How Your Dinner Plate Can Affect Your Diet

Did you know that your dinner plates can actually affect the amount of food you and your children consume? As a mom and dietitian, I understand the need for parents to feed their kids well while fostering a positive relationship with food. This relationship is more complicated than the nutritional value of what you serve, however; in fact, it actually begins with your servingware.

If you haven’t thought about it before, then consider it now. Beyond ingredients alone, parents need to think about the ways in which the environment impacts children’s associations with food. Eating off of dishes that we find aesthetically pleasing or comforting can set us up for a sense of satisfaction before even taking a bite off our plate – and the same goes for our children.

When it comes to finding the perfect plates that suit your parenting philosophies and personal styles, consider yourselves covered. These five picks won’t just help to foster healthy attitudes in the kitchen; they’ll also eliminate unnecessary stress by prompting your ever-picky eaters to finish what’s in front of them.

 

1. The No Fuss Mom: Corelle White Dish

I’ve eaten off of these plates for years! Dishwasher safe and practically unbreakable, there is nothing better than these crisp, white dishes – except, that is, the price!

Photo Courtesy of Corelle

 

For a mere $50 dollars, you can purchase a set of eight of these family-friendly plates.

Eating off of white dishes creates a colorful contrast with your meal which, based on studies by Dr. Brain Wainsink, lends to eating smaller portions and over time, an easy way to lose weight without consciously dieting.

 

2. The Eco-chic Mom: Bambooware Santa Barbara Dinnerware

For the environmentally sound mother with a love of anything green, these eco-chic plates from Bambooware are made of bamboo and are decidedly awesome.

Photo Courtesy of Bambooware

Not only are they melamine-free, but these low-impact plates are both reusable and dishwasher safe, making them perfect for every occasion, from family meals to birthday parties and more.

 

3. The New Mom: Green Eats BPA-Free Kids Dishes

Babies and tots are known for touching, tantrums and throwing, so we’re not exactly serving our little bundles of joy baby food or even finger food off of our finest china. Yet with all the talk and rising concerns about BPA, many parents are hesitant to use plastic servingware, bottles and plates – even if many states, including New York and California, have put BPA-free laws in place.

Photo Courtesy of Green Eats

These BPA-free plates from Green Eats gives new moms everywhere one thing less to worry about, and are ideal for serving wholesome, sustainable foods to our little ones.

 

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 1.51.08 PM

This was originally posted on www.ModernMom.com, to read the rest of this article please click here.

Diabulimia: Learning More about your Teen and their Type-1 Diabetes Diagnosis

Diabulimia: Learning More about your Teen and their Type-1 Diabetes Diagnosis
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

 

Diabulimia is an unofficial term, used by both the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, to define a serious condition effecting, but not limited to, adolescent girls diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Photo Credit: via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

An adolescent diagnosed with diabulimia (known formally as ED-DMT1) is characterized by the intentional misuse and manipulation of insulin for the purposes of weight loss and control. By decreasing, or skipping the necessary dose of insulin, the individual’s body cannot absorb the carbohydrate, which affects weight and causes high blood sugar. This is very dangerous state as high blood sugar can cause Diabetic Ketoacidosis.

 

Did you know diabulimia’s prevalence is most widely recognized in adolescent girls? Studies conducted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Pediatric Nutrition, report that an adolescent girl, with T1DM, is 2.4 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than her peers. While it is difficult to pinpoint the culprit behind diabulimia, the current assumption is the hyper focus on diet, control and weight. The strict diet associated with diabetes care and the pressures associated with women, eating, and body image could “exacerbate preexisting disordered eating tendencies.” (Childers)

 

If your tween or teen has diabetes, here are signs that may signify there is an element of disordered eating or an eating disorder:

  1. Frequent Diabetic Ketoacidosis
  2. Excessive Exercise
  3. Use of diet pills or laxatives to control weight
  4. Anxiety about or avoidance of being weighed
  5. Frequent and severe hypoglycemia
  6. Binging with alcohol
  7. Severe stress in family
  8. Frequent Insulin omission (Franz)

This is a relatively new branch to the field of nutrition, displayed by its mixture of symptoms and heath concerns.  It is important to remember the American Diabetes Association (ADA) continues to stress that there is no “one-size-fits-all” eating pattern for individuals with diabetes. When it comes to dietary recommendations, there is a strong emphasis on personal/cultural sensitivity and care. If your adolescent shows the above signs, it is highly recommended to seek a registered dietitian who specializes in both diabetes and eating disorders.

DiabulimiaPostAdditionalResources

What do you think the prevalence of Diabulimia suggests about adolescent girls perception of health? How can we help to reframe this image?

 

 

Resources

  • Nancy, Childers, and Hansen-Petrik Melissa. “Diabulimia in Adolescent Females.” Pediatric Nutrition 37.3 (2014): 13-16. Print.
  • Franz, Marion J., and Kulkarni, Karmeen. Diabetes Education and Program Management. Chicago, IL: American Association of Diabetes Educators, 2001. 159. Print.

Coconut Oil is Going Mainstream

 

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 9.32.02 PM

The brand Vita Coco, known for their delicious coconut water never made from concentrate, is debuting their very own line of coconut oil. This oil has been used for centuries in ayurvedic therapies and has been making a comeback recently on the general market. The great thing about this tropical fat is that you can eat it and wear it.

Coconut oil has a variety of uses from the kitchen to the powder room. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but no need to freak out just yet. This type of plant-based saturated fat (or medium chain fatty acid) raises both your “healthy” HDL and your “lousy” LDL, but does not create an unhealthy balance between your HDL and LDL*. Your heart is more in danger when your HDL and LDL are closer in number to each other. Also, because of its saturated chemical structure, coconut oil has a high smoke point. This means that coconut oil can reach high temperatures in the pan or an oven without producing cancer-causing compounds like some other oils. Coconut oil is also solid at room temperature, like butter, which means that it can usually replace butter as a cholesterol-free, non-dairy fat source in, say, your next brownie recipe. Look below for another fun idea to try in the kitchen.

 

Do you want to feel like you’re in the Bahamas without getting on a flight? Take some coconut oil (about a teaspoon at a time) and slather it on your body as a lotion. This versatile oil leaves your skin feeling silky and hydrated, and the lauric acid (the type of fatty acid in coconut oil) is linked to killing harmful bacteria and boosting one’s immunity.

 

The researchers are still in disagreement on all of the exact long-term benefits of coconut oil as an anti-viral compound with even the potential power to fight HIV, but there is no doubt that this a delicious addition to your pantry and your vanity.

Before you buy, make sure the coconut oil is as minimally processed as possible. Vita Coco’s version is Extra Virgin, USDA certified organic, 100% raw and cold-pressed, meaning that all the nutrients are retained since the product is never heated. For more information about this product, you can follow Vita Coco on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #eatitwearitswearbyit, or by visiting their website vitacocococonutoil.com.

 

 

*Source: Willet WC. “Ask the Doctor: Coconut Oil.” Harvard Health Letter: May, 2011. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2011/May/coconut-oil

 

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 9.30.31 PM

Vita Coco’s Spiced Popcorn
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup salt
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon Vita Coco coconut oil for popping
  • 2 tablespoons Vita Coco coconut oil for tossing

 

Directions:

  1. In a large pan with a fitted top, heat the 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat. Add the kernels and toss them in the oil to coat well.
  2. Cook the popcorn until all the kernels stop popping. Transfer the popcorn into a large mixing bowl and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil.
  3. Mix all the spices together in a small bowl and add the mix to the popcorn until the desired taste is reached. Enjoy!

Is Your Trainer Trained?

Is Your Trainer Trained?

Do you ever wonder what the initials after your trainer’s name stand for? Or what initials should a trainer even have? EALM asked fitness trainer Tiffany Chag, CSCS to let us know what credentials a personal fitness trainer should have and what they mean. Here is her response!

Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan via Compfight cc

Chag shared “It is most important that the trainer has an up-to-date personal training certification accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA).”  Just so you know, some require a four-year college degree while others take only 20 minutes to complete online.  She let us know there are many personal training certifications out there, but there are three widely recognized personal training governing bodies and their respective certifications.”

 

  1. National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA): offers both the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification and the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification.  The CSCS is the most recognized and respected certification in the fitness profession, intended for trainers focused on maximizing athletic performance.  In order to sit for the four-hour exam, you must have a four-year college degree.  The CPT, also highly regarded, is intended for trainers working with the general population.
  2. American College of Sports Medicine—Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM-CPT):  Like the NSCA-CPT, this certification is intended for trainers working with the general population.  As stated on its website, the ACSM, “advances and integrates scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.”
  3. National Academy of Sports Medicine—Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT): This certification is also meant for trainers working with the general population and focuses more on corrective exercise through balance and functional movement.  They created the Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model to design personal training programs.

 

Tiffany made us aware of additional certifications trainers may earn. “Many trainers complete certifications for special populations such as triathlon training, pre- and post-natal, weight loss, and youth or seniors. Trainers can also obtain certifications focused on different modalities of exercise, such as: kettle bells, TRX (the black and yellow rope you see hanging around your gym), or spinning/cycling.  If you’re looking for something in particular, ask if a trainer has a specialty certification or if they’ve ever worked with someone in a similar situation.  Most trainers will gladly provide referrals, if you’re interested.”

Photo Credit: Justin Liew via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Justin Liew via Compfight cc

Tiffany Chag’s Words of Wisdom for the World of Fitness:

“Ask questions!  I can count on one hand the number of times a prospective client has asked about my background—this always surprises me. The more you learn about the trainer, the more likely you are to find the right match to help you reach your health and fitness goals.

Working with a trainer should be challenging and should push you outside your comfort zone, but mostly…it should be fun.  In between catching your breath, ideally you’re able to eke out a smile!”

Thanks Tiffany!! You can check out more about Tiffany Chag, CSCS and her certifications at: www.tiffanychagtraining.com ~ Facebook.

Laura Cipullo and EALM’s Words of Wisdom for the World of Fitness:

Look for the initials CSCS, CPT and or NASM-CPT. Ask questions and make sure you don’t push too hard to cause injury!! Also check out www.destructivelyfit.com to see if your trainer has been trained to work with eating disorders.

Teaching Food Waste and Hunger without Worrying Your Child

Teaching Food Waste and Hunger without Worrying Your Child

In the springtime, a mother asked me, “How do I teach my child about food waste and hunger without worrying or shaming her?” Well, I didn’t have the answer, but I now have a way to at least start the conversation. In honor of Hunger Action Month, read on to learn about nutrition student and Rescuing Leftover Cuisine volunteer Hannah Husby’s recommendations to turn extra food into meals for others. –Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

Photo Credit: jbloom via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jbloom via Compfight cc

Ideas for Food Rescue Hannah Husby, Nutrition Student, NYU   While we worry a lot these days about all the food we are eating, we should consider turning our positive attention to food we may be wasting. Of course, everyone wastes food from time to time; it’s easy to want to buy all the beautiful produce at the farmer’s market, only to find you bought too many peaches—and the last two became rotten before you could eat them! (For tips on how to avoid this, see this post.) This waste tends to be more annoying than anything for us, but for those that face issues with food insecurity, having that peach before it gets soft could make a difference between going to bed hungry or not. Short of eating everything in your fridge right now so none of it goes to waste, what can be done to help? It actually takes a surprisingly small amount of time to make a difference. Big cities across the country can use help feeding their homeless and secure food, and this can make an incredible impact. Here are a few places to check out in New York City:

City Harvest – Known for everything from food rescue to nutrition education, City Harvest has served New York for over thirty years and continues to eliminate food waste every day.

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine – A smaller and recently created non-profit, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine also aims to feed the hungry by taking donations from restaurants and businesses, no matter how small, and can always use volunteers to transport this food directly to shelters and pantries.

Food rescues can also be found all over the country by checking out Feeding America, but if there are no rescues in your community, you can actually create your own with the help of City Harvest!   Volunteering, even just an hour or two a week, can do wonders not only for the community you live in, but also for yourself, connecting you more with those around you and creating a fresh perspective on those day-to-day complaints we all face. And it certainly helps you appreciate how wonderfully delicious those peaches are!

Chef It Up…Read EALM’s kitchen “aides”

Chef It Up…Read EALM’s kitchen “aides”
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

Ever wonder about the best way to store coffee, the correct temperature for cooking a cut of meat, or how to make a flakey pasty crust?

In today’s digital age we often just turn to Google for instantaneous answers to all of our questions. But there’s nothing quite like having this information in one easily accessible place. Keep in mind that not everything we read on the Internet comes from reliable sources. Finding trustworthy answers to these kinds of questions often requires us to research many different sites. Whether you are a dietitian, chef, home cook, or simply someone who eats (i.e. ANYONE!), you probably have a variety of questions about food and cooking. Why does a certain food do that when it cooks? Where does our food come from?  How has food changed over the years? If you’re at all curious about food or cooking, here are three highly recommended books to help answer your questions…whether you’re an at-home food scientist, a “YUMPIE” chef or simply a literature loving foodie. These books are sure to make your epicurean experiences that much more satisfying.

 

Three kitchen “aides” to help the three different kinds of foodies:

For the scientific cook:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 12.30.05 PM

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee

For the more experienced and the science-minded person, On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee is a great resource—an encyclopedia dealing exclusively with food and cooking—and one of my favorites reference sources! McGee’s book contains definitive answers to many of our everyday food questions…and so much more. The book begins by focusing on the most commonly used ingredients. So here are just a few of the things you can learn: the difference between cream and milk, how eggs are graded, and various cooking methods for meat and fish. It provides descriptions of some of the more than 2,000 cultivated varieties of edible plants. It discusses different flavors. It explains the baking process and how to create a variety of sauces. It reveals how to brew alcoholic beverages. And it includes in-depth descriptions of cooking methods and materials. This book is a “must have” for nutrition and culinary students as well as professional chefs. It’s also a great reference tool for the at-home chef to keep close at hand. You can easily research the reasons behind a specific food reaction and/or quickly find answers to your daily cooking questions.

 

For our “YUMPIE” chefs:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 12.28.11 PM

Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks and Good Food by Jeff Potter

If you want to learn about food science but actually are not too fond of science, Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter may be the perfect book for you. A quick read, it helps you effortlessly expand your knowledge about food science. Potter breaks down the complexities of food science into easy-to-understand terms. And once you understand the science behind cooking, you’ll be able to view your recipes from entirely new perspectives. Your kitchen will be stocked with blank canvas for you to create masterpieces. Potter also includes some basic foundational recipes to help the concepts solidify in your brain. You’ll learn why something happens and then be able to attempt it in your own test kitchen!

 

By the way…. YUMPIE is a real word! A YUMPIE is a young, educated, career-orientated person who wants to get ahead in the world.[i] Don’t believe me? Check out dictionary.com.

 

For the literature-loving foodie:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 12.32.15 PM

Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson

If you want to learn more about food and cooking but are really more interested in the story than the science, Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson would be perfect for your next beach read or even a good option for your book club. Written by food writer and historian Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork takes you on an adventure depicting how your kitchen tools affect your food. Written as a novel rather than a reference tool, it includes some science and history but is also interwoven with personal experiences. Wilson’s book provides an interesting visualization about how the tools we’ve used throughout history have shaped what we eat today.

 

No matter what stage of the game you currently may have reached in your kitchen comfort, knowledge and/or expertise, you’ll learn much more about food and how best to prepare it with each one of these books. Not only will they help you when you’re in the kitchen, but you’ll also be able to impress your family and friends with some fun food facts the next time you’re out for lunch or dinner. Or, perhaps, if you wind up trying to solve a crossword puzzle laden with food clues!


[i] YUMPIE. Available at Dictonary.com

To Drink or Not to Drink?

Some Things to Keep in Mind Before Your Next Sip
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

In honor of Labor Day Weekend, we wanted to share the following blog on drinking and alcohol. We wish you a healthy and happy holiday weekend!

Photo Credit: Darwin Bell via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Darwin Bell via Compfight cc

In 2010, the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans included a recommendation to drink alcohol in moderation. Moderation here is defined as: one drink or less per day for women, and 2 drinks or less per day for men. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) notes that one alcoholic beverage is equal to 14 grams of alcohol. That means, one 5-ounce glass of wine, one 1.5 ounce serving of liquor (tequila, vodka, gin, and so on), or one 12-ounce bottle of beer. Alcohol can affect every person differently based on your height, weight, health status, family history, age and how often/how much you decide to drink.

Alcohol clocks in at 7.1 calories per gram, which is more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates, but less than fat. So, how does alcohol breakdown in our body and is it a health risk? Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is considered a fat, not a sugar, when it is broken down in our body. The thermic effect (energy needed to breakdown foods/drinks) of alcohol is 15-22% versus the 12% for food. That means, it takes your body more energy to breakdown alcohol than food. Does that mean that people who drink will burn more calories and have a lower body weight? No. The research examining alcohol consumption and body weight regulation is mixed. Some studies concluded that alcohol consumption in women was related to a lower body weight, but the study could not control for exactly how many ounces these women drank. Another study found no correlation between alcohol and weight in women, but concluded that men who drank had a lower body fat percentage but not a lower waist-to-hip ratio (the ultimate indicator for heart health and diabetes risk). Most studies did not address long-term consumption either, so there is no evidence to see how one’s drinking habits affect them in the long run.

Extensive research from the American Institute for Cancer Research (aicr.org) has uncovered the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk in women of all ages. The majority of the research found a 10% increased risk for breast cancer with every 10 grams of alcohol/day – that’s less than one drink. Alcohol is also an Oestrogen/Estrogen disruptor, as it influences the hormone levels and its receptors.

It’s also important to know that your body considers alcohol a toxin. When you consume it, all other metabolic processes slow down to get the alcohol out of your system more efficiently. And because alcohol is considered a fat (1 of the 3 macronutrients), other fat breakdown is significantly curbed at that time.  Now, we shouldn’t start drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, rather we should be mindful of the foods we consume while we enjoy our drink. Alcohol can affect our mood and our brain function, which can ultimately affect our food choices. That’s why being mindful when we enjoy our drinks and food is important. The second we feel out of touch with ourselves from a cocktail, it may be time to stop sipping and stay present.

Photo Credit: Dave Dugdale via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Dave Dugdale via Compfight cc

 

For a useful tool on calculating the amount of alcohol in your drink, check out:

http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/ToolsResources/CocktailCalculator.asp

 

Most importantly, NEVER drink and drive!

Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services does not recommend drinking alcohol.

Healthy and Happy: The Positive Role Team Sports Play on Adolescent Girls

Headline: Sign Your Girls Up For Team Sports this Fall!

Photo Credit: evoo73 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: evoo73 via Compfight cc

Healthy and Happy: The Positive Role Team Sports Play on Adolescent Girls
By Lauren Cohen and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services

 

Do you remember what middle school was like for you? If you’re like me, you probably try not to remember. Being a teenager is difficult. Between the physical changes, social changes, and mental changes, overwhelming is probably an understatement—and that’s not even including schoolwork! And then there are the girls. The pressure and social anxiety to “fit it” is exacerbated by the feeling that you need to wear the right clothes or carry the right backpack or have the right friends. As many times as we try to profess that all girls feel it (yes, even that “it” girl!), it is an isolating and lonely sensation. While we can’t eliminate the discomfort that comes along with being a teenage girl—we can work to improve it.

 

New research suggests that team sports may be the answer to helping adolescent girls live happier, healthy lives. While research is continuing to expand our knowledge as to why this is the case, the results show a varied and wide impact. In an essay published by the World Health Organization, the benefits of participation in team sports are classified into five categories; physical, mental, social, intellectual/ educational development and reproductive health.

 

Physical Health

Physical health is improved in two ways. First, it can reduce the risk for diseases that often affect children and adolescents including diabetes and high blood pressure. Secondly, it can reduce the risk for chronic diseases that often develop later in life including cancer, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. Physical activity also continues to prevent childhood obesity, which has a close relationship with adolescent depressive disorders.

 

Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that roughly 11% of adolescents develop depressive disorders by age 18—and girls are twice as likely to have a depressive episode then boys. While that is a scary statistic, it is important to remember that there are many ways to combat and understand depressive disorders. Team sports are one of them. It has a positive effect on a young girl’s physiological well-being and can reduce levels of anxiety and depression. There are new studies that suggest physical activity as a treatment option  – since it often acts as an anti-depressant and lowers stress levels.

 

An article published by the LA Times in April 2014 recently addressed a study suggesting that calling a girl “too fat” by people close to her are more likely to become obese by age 19. The link seems to be emotional—if girls feel bad about themselves, they turn to food for comfort.

 

Social/Intellectual/Educational Health

With lower levels of stress and increased physical health, studies show an upward trend in academic and intellectual success. There is also a higher rate of interest in graduation from high school and college with a lower rate of dropouts and higher GPAs—particularly in math and science. Socially, these team players experience a sense of belonging, a community, and teammates who share a common interest and goal.

 

Sexual Health

Limited research also suggests that inclusion in team sports gives young women a sense of pride, respect, and empowerment towards their bodies.

 

In many settings, adolescents may be encouraged to view their bodies as sexual and reproductive resources for men, rather than sources of strength for themselves. Early studies conducted in the US have found that adolescent girls who participate in sports tend to become sexually active later in life, have fewer partners, and, when sexually active, make greater use of contraception than non-sporting girls.

-Girls Participation in Physical Activities and Sports: Benefits, Patterns, Influences, and ways Forward; Bailey, Wellard, Dismore

 

With increased rates of adolescent pregnancy and poor sexual health & education, the hope that young women will display bodily empowerment and respect is certainly desirable and correlates with participation in team sports.

 

As we already know, physical activity already has such a wide range of positive impacts that reach from muscle toning to mind toning. When we add the element of team building and comradeship, it really might be the best mixture for adolescent girls. Even if practice is just once a week, sign up! The tools she gains and the resources she learns are the very skills that teach us to live a happy and healthy life.

 

 

 

Resources

 

http://www.icsspe.org/sites/default/files/Girls.pdf

 

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-in-children-and-adolescents/index.shtml

 

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/07/11/peds.2011-2898

 

http://www.newkerala.com/news/2014/fullnews-27523.html#.U0LBgK1dVK4

 

http://www.torontosun.com/2014/03/24/team-sports-help-children-be-healthier-do-better-in-class-study

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Lycopene!

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Lycopene!
By Alyssa Mitola, RD and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

Photo Credit: jacki-dee via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jacki-dee via Compfight cc

What is Lycopene? Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. Although chemically related to vitamin A, lycopene does not function in our bodies like the vitamin. Rather lycopene serves as the most powerful antioxidant of the >600 carotenoids, riding our body of harmful free radicals and oxidizing species. Lycopene is a red pigment found in fruits and vegetables. You may already know that tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, but lycopene is also found in guava, papaya, watermelon, grapefruit, and apricots.

Photo Credit: EJP Photo via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: EJP Photo via Compfight cc

Lycopene is constantly being researched for its potential health benefits, most notably in relation to cancer and cardiovascular disease. The strongest research comes from lycopene’s role in preventing prostate cancer. Many studies have found that people with higher intakes of lycopene have reduced rates of prostate cancer (Giovannuci et. al 1995; Zu et. al 2011). In addition, a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Medicine showed people consuming higher amounts of lycopene had less incidences of cardiovascular disease. Researchers are also currently investigating lycopene’s role in sunburn, gingivitis, osteoporosis, asthma, and mental disorders.

 

The health benefits of lycopene are numerous and we should try to include sources of lycopene daily. However, this does not mean lycopene should be taken as a supplement. Rather lycopene should come from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Lycopene is actually more bioavailable (available to our bodies) when it is heated. Therefore foods like tomato puree, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and tomato juice are even richer sources of lycopene. When purchasing tomato-based products, be sure to look out for no sodium or low sodium products. Eating lycopene with a healthy, fat like olive oil, will also increase your body’s ability to absorb the lycopene. With tomatoes in season get your fill of lycopene. Serve your tomatoes with some olive oil or make some homemade salsa, a tomato salad, or a fresh pot of tomato sauce!

  

 

References:

1) Giovannucci E, Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Intake of carotenoids and retinol in relation to risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995;87(23):1767-1776.

2) Fielding JM, Rowley KG, Cooper P, et al.: Increases in plasma lycopene concentration after consumption of tomatoes cooked with olive oil. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 14 (2): 131-6, 20.

3) Holzapfel NP, Holzapfel BM, Champ S, Feldthusen J, Clements J, Hutmacher W. The Potential Role of Lycopene for the Prevention and Therapy of Prostate Cancer: From Molecular Mechanisms to Clinical Evidence. Int J Mol Sci. 2013;14(7): 14620-14646.

4) Zu K, Rosner BA, Clinton SK, Loda M, Stampfer MJ, Giovannuci E. Dietary Lycopene, Angiogenesis, and Prostate Cancer: A Prospective Study in the Prostate-Specific Antigen Era. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2014) 106 (2).

5) Jacques P, Lyass A, Massaro JM, D’Agastino B.  Relationship of lycopene intake and consumption of tomato products to incident CVD. British Journal of Nutrition (2013), 110, 545-551.

6) Story E, Kopec RE, Schwartz SJ, Harris GK. An Update on the Health Effects of Tomato Lycopene. National Institute of Health Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2010; 1: 1-24.