Whether you enjoy placing plum red tomatoes in your salads or snacking on bite-sized, cherry tomatoes, your body loves this tasty and tart powerhouse for all its nutritional benefits.
Combat Cancer With Tomatoes
Over the past several years, countless studies have demonstrated the potency of the carotenoid known as lycopene. Lycopene has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk for multiple cancers, including prostate, colorectal, breast, and pancreatic cancer.
The Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention published an analysis of 21 studies, which confirmed that consumption of tomatoes, especially cooked tomatoes, provided protection against prostate cancer. The men who ate the highest amounts of raw tomatoes were found to have an 11% reduction in their risk for prostate cancer; cooked tomato products yielded a 19% reduction in prostate cancer risk. Even eating just one 6-ounce serving a day of raw tomato demonstrated a reduced prostate cancer risk by 3% – not bad for one extra tasty addition to your sandwich!
A little fat helps increase your body’s absorption of lycopene, so the next time you slice some tomatoes into your salad, spread a tablespoon of creamy avocado. Choose organic tomatoes whenever possible to avoid unwanted chemicals.
Protect Your Heart With Antioxidants
In addition to its fantastic phytochemicals, tomatoes are full of the antioxidant vitamin C and high concentrations of beta-carotene. Just one cup of fresh tomato will give you nearly 58% of the daily value for vitamin C, 22% of the daily value for vitamin A, and almost 8% of the daily value for fiber. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, niacin, B6, and folate.
That bowl of homemade tomato sauce not only satisfies your belly, but it may also protect your heart. Potassium helps reduce blood pressure and the risk for heart disease, while B6 and folate work together to decrease levels of the dangerous chemical homocysteine in the blood. A study in the Journal of Nutrition, found that women with the highest intake of lycopene-rich tomato-based foods had a significantly reduced risk of heart disease. This 4.8 year prospective case-controlled trial involved nearly 40,000 middle-aged and elderly women in the health study. It was found that as the women’s blood levels of lycopene increased, their risk for cardiovascular disease dropped.
Storage and Selection Tips
Your local farmer’s market will often provide you with the most fragrant and ripe tomato varieties, but if the grocery store is your usual destination, seek out tomatoes with a deep, rich color, indicating a better taste and higher lycopene content. Storing tomatoes at room temperature and out of direct sunlight is best for maintaining freshness. To speed up their ripening, place the tomato in a paper bag with an apple or banana, and the ethylene gas emitted by these fruits will hasten the tomato’s ripening. More tomatoes than you can handle? Chopped tomatoes and sauces keep well in the freezer for future use.