Researchers from Harvard University discovered that a compound found in common foods may cut your risk for heart disease by up to 50 percent.
Researchers took blood samples from 28,345 women at the start of the study.1 Over the course of almost five years they took more blood samples and found 483 heart disease cases. Interestingly, they found that women with the highest blood levels of a specific compound had the lowest risk for heart disease. In fact, their risk was as much as 50 percent lower.
Another recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers from Tufts and Boston University also found a link between this compound and heart disease.2 The highest average intake of the compound showed a 26 percent reduced risk in heart disease.
What should you be eating to protect your heart?
Lycopene. The compound found in tomatoes and other common foods.
It is the naturally occurring phytochemical that gives some fruits and vegetables their red color. Tomatoes are the richest source. Others include watermelon, red bell peppers, papaya, pink grapefruit, and guava.
Lycopene is a potent antioxidant and natural anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a key element in the development of heart disease. Many doctors and scientists now believe that without inflammation, you can’t get heart disease.3 And more important, without reducing it, nothing else you do really matters.
Lycopene helps dramatically cut inflammation. This helps prevent hardening of the arteries, heart attack and stroke.4 In the Harvard study the women with the lowest heart disease risk averaged 10 mg or more of lycopene daily. That’s about half a cup of tomato sauce.
Studies have shown that you’ll get more lycopene from eating cooked tomatoes.5 Also, since this compound is fat soluble, it helps to eat it with some healthy oil. You can still get plenty of lycopene from raw sources. And if you don’t like tomatoes—don’t worry. There are plenty of other foods rich in lycopene to choose from.
Look for red and pink fruits and vegetables like red carrots, pink grapefruit, or apricots. Just make sure to buy organic. It also doesn’t hurt to get a little extra from a supplement. There are plenty of great options out there to choose from. Just try to find a product that yields at least 30 mg daily.
The benefits of lycopene go way beyond your heart. It has also been shown to help cut risk of lung, prostate, ovarian, pancreatic, and other cancers. Start adding lycopene-rich foods into your diet today to keep heart healthy and free of disease.