The Hottest Color in Tomatoes
True, tomatoes are rich in lycopene. But which kind has more: red ones or orange ones?
Trick question. You see, although red tomatoes do typically have more lycopene than orange ones, you can get more of the stuff from some orange varieties because their kind of lycopene is more bioavailable.
Lycopene comes in lots of different forms, some of which are easier for your body to absorb than others. Take the tangerine tomato used in a recent study. It was specially engineered to have lots of highly bioavailable lycopene. And when people in the study group ate pasta with sauce made from the specially engineered tangerine tomato, they absorbed 2.5 times more lycopene compared to when they ate a pasta-and-sauce meal made with red tomatoes.
The tomatoes in the study aren't commercially available, but many varieties of tangerine tomato have the very bioavailable form of lycopene. They're just not easy to find -- you can try ordering the seeds online or checking local farmers markets. Orange heirloom tomatoes also may have the more bioavailable lycopene. (What's so great about lycopene? Check out this tip.)
3 Ways to Unload More Lycopene
For those of us noshing on red tomatoes, here are three tricks to unleash their lycopene:
- Slice, dice, or puree them. Processing tomatoes helps unleash the lycopene.
- Eat them with a bit of fat. Lycopene must latch on to fat (so you might as well make it healthy, like olive oil) to be absorbed by the intestinal wall.
- Heat 'em up. Heat converts the lycopene in red tomatoes into a form that's easier for your body to absorb.
Carotenoid absorption in humans consuming tomato sauces obtained from tangerine or high-beta-carotene varieties of tomatoes. Unlu, N. Z., Bohn, T., Francis, D., Clinton, S. K., Schwartz, S. J., Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2007 Feb 21;55(4):1597-1603.