What is lycopene?

Lycopene is a carotenoid, a potent antioxidant, found in high concentrations in vegetables such as tomato. Lycopene is a pigment synthesized by plants but not animals.

Health Benefits of Lycopene

Dietary intake of tomatoes and tomato products containing lycopene has been shown to be associated with a decreased risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. The antioxidant properties of lycopene are thought to be one of the main factors resposible for its beneficial effects.

In a case-control Chinese study that evaluated the association between consumption of carotenoids-rich fruits and vegetables and risks of prostate cancer incidence, it was reported that risk of prostate cancer declined with increasing consumption of lycopene and other carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin). According to the study intake of tomatoes, pumpkin, spinach, watermelon and citrus fruits were also associated with reduced risks of prostate cancer.

Food Sources High and Low in Lycopene

Tomato and tomato products contain the highest lycopene of all fruits and vegetables. Other high lycopene fruits are guavas and watermelon.

Table: List of lycopene food sources (ordered high to low) and an estimate of their lycopene content in g/ 100 gram food).

Lycopene food sourcesLycopene content g/ 100 gram food)
Tomatoes, sun-dried 45, 902.0
Tomato products, canned, paste, without salt added 28764.1
Tomato products, canned, puree, without salt added 21, 754
Tomato juice, canned, with salt added 9037.0
Guavas, common, raw 5, 204
Watermelon, raw 4532.2
Tomatoes, red, ripe, canned, stewed 4034.9
Salad dressing, russian dressing 3575.2
Salad dressing, thousand island dressing, reduced fat 3098.0
Tomatoes, red, ripe, canned, whole, regular pack 2700.0
Salad dressing, thousand island, commercial, regular 2596.2
Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average 2570.6 - 2575.0
Salad dressing, french dressing, reduced fat 2527.6
Grapefruit, raw, pink and red, all areas 1418.7
Salad dressing, russian dressing, low calorie 625.8
Beans, baked, canned, plain or vegetarian 511.0
Spices, parsley, dried 384.6
Salad dressing, french dressing, commercial, regular 371.8
Peppers, sweet, red, raw 308.1
Spices, cinnamon, ground 43.5
Spices, chili powder 38.5
Asparagus, cooked, boiled, drained 30.0
Asparagus, frozen, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt 23.9
Asparagus, canned, drained solids 23.6
Chicken, liver, all classes, cooked, simmered 20.4
Cabbage, red, raw 20.0
Salad dressing, italian dressing, commercial, regular 13.6
Turkey, all classes, giblets, cooked, simmered, some giblet fat 2.8
Carrot juice, canned 2.1
Carrots, frozen, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt 2.1
Carrots, raw 0.9 - 1.4
Fruit punch drink, with added nutrients, canned 0.8
Bananas, raw 0.0
Blackberry, raw 0.0
Carambola, (starfruit), raw 0.0
Cherries, sweet, raw 0.0
Cranberry sauce, canned, sweetened 0.0
Dates, deglet noor 0.0
Figs, dried, uncooked 0.0
Grape juice, canned or bottled, unsweetened, without added vitamin C 0.0
Grapefruit juice, white, canned, unsweetened 0.0
Grapefruit juice, white, raw 0.0
Grapefruit, raw, white, all areas 0.0
Grapes, red or green (european type varieties, such as, Thompson seedless), raw 0.0
Kiwi fruit, (chinese gooseberries), fresh, raw 0.0
Lemons, raw, without peel 0.0
Melons, cantaloupe, raw 0.0
Melons, honeydew, raw 0.0
Nectarines, raw 0.0
Olives, ripe, canned (small-extra large) 0.0
Orange juice, raw 0.0
Oranges, raw, all commercial varieties 0.0
Papayas, raw 0.0
Peaches, raw 0.0
Pears, raw 0.0
Pineapple, raw, all varieties 0.0
Plantains, raw 0.0
Plums, raw 0.0
Spices, pepper, black 0.0
Tangerine juice, canned, sweetened 0.0
Tangerines, (mandarin oranges), raw 0.0



Edward Giovannucci, Alberto Ascherio, Eric B. Rimm, Meir J. Stampfer, Graham A. Colditz, Walter C. Willett. 1995. Intake of Carotenoids and Retino in Relation to Risk of Prostate Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 87(23): 1767-1776.

Le Jian, Chuan-Jun Du, Andy H. Lee , Colin W. Binns. 2005. Do dietary lycopene and other carotenoids protect against prostate cancer? Internatinal Journal of Cancer, 113(6):1010-1014.

Sanjiv Agarwal and Akkinappally Venketeshwer Rao. 2000. Tomato lycopene and its role in human health and chronic diseases. CMAJ, 163 (6): 739 - 744.

Lycopene content in foods: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 19(2006).