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L is for lycopene ๐Ÿ…๐Ÿ‰

Lycopene is a naturally occurring chemical that gives fruits and vegetables their red colour. It's found in watermelons, pink grapefruit and apricots but it's tomatoes that really pack a potent lycopene punch!! Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant which prevents cell damage thereby helping to protect people from cancers including breast, prostate and lung. It also helps stop stiffening of the arteries and is thereby linked to a reduced risk of heart disease โ™ฅ ๐Ÿ˜Š. One small study even found that eating 4 tablespoons of tomato puree a day can provide protection from UV light by working as an internal sunscreen. Pretty impressive credentials!

NB: don't use in place of actual sun cream otherwise you may resemble a tomato yourself! ๐Ÿ…๐Ÿ˜‚ Fun fact: Cherry and plum tomatoes contain more lycopene than their beefsteak cousins.

So what's the catch? Well unfortunately lycopene is not very easy for our bodies to absorb ๐Ÿ˜” However the good news is that cooking releases the lycopene from the cells of the tomato thus making it more bioavailable. Even storing your tomatoes out of the fridge can increase the amount of lycopene in the skin as they continue to ripen at room temperature.

So pop some cherry tomatoes in the oven or knock up a homemade tomato sauce and liberate that lycopene ๐Ÿ… ๐ŸŽ‰

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