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.

 

Out with ORAC

Just last week someone asked EALM about ORAC. So here is the update:

Out with ORAC
By: Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

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

We’ve all heard it before: antioxidants are good for you. And the best way to get plenty of antioxidants is to eat a diet filled with fruits and vegetables. You may remember seeing fruits in the produce section of your grocery store toting signs stating their ORAC scores and wondered what it all meant. ORAC Value, or the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, is a measurement of the “degree of inhibition of peroxy-radical-induced oxidation by the compounds,”1 or in simpler terms, the “free radical scavenging activity against one type of free radical”2. The antioxidant capacity of foods varies due to a “variety of factors, such as cultivation, growing conditions, harvesting, food procession and preparation, sampling, and analytical procedures.”1

 

(as defined by the Stanford Cancer Institute)3
(as defined by the Stanford Cancer Institute)3

 

The Stanford Cancer Institute lists the following foods to be good sources of antioxidants vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin E3:

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In 2007, a database was released by the USDA, consisting of 277 foods and their respective antioxidant activities.1 The goal of the database was for consumers to assess the sourcing of antioxidants in certain foods via the ORAC measurement. However, in 2010, the USDA removed the ORAC database from their Nutrient Database Laboratory, after finding that “the values indicating antioxidant capacity did not necessarily translate from test tube to human.”4 The USDA released a statement saying; “there is no evidence that the beneficial effects of polyphenol-rich foods can be attributed to the antioxidant properties of these foods. The data for antioxidant capacity of foods generated by in vitro (test-tube) methods cannot be extrapolated to in vivo (human) effects and the clinical trials to test benefits of dietary antioxidants have produced mixed results. We know now that antioxidant molecules in food have a wide range of functions, many of which are unrelated to the ability to absorb free radicals.”4

 

So the message is the USDA does not support using ORAC to choose your foods and or supplements. As with everything, we like to say eat and live moderately.

 

 

 

References:

1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2010. Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page: http://www.ars.usda.gov/nutrientdata/orac
2. “Grapes and Health.” Grapes and Health. Scattagua Growers & Shippers, n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2013. http://www.sgs.us.com/GrapesandHealth-i-30-15.html
3. “Phytochemicals, Antioxidants, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” Stanford Medicine Cancer Institute. Stanford University, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. http://cancer.stanford.edu/information/nutritionAndCancer/reduceRisk/phyto.html
4. “Related Topics.” Nutrient Data : Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 (2010). United States Department of Agriculture, 16 May 2012. Web. 02 Dec. 2013. http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=15866

 

 

Wheatgrass

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Stepping into a juice bar or health foods store and you may see signs of “add a shot of wheatgrass” to any drink on the menu. With it’s dark green color, this superfood typically conjures a variety of expressions–from skeptical, grossed out, or intrigued! Read on to learn more about wheatgrass and if it’s as nutritionally beneficially as they say?

At first glance, wheatgrass may look like the same lawn grass that grow in the parks and your backyard, but there is quite a difference between the two. Wheatgrass is grown through a sprouting process. During this process, wheatgrass  develops the live enzymes and becomes a rich source of nutrients, which when consumed, enter the bloodstream quickly. Wheatgrass provides a natural, concentrated amount of vitamins, and nutrients, including iron, calcium. It is high in antioxidants, iron and chlorophyll. However, to date, it is important to know that there are very few studies that support a wheatgrass diet to be beneficial in curing or preventing diseases.

It is grown in soil or water and typically consumed raw. Because of these conditions, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Consuming wheatgrass juice is similar to eating other dark green veggies but as with many foods, depending on your health and dietary habits, wheatgrass could cause increased bowel movements, nausea or headaches.

A shot of wheatgrass is a quick way to gulp down your nutrients but it can also be added to juices or smoothies. Fresh-pressed wheatgrass oxidizes quickly, so gulp it down quickly to reap the most benefits. It is available in most health food stores and juice bars as  a supplement, planted trays, capsules, liquid extracts, frozen tablets, and even kits to grow-it-yourself.

New to Wheatgrass? Here are some tips for incorporating it into your meals:

  • Boost your smoothie/fresh-pressed juice with a shot of wheatgrass
  • Add wheatgrass powder to a protein drink
  • Mix wheatgrass powder into a soup or oatmeal