Lycopene — the most abundant carotenoid in ripened tomatoes — is particularly noteworthy when it comes to the fruit’s plant compounds.
It’s found in the highest concentrations in the skin.
Generally, the redder the tomato, the more lycopene it has.
Tomato products — such as ketchup, tomato juice, tomato paste, and tomato sauces — are the richest dietary sources of lycopene in the Western diet, providing over 80% of dietary lycopene in the United States.
Gram for gram, the amount of lycopene in processed tomato products is often much higher than in fresh tomatoes.
For example, ketchup boasts 10–14 mg of lycopene per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), while one small, fresh tomato (100 grams) holds only 1–8 mg.
However, keep in mind that ketchup is often consumed in very small amounts. Thus, it may be easier to bump up your lycopene intake by eating unprocessed tomatoes — which also have far less sugar than ketchup.
Other foods in your diet may have a strong effect on lycopene absorption. Consuming this plant compound with a source of fat can increase absorption by up to four times.
However, not everyone absorbs lycopene at the same rate.
Even though processed tomato products are higher in lycopene, it’s still recommended to consume fresh, whole tomatoes whenever possible.
SUMMARY: Lycopene is one of the most abundant plant compounds in tomatoes. It’s found in the highest concentrations in tomato products, such as ketchup, juice, paste, and sauce.
Consumption of tomatoes and tomato-based products has been linked to improved skin health and a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.