The Health Benefits of Tomatoes

tomatoes_health

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the sweet and tangy flavor of tomatoes. Whether you buy them at the farmstand, the supermarket or grow your own, there are a few things you should know about tomatoes.

What’s in a tomato?

Tomatoes are excellent sources of potassium and several vitamins:

*folic acid

*Vitamin A

*Vitamin C

*Vitamin E

But did you know that eating tomatoes could possibly help to burn fat?

Bioflavonoids, which are concentrated in the tomato skin, may xcounteract inflammation and allergic reactions. The main compounds are quercetin and kaempferol. A study from the University of California-Davis found the amounts of quercitin and kaempferol to be higher in organically grown tomatoes than conventionally grown tomatoes.

Inflammation-fighting tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of my favorite inflammation-fighting foods. When you reduce inflammation, you can possibly make your weight loss hormones, such as leptin, work properly, allowing you to lose weight.

Leptin plays an important role in appetite control, metabolism and weight loss. It is your body’s natural weight control mechanism.

Tomatoes also contain important anti-inflammatory nutrients called carotenoids and bioflavonoids.

Key tomato carotenoids are:

•beta-carotene, an orange pigment also found in carrots and sweet potatoes, an important antioxidant that can help to protect against damage from sunlight. Your body also converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.

•lycopene, a red pigment, with demonstrated anti-cancer effects. In Western countries, 85 percent of dietary lycopene can be attributed to the consumption of tomato-based products.

•phytoene and phytofluene, the newest anti-cancer compounds in tomatoes.

Studies indicate that tomato consumption is associated with a potentially reduced risk of:

•ovarian cancer, especially in premenopausal women.

•digestive tract cancers (mouth, throat, esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum).

•cardiovascular disease.

•asthma and chronic lung disease.

Tomatoes And Prostate Cancer

American men who eat at least four servings of tomato products per week have, according to some research, a 40 percent reduction in the risk of prostate cancer. Studies of men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer found that increasing consumption of tomato products was associated with a marked decrease in cancer progression. In one study, when men with prostate cancer ate three-quarters of a cup of tomato sauce a day, cooked in various dishes, evidence of cancer regression could be detected in only three weeks for the men in the study.

One theory as to the benefit for prostate cancer is due to lycopene. Studies in animals, however, found that powdered tomatoes were more effective than pure lycopene, indicating that other tomato components, perhaps phytoene and phytofluene, are also important. Thus far, though, clinical trials of lycopene for prostate cancer have been negative, so more data will be needed.

Health Benefits of Tomatoes Boosted by Cooking

The absorption of carotenoids and flavonoids from tomatoes is greater from cooked tomatoes than fresh tomatoes, since cooking breaks down the tomato cell matrix and makes the carotenoids more available.

Addition of olive oil to diced tomatoes during cooking greatly increases the absorption of lycopene. Oil is essential for absorbing carotenoids from tomatoes in salads or salsa. There is almost no absorption of these vital nutrients from salad eaten with a non-fat dressing.

Organic Tomatoes Have More Vitamin C

Compared to conventionally grown tomatoes, organic tomatoes have a higher content of vitamin C and bioflavonoids.

Enjoying Tomatoes

Look for fresh ripe tomatoes at farmers markets in the city, a farm stand in the country or your local supermarket.

Here is a delicious summer recipe my son Jonathan Galland wrote for my book “The Fat Resistance Diet.” It brings together wonderful vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and bell pepper with fresh herbs and garlic.

Gazpacho

Fast and easy to make right in your blender, gazpacho is about freshness and big flavors. Bursting with beautiful tomato color, gazpacho features both raw and cooked tomatoes, and is rich in antioxidants including lycopene. This recipe combines a nice vegetable crunchiness with a touch of satisfying spiciness.

1 1⁄2 Pounds Ripe Tomatoes

1 Cucumber

1 Yellow or Red Bell Pepper

1 Red or Sweet Onion

2 Cloves Garlic

1 1/2 Cup Tomato Juice or Vegetable

Juice Juice of 1 Lime

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1⁄2 Cup Fresh Parsley

1⁄4 Teaspoon Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Give the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper and onion a rough chop and toss into the blender. Add diced garlic and onion and chopped parsley, and blend until chunky. Pour half out into a bowl. With half the vegetable mixture remaining in the blender, add the vegetable juice, lemon juice and olive oil into the blender and blend again until smooth. Combine both mixtures together and season with salt and black pepper. Serve hot or cold depending on the season.

I hope you enjoy the healthy pleasure of tomatoes now and throughout the year.

 

Leo Galland, M.D. is a board-certified internist, author and internationally recognized leader in integrated medicine. Dr. Galland is the founder of Pill Advised, a web application for learning about medications, supplements and food.

 

By Leo Galland