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A Tomato A Day, Keeps The Doctor Away?
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by: Celebrity Recipes Magazine
 

Believe it or not, the "love apple" is good for one's health. Of course everybody knows that tomatoes are good for the health. For instance, it contains calcium, Vitamin C and lycopene that are good for such diseases and conditions as cancer, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Here are some surprising information on the healthful attributes of the "love apple".

Background.
Tomatoes are loved for their fresh taste and the versatile role they play in cooking. But research indicates there may be another reason to love them --- they're loaded with lycopene (LY-ko-pene). Lycopene is a plant chemical (phytochemical) that gives tomatoes their red color. It also appears to offer potential health benefits.

Inside your tomato.
Tomatoes contain many nutrients, among them vitamins C and B complex and the minerals iron and potassium. Also in the mix are carotenoids (kuh-ROT-uh-noids). These include lycopene and beta carotene, which are converted into vitamin A by your body.

Lycopene gets high marks from researchers for its apparently potent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are thought to neutralize harmful substances in the body called free radicals. These molecules, which result from normal cell metabolism as well as other causes, may increase your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Possible health benefits.
Research into dietary lycopene suggests it may lower risk of:

  • Heart attack. A study of more than 1,300 European men suggested that those consuming the most lycopene from foods had about half the risk of heart attack as men who consumed less.
  • Prostate cancer. A 5-year study of 48,000 men found that those eating 10 servings a week of cooked tomato products had the lowest risk of prostate cancer. Their risk was one-third that of men eating less than two servings a week. Other studies suggest that lycopene may play a role in reducing the risk of other cancers, including colon, rectal and breast cancers.

Add heat and eat.
Fresh tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, but cooking tomatoes makes lycopene easier for your body to use. For instance, your body will absorb five times more lycopene through tomato sauce than through an equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes. Evidently, heat breaks down tomato cell walls to free lycopene that otherwise would pass through your digestive system.

Including a little fat when you cook tomatoes can further improve absorption of lycopene. Use a monounsaturated fat, such as olive oil.

Getting your share.
No one has determined just how many servings of lycopene-rich foods you should eat each week for health benefits. Some studies suggest 7 to 10 servings a week. A serving is equivalent to a half cup of tomato or spaghetti sauce, a quarter cup of tomato paste, one medium tomato or one slice of pizza with tomato sauce.

You can obtain that amount in any number of ways, including tomato-based sauces, such as those found on pizza, pasta and other foods, canned tomatoes, soups, salsas, juice, ketchup and from whole tomatoes as a salad ingredient. Other good lycopene sources include watermelon and pink grapefruit, although their lycopene content is only about one-half to one-fifth that of canned tomatoes.

A package deal.
While researchers continue to study dietary lycopene, keep in mind that foods are complex nutrient packages. Researchers, therefore, are reluctant to label lycopene as the sole means of attaining nutritional benefit from tomatoes. Lycopene may simply indicate the presence of other protective substances in tomatoes that have yet to be identified or isolated.

As for lycopene supplements, any possible benefits or risks are unknown. For that reason, dietitians generally recommend eating lycopene-rich foods instead of taking a supplement.

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April 30, 2017

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