What's red, round and bursting with goodness? The tomato, of course! This juicy fruit (yes, a botanical fruit!) provides a veritable smorgasbord of vitamins and other essential elements that keep your body happily humming along. These include potassium, folic acid and vitamins A, C and E and the powerful antioxidant lycopene.
Now before we get into the all the wonderful things tomatoes will do for you, there is one essential prerequisite....
If you have been raised on store-bought, imported tomatoes all of your life, please, please, please go out to a farmer's market this minute and buy yourself a real, fresh tomato! I've known so many people who have only tried the relatively lifeless, colorless, flavorless supermarket tomatoes and thus, have always thought that they hated this fruit raw. Yet, when they've tried a glorious, fresh-off-the-vine, home-grown heirloom tomato, their world is blown open! I speak from pure experience, and if you've been a convert yourself, you surely know what I mean. Who knew tomatoes could actually be so sweet! There is just absolutely no comparison. Not to mention, the redder the tomato, the greater the nutrient content.
So there you have it! Now that you've seen the light, we're ready to get back to the business of a tomato's benefits (other than the ecstatic delight from pure flavor!)...
A Happy Heart
Tomatoes are packed with anti-thrombotic agents that can make your heart a very happy one indeed. Anti-thrombotic agents are substances that help reduce thrombi, which are those nasty blood clots that stick to the sides of your veins, arteries and other blood vessels. The tomato's anti-thrombotic agents will kick in and help clear the path for blood to flow freely to your very vital organs. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirms these beneficial effects of the tomato on blood platelet function and as a protector of the heart [I].
The main fat-burning ability of the tomato comes from the bioflavonoids found in the tomato skin, while additional weight loss assistance comes from the tomato's anti-inflammatory properties. It turns out that the reduction of inflammation may result in more effective action from your weight loss hormones, such as leptin. Leptin plays a starring role in weight loss, contributing to the regulation of your metabolism and appetite control.
The Wonders of Lycopene
The tomato has a high lycopene content which is a red carotenoid pigment that not only gives the tomato its color but also works as an antioxidant that protects cells from damage by fighting off free radicals.
Anti-inflammation— Lycopene's anti-inflammatory capabilities are attributed to helping prevent heart disease, hardening of the arteries and multiple types of cancer, especially prostate. [II].
Balance Blood Sugar— Lycopene can be helpful for treating diabetes and keeping the blood sugar regulated. It also lowers the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
Detoxification— This carotenoid's ability to activate enzymes that actually remove carcinogens from cells contributes to this amazing health benefit, as does it's antioxidant properties.
Trusty Tomato Tips:
- Lycopene content is boosted when tomatoes are cooked but the vitamin C content (40% RDA in one tomato) goes down. So vary the ways you eat them! Perhaps one day you have them sliced on salad, another day cooked into a stew.
- Oil greatly helps your body's absorption of the carotenoids like lycopene. Thus, adding olive oil to your sauce or salad is a big thumbs up!
- Eat the skins! Recipes that include the whole tomato are most nutritious, as the skins contain a large majority of the antioxidants and nutrients.
- Tomatoes are a highly sprayed crop so buying organic is best.
- When buying canned tomatoes, always look for BPA-free on the can or even better, purchase diced tomatoes in a glass jar or box. The acid content of tomatoes can leach unwanted metal and chemicals from cans.
Tasty Tomato Recipes
If you want to truly revel in the glory of a fresh picked tomato, by all means, pop that sucker right into your mouth as is! If you want to turn it up a notch, this recipe for Marinated Heirloom Tomatoes with Basil and Parsley is down right addicting.
On another note, you simply can't go wrong with a fresh Homemade Salsa.
For those of you in need of a simple healthful side dish, Sautéed Spinach with Tomatoes and Garlic pairs very nicely with fish and chicken.
I could go on and on! The tomato is just one of those versatile foods that has a place in every meal, don't you think?
Perhaps those of you who are of Italian descent would like to share your mouth-watering, top-secret, forth generation tomato spaghetti sauce recipes with us? We'd be forever indebted to you!
[I] O'Kennedy N, Crosbie L, van Lieshout M, Broom J, Webb D, Duttaroy A. "Effects of antiplatelet components of tomato extract on platelet function in vitro and ex vivo: a time-course cannulation study in healthy humans". Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;84(3):570-579. We. July. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16960171>.
[II] Palozza P, Parrone N, Catalano A, Simone R. "Tomato lycopene and inflammatory cascade: basic interactions and clinical implications". CurrMed Chem. 2010;17(23):2547-63. Web.July. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20491642>.