by Life Enthusiast Staff
Tomatoes are rich in a carotenoid nutrient called lycopene. Lycopene is a plant pigment considered to be a more powerful antioxidant than beta carotene. Studies have shown that lycopene is extremely effective in reducing the risks of many types of cancer, including colon, rectal, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and stomach.
The antioxidant function of lycopene has been linked in research to prevent heart disease. Diets rich in potassium have also been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Tomatoes also contain P-coumaric and chlorogenic acid, two other cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
- Excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, chromium, biotin, molybdenum and copper.
- Very good source of potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), manganese, Vitamin B1 (thiamin), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (niacin), Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and folate.
- Good source of magnesium, phosphorus, Vitamin E, tryptophan, iron and protein.
- A one cup serving or raw, ripe, red tomatoes contains only 37 calories.
- Contains calcium and beta-carotene.
- Raw tomatoes reduce liver inflammation.
- Botanically speaking, the tomato is a fruit.
- Legally speaking, however, it is a vegetable. This was decided by the US Supreme Court well over a Century ago.
- The phytonutrient Lycopene has been shown to lower risk of cancer.
Tomatoes are also rich in biotin, a B-Vitamin involved in the metabolism of both fat and sugar. Eating tomatoes can improve your energy production, skin health and your nervous system function. Vitamin K activates osteocalcin, maintaining strong and healthy bones. The folate in tomatoes can help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Phytonutrients, Enzymatic pigments, Lycopene, Vitamins, Minerals & Carbohydrates.
Lycopenes are part of the family of pigments called carotenoids, which are natural compounds that create the colors of fruits and vegetables. For example, beta carotene is the orange pigment in carrots. Like essential amino acids, they are not made in the human body. Research shows that lycopenes are the most powerful antioxidant in the carotenoid family. Antioxidants, which includes vitamin C and E, are important in protecting the body from free radicals which degrade many parts of the body.
Tomatoes and lycopenes have been in the news due to more and more studies linking tomato and tomato-product consumption to reduced risks of many types of cancer. The study that began it all was called "Carotenoids and Retinol in Relation to Risk of Prostate Cancer" and was headed by Dr. Edward Giovannucci. Here is a brief summary of the findings:
The purpose was to conduct a study to examine the relationship between the intake of various carotenoids (including beta-carotene and lycopene), retinol, fruits, and vegetables and the risk of prostate cancer. They assessed the dietary intake for a 1-year period of 47,894 eligible subjects initially free of diagnosed cancer beginning in 1986 and sent follow-up questionnaires to the entire group in 1988, 1990, and 1992 to determine their cancer rates. The relative risk for the incidence of prostate cancer among these men was calculated comparing low-intake versus high-intake diets of the various items being studied.
The Result: Only lycopene intake was related to lower risk of prostate cancer. Of 46 vegetables and fruits or related products, four were significantly associated with lower prostate cancer risk; of the four - tomato sauce, tomatoes, and pizza - were primary sources of lycopene. Combined intake of tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, and pizza (which accounted for 82% of lycopene intake) was associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that intake of lycopene or other compounds in tomatoes may reduce prostate cancer risk, but other measured carotenoids are unrelated to risk.
Implications: Our findings support recommendations to increase vegetable and fruit consumption to reduce cancer incidence but suggest that tomato-based foods may be especially beneficial regarding prostate cancer risk.
Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 87, No. 23, December 6, 1995.
Of all the common carotenoids found in the Western diet, lycopene has been shown in experiments to have the highest oxygen- quenching capacity (strongest antioxidant). It is twice as powerful as beta carotene at neutralizing free radicals. This antioxidant property protects the cells from DNA damage. In addition to this antioxidant activity, lycopene's biological activities include growth control and cell to cell communication.
History of Tomatoes
Tomatoes are originally native to the western region of South America, including the Galapagos Islands. The tomato was not cultivated in South America, but rather, in Mexico, supposedly because the fruit resembled the tomatillo, which was a staple in the diet of the Mexican Indians. Aztecs and Incas were cultivating tomatoes as far back as 700 AD.
Shortly after Christopher Columbus's discovery of the "New World", Spanish conquistadors who traveled to Mexico "discovered" the tomato, and took the seeds back to Spain, and their popularity spread quickly to Portugal and Italy.
As the tomato traveled north, it gained in popularity. The French Tomatoes: referred to it as "The Apple of Love", while the Germans called it "The Apple of Paradise". The British, however, did not place tomatoes on their lists of consumable foods, as they believed them to be poisonous. The early Colonists in New England also believed that the fruit was poisonous, because it was a member of the deadly Nightshade family. It wasn't until the Creoles of New Orleans happily showed the colonists that tomatoes greatly enhanced their jambalayas and gumbos that the colonists began consuming them, and by the mid 1800's, tomatoes became a very popular kitchen garden cultivar. The people of Maine followed suit, combining fresh tomatoes with local seafood.
By 1850, the tomato had become a very important produce item in every North American city. Today, the United States, Italy, Russia, Spain, China, and Turkey are among the top selling commercial producers of the tomato.