Lycopene Skincare Superfoods – Tomatoes
The tomato comes from the plant Solanum Lycopersicum, originating from South America. Despite it being considered as a fruit botanically, we usually prepare and eat tomatoes as a vegetable. It is also one of the major dietary sources of lycopene. There are many studies on lycopene skincare to support smoother, healthier skin.
Tomatoes contain the carotenoids beta carotene, and other plant nutrients such as lycopene and naringenin that are beneficial for skin health. Beta carotene and lycopene have photoprotective properties, in most part, due to its potent antioxidant effects. They help to increase the skin’s defense against UV exposure, preventing oxidative stress. Naringenin is a flavonoid that you can find in tomatoes. There is evidence that it prevents age-related reduction in skin elasticity, and is also has anti-inflammatory functions.
Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid that we naturally find in a range of fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, papayas and pink grapefruits. A number of studies have suggested the potential of lycopene skincare to protect cells against damage caused by reactive oxygen species from its antioxidant activities.
A study on the effects of lycopene reveals that it supports smoother, healthier skin. The study conducted in Charite University of Medicine in Berlin draws a strong correlation between ingested lycopene and improvement in overall skin appearance and health. Focusing on the wrinkles and skin roughness on the forehead, the study concluded that higher levels of lycopene concentration correlated to lower levels of skin roughness.
While this study was conducted using lycopene supplement, it is important to note that lycopene skincare works best when taken together with other tomato phytonutrients. There is no need to take lycopene as a supplement as increasing dietary levels of tomato, can have the same lycopene skincare effects.
While it is usually red in color when it matures, tomatoes also come in yellow, orange, green and purple. Tomatoes are also one of the most sought after summer produce, and are extremely easy to grow at home.
Tomatoes are ~95% water. The other 5% consists mainly of fiber and carbohydrates.
Simple sugars such as glucose and fructose make up 70% of the carbohydrate content in a tomato. Most of the fibers in tomatoes, such as hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin, are insoluble.
Vitamins and minerals
Tomatoes contain many vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin C: an essential nutrient and antioxidant
- Vitamin K1: important for blood clotting and blood health
- Potassium: an essential mineral, helpful for controlling blood pressure and preventing heart disease.
- Folate (vitamin B9): Important for normal tissue growth and cell function, especially beneficial for pregnant women.
Other plant compounds
- Lycopene: a red pigment responsible for tomato’s red color, antioxidant with many health benefits
- Beta carotene: an antioxidant that gives many foods its yellow and orange color. The body then converts it into Vitamin A.
- Naringenin: Found in tomato skin, studies have showed that this flavonoid decreases inflammation in a study done in mice
- Chlorogenic acid: potent antioxidant, has a link to lower blood pressure in those with elevated blood pressure levels
Health benefits of tomatoes
Generally, the redder the tomato, the more lycopene it contains. Lycopene is mainly found in the skin of tomatoes. There is a link between lower levels of lycopene and beta carotene to an increase in the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Clinical studies of tomato products have also indicated benefits against inflammation, and markers of oxidative stress.
Observational studies have also noticed a link between tomato and tomato products and fewer incidences of lung, prostate, and stomach cancers. While the high content of lycopene may explain it, we need more in depth studies to establish this link.
Furthermore, tomatoes are beneficial for overall skin health too. As lycopene is a potent antioxidant, it has demonstrated free radical scavenging activity in the skin. Studies have shown that tomato-based foods rich in plant compounds may protect against sunburn, with participants experiencing 40% fewer sunburns after ingesting 40g of tomato paste with olive oil everyday for 10 weeks.
Superfoods – Tomatoes