Tomatoes are one of the most popular food items in the typical American diet, yet few realize the powerful health-promoting benefits of this bright red fruit. Tomatoes yield a high concentration of the antioxidant lycopene, known to dramatically lower the risk from certain forms of cancer and heart disease as well. Researchers reporting in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine demonstrate the antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory properties of a diet including plenty of tomatoes to lower the risk of chronic disease.
As scientific researchers continue to uncover the healthy benefits of polyphenolic compounds provided by functional foods to prevent and treat a wide variety of common illnesses, tomatoes take their rightful position at the top of the list. Americans consume more tomatoes than any other non-starchy food item and continued studies demonstrate how both the natural whole form of the fruit and the heated extract can dramatically lower the risk from many common illnesses.
Lycopene is the active compound that imparts the bright red color to tomatoes, and nutritional researchers have found that bioavailability improves when the fruit is heated. More than 200 studies to date have focused on how this nutrient thwarts carcinogenesis, specifically prostate, breast, colon and gastrointestinal cancer lines. Lycopene is shown to reduce the inflammatory markers tumor necrosis factor-alpha , C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 after two weeks of supplementation, lowering deadly systemic inflammation and improving immune function.
Tomatoes have been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and related complications. Women consuming more than seven servings of tomatoes each week were shown to have a direct inverse relation to the development of cardio vascular disease (CVD), compared to those with the smallest dietary intake. Interestingly, this association was only seen when the whole fruit was consumed, and not independently with lycopene supplementation.
Tomatoes provide a tasty way to hit your daily goal of at least 10 fruits and vegetables to satisfy the body’s need for vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants each day. The lead study author Dr. Britt Burton-Freeman noted “Tomatoes are the most important non-starchy vegetable in the American diet. Research underscores the relationship between consuming tomatoes and reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.“ One medium tomato equals a single serving, and most health-minded individuals will include 2 to 3 daily servings to significantly lower CVD and cancer risk.