Yesterday for lunch I enjoyed an amazing salad full of wild shrimp, grilled calamari, red onions, parsley, greens, red peppers, and tomato. As I was eating, I was perusing my email. And I just so happened to come across an impressive new study about the very thing I was eating. It said higher blood levels of lycopene may reduce mortality risk for people who have metabolic syndrome.
Not that I have metabolic syndrome. But I was still pleased to know I was getting a serving of lycopene from that red pepper and tomato in my salad.
In case you’re not familiar with it, lycopene is a carotenoid, which is a natural pigment that gives certain fruits and vegetables a deep red color. The red pigment acts as an antioxidant in the body, protecting cells against damage from free radicals.
Lycopene was all the rage a few years ago and then sort of fell out of fashion for no real reason. Personally, I think lycopene got pigeonholed as a prostate cancer preventative, and people assumed it couldn’t do much else. And since half the population doesn’t have a prostate, people lost interest.
But as this new study shows, prostate cancer prevention is only one part of lycopene’s impressive repertoire.
Researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center discovered its newest benefit by assessing data from the long-running National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
They looked at the records of nearly 2,500 people with metabolic syndrome who were over the age of 20. (In case you need a quick refresher, metabolic syndrome is characterized by excess fat, high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low HDL [good] cholesterol.)
And ultimately they found that very low levels of lycopene were associated with an earlier death.
In fact, the researchers found that the subjects with the highest blood levels of lycopene actually lived 13 months longer than those with the lowest levels.
That’s an important distinction…and one mainstream medicine never seems to get: The best results are almost always associated with the highest levels of certain nutrients.
Things like vitamin D and testosterone are good examples. Doctors often test patients’ levels and assume they’re fine if the results are within the “normal” range. But “normal” isn’t necessarily optimal. Above the normal range is almost always better with both vitamin D and testosterone. And now we know the same is true for lycopene.
And now that we know higher levels of lycopene can add more than a year to your life if you have metabolic syndrome, you’d do what it takes to get more of it, right?
Even better, if you could decrease your chances of ever developing metabolic syndrome in the first place — or reverse it if you already have it — you’d do that too, correct? Well, the good news is you can, with my Metabolic Repair Protocol. If you haven’t already, I urge you to check it out. But in the meantime, let’s get back to the lycopene.
There are a few important things you should know about this nutrient. First, while I was excited about the lycopene in the fresh tomato and pepper in my salad yesterday, the truth is, it’s difficult for your body to absorb lycopene from raw foods. (The fiber interferes with the absorption and bioavailability.) So this is one instance where you’re better off eating tomatoes and peppers that have been cooked, rather than ones fresh off the vine.
Since tomatoes are out of season for a few more months anyway, whipping up a pot of homemade tomato sauce is a good alternative. Simmer some chopped onions and garlic in macadamia nut oil (since lycopene is fat soluble, the oil will increase the absorption even further). Then add some organic tomato sauce and tomato paste to thicken, along with some fresh minced parsley, basil, and oregano. Throw a dash of salt into the pot, give it a good stir, and let it simmer on low for a couple of hours.
Serve the sauce over grilled chicken, meatballs, or a hearty bowl of zucchini “noodles.” I can’t think of a better, more delicious way to get all the benefits of lycopene — any time of the year.