Lycopene in Orange Tomatoes

Many shoppers and gardeners may associate lycopene in tomatoes with red varieties. New research, however, shows that orange tomatoes are an even better source of lycopene, particularly a form called cis-lycopene.

Orange Tomatoes

‘Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge’ tomatoes are rich in lycopene.

Photo by Terry Wild

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Tomatoes have made news in recent years because they’re rich in lycopene, a heart-healthy antioxidant that scientists say may also help reduce the risk of stroke and cancer. And the redder and riper the tomato, the more lycopene it contains, right? Not so fast. New research shows that orange tomatoes are actually an even better source.

Orange tomatoes contain a different form of lycopene, known to scientists as “cis-lycopene,” that’s easier for our bodies to absorb. Drinking only one glass of orange tomato juice will give you the same health benefits as drinking eight glasses of red tomato juice. This advantage is maintained when the tomatoes are cooked, too.

Is the popular ‘Sungold’ cherry tomato rich in cis-lycopene? Nope — like most yellow-fleshed tomatoes, it’s low in the compound. Instead, its yellow-orange color comes from beta carotene, another important nutrient. A bright-orange hue is the best indicator of a cis-lycopene-rich tomato. Here are some top-ranked orange varieties from the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust, a New Zealand group that has been researching the cis-lycopene content of tomatoes.

‘Amish Yellowish Orange Oxheart’: Large, oxheart-type tomato with the highest cis-lycopene content.

‘Hawaiian Pineapple’: Very large, sweet and aromatic.

‘Moonglow’: A globe-shaped beauty with fruits that glow a luminescent orange.

Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge’: Stunning tangerine-colored fruits with purple shoulders.

‘Orange Roma’: Meaty sauce tomato.

‘Orange Strawberry’: Heart-shaped fruits with few seeds.

You’re not likely to find orange tomatoes in your supermarket, but you can scout them out at farmers markets or grow them yourself. Find seeds by searching the Mother Earth News Seed and Plant Finder. This year, you, too, can enjoy one of the latest, most delicious health discoveries.