Sue Bedford MSc Nutritional Therapy
Tomatoes contain Lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant that is important to health and fertilty.
The main food source of lycopene for many people is the tomato. Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants, and provide red, yellow and orange colour to fruit and vegetables. They have an important role in that they protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals.
There have been various studies conducted into the benefits of lycopene in the prevention and treatment of various cancers, atherosclerosis and heart disease.
In relation to fertility, there have also been some studies into the beneficial effects of lycopene on male fertility. Research has been carried out to examine the effect of the antioxidants in lycopene in helping to protect developing sperm from free radical damage and possible DNA damage.
‘Our work shows that a diet rich in lycopene can promote fertility in men struggling with infertility. In part we can conclude that men who have poor quality sperm can benefit from lycopene, and should consider a balanced diet as part of their strategy to reproduce, especially a diet including tomatoes’ said Dr. Narmada Gupta, Head of the Urology Department at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India. Further studies have now found that antioxidants can elevate sperm count, morphology, motility and concentration.
In women, recent research has indicated that lycopene may be useful in reducing the abnormal activity of cells and as a result may reduce the adhesion effects of endometriosis. Dr Tarek Dbouk, from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, said ‘What we found in our laboratory study is that lycopene can help with the adhesions that these conditions cause. One of the major complications of endometriosis is that it causes inflammation which induces adhesions. The inflammation basically causes scarring. What we did was to look at protein markers that could help us trace the activity of the abnormal cells that cause these adhesions. The lycopene worked to reduce the abnormal activity of these cells. So, hypothetically speaking, we might be able to reduce the adhesion effects of endometriosis.’ Dr Dbouk also added that ‘It is certainly possible that you could get the amount you need from your diet.’ More research was to be conducted into the amount of lycopene required.
Research has discovered that cooked tomato products provide a more readily available source of lycopene as compared to raw tomato. This is due to the fact that the cooking process releases lycopene from the cell walls of the tomato. Other good food sources of lycopene are pink grapefruit, watermelon, guava and rosehip.
Top tips on ways to get the most out of your tomatoes!
Buy ripe tomatoes as they have a considerably higher lycopene content than was thought to be the case as under ripe tomatoes have considerably less lycopene in them.
Try growing your own!
Cook using tomato puree as it has a lower water content than fresh tomato, so the nutrients are concentrated. In recent studies it has been discovered that lycopene is more bioavailable from tomato paste than from fresh tomatoes.
Enjoy your tomatoes with a little olive oil as this will increase how much lycopene your body absorbs.
Homemade Autumnal Tomato soup
8 large ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 stick of celery
1 clove of garlic (crushed)
1 litre of vegetable stock (add more if necessary for desired thickness)
Fresh herbs such as fresh rosemary and thyme (optional)
1. Slice the tomatoes, onion, celery, and potatoes into cubes. Grate one carrot.
2. Warm a large pot and add in olive oil. Add in the onions and garlic and cook till soft.
3. Then, add in potatoes, tomatoes, celery and carrot (and herbs if required). Cook for a couple of minutes.
4. Add in vegetable stock and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft.
5. Using a blender or food processor, blend the soup until smooth. Adjust thickness as necessary by adding extra water if required.
6. Season as required.
Agarwal, A et al (2015). A unique view on male infertility around the globe. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. Volume 13, Issue 37.
Gupta NP, Kumar R. Lycopene therapy in idiopathic male infertility—a preliminary report. International Urology and Nephrology. 2002;34(3):369–372.
Silke Schwarz, Ute C. Obermu¨ ller-Jevic, Eva Hellmis, Winfried Koch, Gu¨nther Jacobi, Hans-Konrad Biesalski 2008 Lycopene Inhibits Disease Progression in Patients with Benign Prostate Hyperplasia1,2 J. Nutr. 138: 49–53