Tag Archives: Lycopene

Watermelon Jicama Salad with Mint

For a variety of reasons (more serotonin-producing sunlight, hot weather, days filled with summer activities), we naturally crave ligher fare in the summer. This watermelon-jicama salad fits the bill – it’s crisp, refreshing, and nutrient-packed.


½ large watermelon, chopped, rinds removed
1 jicama, peeled and chopped
1 cup mint, cut into thin ribbons
2 limes
1 tsp olive oil (optional)


Combine watermelon and jicama cubes in a large bowl. Sprinkle mint on top. Squeeze lime juice over top. Toss; serve immediately or refrigerate.

Why Should You Eat This?

Watermelon contains more lycopene than tomatoes – and it’s just as bioavailable. In a study from the Phytonutrients Laboratory, researchers measured plasma concentrations of lycopene from a watermelon juice diet and from a tomato juice diet. Even though the tomato juice had been treated with heat (thus making its lycopene more bioavailable), plasma concentrations of lycopene were similar. Lycopene is especially important in the summer: as an antioxidant, it neutralizes the harmful, DNA-damanging and aging effects of UV light. To boost the lycopene bioavailability, add a teaspoon of olive oil.

Jicama, also know as Mexican turnip or yambean, is rich in satiating fiber (one whole jicama has 32 grams of fiber), potassium, and vitamin C. Mint also packs a powerful nutritional punch: it’s rich in vatmin A, C, B12, folic acid, potassium, iron, calcium, and zinc. Mint also acts similarly to carinogen-fighting rosemary; in a study published in Food Chemistry, researchers found that its antioxidants reduced carcinogenic activity in radiation-processed meat. In addition to this salad, sprinkle it on chicken, lamb, and steaks for a flavor and nutrition boost.


Linguine with Steamed Mussels, Puttanesca Style

As a half-Belgian, I’m genetically predisposed to love mussels. I do not, however, love French fries – the usual accompaniment to mussels – so I decided to pair them with a different starch: whole wheat pasta. But instead of a heavy pasta dish scattered with mussels, this dish features mussels and a tangy tomato sauce, with whole wheat pasta added for fiber and a little bulk. Mussels are comparable in price to chicken, easy to prepare, and a tasty source of lean protein.


1.5 lbs mussels, scrubbed and debearded
2-3 anchovy fillets
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil
28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
¼ – ½ cup sliced, pitted kalamata olives
2 T capers, drained
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt, to taste
Chopped parsley, basil
Whole wheat linguine


Prepare linguine according to packaged directions.

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and anchovy fillets; saute until fillets appear to “melt.” Add can of San Marzano tomatoes, and allow to simmer for 4-6 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, salt, and half of each of the capers and olives. Turn up the heat and cover pot with lid. When sauce begins to boil, add mussels; cover with top again. Mussels should pop open in about three to five minutes. Discard any unopened mussels. Serve generously over pasta; garnish with parsley, basil, and salt, to taste.

Why should you eat this?
Mussels are an incredibly lean source of protein, offering muscle-building amino acids with a fraction of the fat or calories of red meat. Mussels, as well as other clams and oysters, are one of the best dietary sources of vitamin B12, providing 340% of the recommended daily value. Vitamin B12 supports the metabolism of macronutrients and facilitates the proper development of nerve cells and red blood cells. Mussels are also high in selenium, a trace mineral with antioxidant properties, and iodine, which is necessary for thyroid function and metabolism.

The pairing of tomatoes with omega-3 fatty acids (from three sources: olive oil, mussels, and anchovies) makes this dish a potent fighter against oxidative stress. Tomatoes are high in lycopene, a carotenoid that has been shown in studies to support cardiovascular health by lowering the risk of lipid peroxidation and to protect against some types of cancer. Even better, studies show that lycopene becomes four times more bioavailable when it is either heated or paired with healthy fats – both of which happen in this dish. Newer research has also shown that lycopene may reverse and protect against some of the DNA damage done by UV rays, so load up on fat-spiked tomatoes for added sun protection for your upcoming Spring Break trip!