By: Dr. Sydney Sharaf
Colorectal Cancer (CRC) is one of the most common cancers in the United States. A number of different factors contribute to increasing your risk of developing CRC including environmental factors, chronic inflammatory disease, genetic factors, and lifestyle such as nutrition and physical movement.
Lycopene is a carotenoid, a natural pigment, that gives many fruits and vegetables their color. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions and has been shown in studies to decrease your risk of colorectal cancer. Lycopene is actually one of the strongest of the carotenoids when it comes to its antioxidant abilities. As an antioxidant it helps to reduce oxidative stress that can wreak havoc on our immune system and tissues throughout the body, leading to inflammation and chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
While lycopene’s most concentrated source are tomatoes, you can also find it in pink guava, papaya, and pink grapefruit. In fact the best way to incorporate lycopene in the diet is with COOKED tomatoes. Think tomato paste, ketchup and tomato sauce. To put it into perspective a cup of raw tomatoes has about 5mg of lycopene while a cup of tomato paste has as much as 75mg of lycopene. An easy lycopene rich recipe could be as simple as a homemade pasta sauce over zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
Incorporating fruits and vegetables that contain lycopene is a great start in any cancer prevention plan. However this is just one of many other diet & lifestyle changes necessary to reduce your risk!