetti for dinner.

Lycopene, a free radical-fighting antioxidant, lives in tomatoes.

The Physicians Committee (TPC) is a nonprofit 501c3 organization of Washington, D.C. that says antioxidants like lycopene get rid of free radicals, which stops them from attaching to your cells and bringing troubles to your immune system.

Lycopene is a pigment often found in red fruits and vegetables, naturally giving pink grapefruit and tomatoes their pink and red hues.

TPC says research shows lycopene to be effective in helping to prevent prostate, lung and stomach cancers. The group backs lycopene's ability to reduce cancers of the pancreas, colon and rectum, esophagus, oral cavity, breast and cervix.

"This hearty antioxidant provides a two-for-the-price-of-one deal as it may help reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by reducing LDL ("bad") cholesterol and lowering blood pressure," TPC says.

Tomatoes are popular sources of lycopene, while the antioxidant comes in smaller doses in foods like guava, watermelon, pink grapefruit, papaya, sweet red peppers and carrots, according to the American Cancer Society .

TPC suggests getting lycopene from sources where it's most effective and abundant - cooked tomatoes with a meal containing just touch of fat, like your favorite Italian dishes and olive oils.

Try drinking a glass of pink grapefruit juice with scrambled egg whites, mixing sun-dried tomatoes to a salad for lunch and adding salsa to your snack.

"Of course, this is not a green light to eat tons of french fries with ketchup in the name of cancer prevention," TPC says. "No amount of lycopene can undo the damage of an artery clogging-diet."


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