5 Delicious Ways to Get More Lycopene Into Your Diet

Lycopene is a plant pigment that gives foods like tomatoes, grapefruit, and watermelon their red and pink colors. That's kind of cool. But what's even better is that lycopene is an antioxidant compound that can fight free-radical damage to the cells in your body and helps with lowering blood pressure.

A 2021 review of 11 studies indicated that lycopene may help decrease systolic pressure (the top number of your blood pressure reading). The number indicates how much pressure is being exerted against the artery walls when your heart beats. This decreasing effect is even more pronounced in people with high blood pressure. 

Lycopene is part of the carotenoid family, which is a group of compounds related to vitamin A. Other important carotenoids includes alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Various studies have suggested that eating a diet rich in lycopene-containing foods is associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

Other studies suggest that lycopene assists with macular degeneration, but these benefits have only been demonstrated in observational (rather than clinical) studies. So it's possible that lycopene has a synergistic effect with other antioxidants or nutrients. Foods that are high in lycopene also tend to be high in vitamin c, folate, and potassium. 

Because lycopene-rich foods also have many other important nutrients, it's important to get your lycopene from whole foods rather than pills.

1

Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti
Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

Fresh foods are generally better for your health. But, when it comes to lycopene, you're better off with processed foods because they are heat stable. Research shows that heating tomatoes for at least 2 hours at 100 degrees Fahrenheit releases the lycopene making it easily accessible by the body. Canned tomatoes are also a great alternative.

Spaghetti sauce (or any red sauce made from tomatoes) is rich in lycopene and other vitamins and minerals. Try making homemade spaghetti sauce or look for brands that are low in sodium, like Eden Organic Spaghetti Sauce. Make it a nutritious meal by serving on whole grain pasta with a garden salad on the side. 

2

Tomato Juice

Tomato juice

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Drinking tomato juice as a beverage is another delicious way to get lycopene. One cup of tomato juice has lycopene, is low in calories and also has plenty of vitamin A and vitamin C.

3

Watermelon

Watermelon

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Take a watermelon and cut it into several pieces. You'll get a bit of lycopene in every bite. Watermelon is also a delicious source of potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Plus it's low in calories. Watermelon can be served all alone or for a wonderful salad.

4

Salsa

Salsa and Chips
Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

Using salsa as a dip or a topping is another great way to get plenty of lycopene. Make your own salsa or buy a nutritious ready-to-serve salsa like Muir Glen Organic Salsa. It's such a versatile food—salsa is a natural with baked tortilla chips, but it also tastes great with eggs, or on top of potatoes.

5

Pink Grapefruit or Pink Grapefruit Juice

Grapefruit

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Pink grapefruit doesn't have as much lycopene as the other foods above, but it's low in calories and is also a tasty source of vitamins A and C. You can also enjoy pink grapefruit juice to get some lycopene in your diet. Just watch out for any added sugar. 

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Rattanavipanon W, Nithiphongwarakul C, Sirisuwansith P, et al. Effect of tomato, lycopene and related products on blood pressure: A systematic review and network meta-analysisPhytomedicine. Published online February 2021:153512 doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2021.153512

  2. Chen, Ping MD; Zhang, Wenhao MD; Wang, Xiao MD; Zhao, Keke MD; Negi, Devendra Singh MD; Zhuo, Li MD; Qi, Mao MD; Wang, Xinghuan MD; Zhang, Xinhua MD, PhD Lycopene and risk of prostate cancer, Medicine: August 2015 - Volume 94 - Issue 33 - p e1260 doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000001260

  3. Mohammed, MI, Malami DI Effect of heat treatment on the lycopene content of tomato puree. ChemSearch Journal.  Vol. 4 No. 1 (2013) 

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