What You Might Not Know About Tomatoes
There are many health benefits of eating tomatoes. Tomatoes contain compounds that have been proven to help prevent cancer, heart disease cataracts and many others.
Tomatoes, which are actually a fruit and not a vegetable, are loaded with all kinds of health benefits for the body. They are in fact, a highly versatile health product and due to their equally versatile preparation options, there’s really no reason to neglect the tomato as a part of a healthy diet.
One of the most well known tomato eating benefit is its’ Lycopene content. Lycopene is a vital anti-oxidant that helps in the fight against cancerous cell formation as well as other kinds of health complications and diseases.
Free radicals in the body can be flushed out with high levels of Lycopene, and the tomato is so amply loaded with this vital anti-oxidant that it actually derives its rich redness from the nutrient.
New research suggests that the human body absorbs lycopene better from orange-colored tomatoes than from the more popular red varieties.
Lycopene is an antioxidant commonly found in tomatoes and other red- or pink-colored foods, including watermelon, papaya, rosehips, and pink grapefruit or guava. Evidence suggests that lycopene reduces the risk of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, and possibly even male infertility.
Tomato extracts can boost heart health by deleting the accumulation of platelets that eventually lead to blood clots, heart attacks and strokes, according to two complimentary studies from British researchers. They say the aggregation of platelets is one of the three major components of heart disease.
Nutrition of Tomatoes
Tomatoes will give you the following nutritional benefits:
* Vitamin C (40% of recommended daily value in one tomato)
* Vitamin A (20% RDA)
* Vitamin K (over 15% RDA)
* Decent source (7% RDA) of fiber
* Potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, folate
* Lycopene (antioxidant)
All those nutrients can improve your health:
* Lots of cancer protection
* Protects against heart disease, stroke
* Colon and prostate health
* Improves LDL cholesterol
* Natural anti-inflammatory (helps with above diseases plus Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis)
* Bone health
* Reduces stress
* Can reduce frequency of migraines
* Helps regulate blood sugar in diabetics
Lycopene is the Tomato’s Secret Weapon
Lycopene is an antioxidant, which means it helps cells protect themselves from oxygen damage. You’ve heard the phrase “free radicals” thrown around, I’m guessing. They’re bad for you, inside and out, and lycopene is a great weapon against them. It has been shown in studies to protect against colorectal, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers, quite significantly in many cases. It also protects against heart disease.
In one study, 10 healthy women ate a diet containing two ounces of tomato puree each day for three weeks, either preceded by or followed by a tomato-free diet for three weeks. The researchers measured blood levels of lycopene and evaluated oxidative damage to cells before and after each phase. They found that cell damage dropped by 33% to 42% after consuming the tomato diet.
Fresh or Canned?
In the summer, when you can get local produce, of course eat fresh tomatoes if you enjoy them. However, tomatoes are one of those few foods that actually increase in nutrition after being cooked. Cooking breaks down cell walls, releasing and concentrating carotenoids (lycopene).
The tomatoes available in grocery stores are generally cultivated for toughness and even color, not flavor or nutrition. Most are picked green and treated with ethylene gas, which causes them to turn red without really ripening. You can put a store tomato in a sunny window upside down to ripen it up (but it might not be worth the $ for the lack of flavor!). Hydroponic tomatoes, because of the lack of soil, lack nutrients. They’re not worth your time. Canned tomatoes get one more leg up because they’re picked at peak ripeness and processed immediately, thus retaining more nutrients than produce-section toms.
Eating the whole tomato increases absorption of lycopene, so if you can find canned tomatoes with peels (most aren’t) or make your own tomato sauce/paste/etc, you can increase the nutritive value even further. To make sure your body absorbs the lycopene best in whatever kind of tomato you’re eating, add a bit of fat. Carotenoids are fat-soluble, so they will get into your system better if they had some oil to ride upon.