We’ve all enjoyed delicious NatureSweet tomatoes in our sandwiches, salads, and salsas, but did you know that they have anti-aging benefits?

Lycopene, the phytonutrient which gives tomatoes their bright red color, is known as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants capture free radicals in our bodies before they can do damage to cells and tissues which can cause us to prematurely age. Here are some of the powerful anti-aging benefits of lycopene.

Helps Protect Skin from Damage from UV Rays

Sun is a major factor when it comes to skin damage, aging skin prematurely as well as increasing risk for skin cancer. We know to protect our skin with clothing and sunscreen, but the lycopene in tomatoes can help protect your skin from the inside.

Lycopene has a protective effect against the sun’s damaging rays when we get it in our diet. As we mature, lycopene isn’t as readily available in our skin to protect against the sun. However, a study showed that after taking extra lycopene for 4 weeks, the lycopene in the skin of older people more closely matched younger participants’ skin.

Supports Brain Health and Fights Cognitive Decline

The apprehension of mental decline is a major concern for most people as they age. The World Health Organization recommends Mediterranean-style diet to lower the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. This includes a diet rich in fruits and vegetables like lycopene-loaded tomatoes.

According to several long-term studies, eating lycopene-rich foods can greatly contribute to brain health and reduce the risk of dementia including Alzheimer’s Disease. The results of the NHANES III study involving 6,958 people revealed that higher blood serum levels of lycopene were associated with lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Fights Gum Disease

Gum disease becomes harder to fight as we age, which makes our teeth more vulnerable to bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 47% of adults over age 30 have gum disease. By age 65, it increases to over 70%.

Research shows that the antioxidant power of lycopene may improve the health of gums as we age. In one study, patients with gum disease who were treated with lycopene for two weeks showed significant improvement in symptoms compared to patients who were not treated.

TIP: Collect leftover chopped or overly ripe NatureSweet tomatoes in a freezer container. Eventually you will have enough to make a homemade, lycopene-packed pasta sauce. Delicious!

Protects against Second-Hand Smoke

While many of us don’t smoke, it’s sometimes difficult to avoid secondhand smoke. According to the CDC, secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. It may also cause premature aging in the skin.

Lycopene has been shown to fight the effects of secondhand smoke, working to inhibit the growth of damaged cells. It may even reduce the risk of cancer in people exposed to cigarette smoke.

Helps Maintain Heart Health

 As we age, our risks for heart disease increases. A major cause of heart disease is atherosclerosis, the thick, hard buildup of cholesterol plaques in our arteries. Atherosclerosis reduces the flow of oxygenated blood to the body’s organs, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Lycopene has a protective effect against atherosclerosis. A study involving 520 people in Finland showed that men with adequate lycopene in their blood serum had 18% less wall thickness in their arteries.

In a 2012 review of human and animal studies, lycopene and tomato products were shown to lower overall cholesterol. In some cases, the studies showed an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol.

Bone Loss or Osteoporosis

Loss of bone mineral density is a common problem for maturing adults, especially in postmenopausal women. While medications are available to help maintain bone density, they sometimes come with side effects, leading researchers to look for other solutions.

In several studies, lycopene has shown positive results for both increasing bone mineral density and preventing bone loss. In one 3-month long osteoporosis study involving 78 postmenopausal women, participants who ate tomato sauce daily showed no significant bone loss, while women in the control group had significant loss.

Lycopene is a potent antioxidant with lots of potential benefits. By eating foods high in lycopene like NatureSweet tomatoes regularly, you’ll help keep your body healthy through all stages of life.

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About the Author
Melissa Mitri
Melissa is a health writer with over 12 years of experience in the field of nutrition. She specializes in helping women move away from restrictive habits that lead to vicious yo-yo weight cycles. Melissa enjoys writing about health, nutrition, and fitness with the goal of simplifying complex health topics for the reader. You can find out more about Melissa at www.melissamitri.com

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