Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant belonging to the carotenoid family. This substance improves vascular function, protects the heart, counteracts inflammation, tumors and free radical damage and is useful in case of high blood pressure. Tomato is a source of lycopene but, in order to make lycopene easy to be assimilated by our body, the tomato should be cooked, that’s why tomato sauce is an excellent choice to bring to the table. But there is also another source of lycopene, watermelon and its juice, as evidenced by two scientific researches, one very recent, which appeared in the journal Plant foods for human nutrition (Ellis et al, 2019) and the other published a few years ago in the Journal of Nutrition by an American team (Edwards et al, 2003).
Tomato cooked together with a fat such as extra virgin olive oil has always been considered one of the best sources of lycopene. But the researchers tried to verify whether watermelon, and in particular its juice, could also be another beneficial source of lycopene. The 2003 research focused on fresh watermelon juice, obtained by simply centrifuging the pulp of this juicy fruit without subjecting the final product to cooking through the pasteurization process. The participants in the research were divided into two groups, the first group was asked to drink watermelon juice every day for 5 months while the second group, used as a comparison, tomato juice obtained through a heating process that makes the lycopene of tomato bioavailable. After this period, the values of lycopene in the blood ??of the participants to the research were analyzed and what emerged was that the two groups showed no difference. This means that the lycopene contained in the watermelon can be assimilated without subjecting the juice to a heating process, in contrast to tomatoes. Not only that, the values ??of beta-carotene, another antioxidant, were significantly higher in those who had drunk watermelon juice. The second research from 2019 also showed that watermelon juice is an excellent source of assimilable lycopene. In this case, however, the juice had been subjected to pasteurization. The lycopene values, two hours after the ingestion of the watermelon juice by the women participating in the experiment, had tripled.
Both studies therefore show that watermelon juice, whether it has been subjected to heat or that it is fresh and unpasteurized, provides lycopene that is easily assimilated by our body. This has been observed without the need to add fat to make lycopene more available, as is the case with tomatoes.