Tomatoes are loaded with health-protective antioxidants such as lycopene, vitamin C, and vitamin A — yet they have very few calories. If you don’t have tomatoes in your summer garden, head to the local farmers market.
Consumption of tomato products has been associated with decreased risk of some cancer types. Epidemiological findings confirm the observed health effects due to the presence of varied antioxidants in tomato. The bio-antioxidant content and antioxidant activity of 12 tomato genotypes was therefore studied. Significant differences were found between lycopene, ascorbic acid and phenolic contents among various genotypes. Lycopene and ascorbic acid contents showed 1–4 fold and 1–2 fold variation on both fresh and dry weight basis, respectively. Antioxidant activity was found to vary significantly among genotypes. In both free radical quenching assay and FRAP assay, significant activity was found. Activity was higher in the hexane fraction containing lycopene than the methanol fraction containing phenolics. Tomato peels, in addition to lycopene, contain significantly high amounts of ascorbic acid and phenols. Cherry tomatoes, particularly variety 818 cherry, with the highest contents of antioxidants (lycopene, ascorbic acid and phenols) and highest antioxidant activity represents a valuable genotype not only for improving the status of dietary antioxidants in our diet but also for increasing nutritional value through germplasm enhancement programmes. The cherry varieties also merit considerable attention for processing because of their high total soluble solids and titrable acidity.
Tomatoes Fight Prostate Cancer
As noted above, the lycopene in tomatoes is a potent cancer-fighter and seems to be particularly helpful in the prevention of prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that eating actual tomatoes seems to be more protective than taking a lycopene supplement “Organic tomato products have been found to have more lycopene than nonorganic,” adds Reinagel, “and the lycopene is better absorbed from cooked tomatoes, such as tomato sauce and paste.” Lycopene is fat-soluble, so cooking the tomatoes with a bit of oil, as in the recipes below, further increases the body’s absorption of the nutrient.
Tomatoes Aid Heart Health
“In addition to lycopene, tomatoes provide numerous other heart-healthy nutrients such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, dietary fiber, and vitamin B6,” writes George Mateljan in The World’s Healthiest Food. You can boost the health benefit by combining tomatoes with other heart-protecting foods, such as fish, nuts, olive oil, and avocados.
Tomatoes Are an Excellent Source of Fiber
Just a few of the health benefits of fiber, according to the Mayo Clinic: It prevents constipation; lowers the risk of digestive problems; lowers blood cholesterol; controls blood sugar levels; and aids in weight loss. One cup of chopped or sliced tomatoes has nine percent of the daily value for fiber, according to Nutrition Data. So add tomatoes to otherwise fiber-poor meals, or combine them with other vegetables, whole grains, and legumes for extra fiber.
Tomatoes Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties
As we explained in The Anti-Inflammatory Diet, chronic low-grade inflammation in the body has been linked to increased risk of disease (including heart disease and stroke), as well as difficulty losing weight. Some researchers believe that eating “anti-inflammatory” foods—and avoiding “inflammatory” ones—can make weight loss easier, slow down the aging process, and prevent disease. Tomatoes are considered anti-inflammatory and combine well with other anti-inflammatory foods, including olive oil, fish, spinach, carrots, garlic, and chili peppers.