Tomato Health Benefits
Tomatoes Promote Robust Health
by Rachel B. Levin
from the vine, tomatoes are inveterate wanderers.
They originated in the coastal highlands of South
America and from there traveled north to Mexico.
The Aztecs included tomatoes in their feasts, and
conquerors spread tomatoes throughout their colonies
and to Italy.
Portugal passed tomatoes on to India.
As the tomato wound its way throughout the globe,
it was easily adapted into regional cuisines.
the tomato has journeyed, it has enhanced the taste
of meat, fish and grains in sauces, salsas, ketchups
and chutneys. But its omnipresence in world cooking
has also enhanced health by delivering a rare nutritional
component: lycopene. Lycopene is a pigment that gives
tomatoes their characteristic red color and packs
a punch as a potent antioxidant. The only known sources
of lycopene on earth are pink grapefruit, watermelon
and tomatoes. Of this trio of cancer-fighting fruits,
the tomato has the highest concentration of lycopene
and is also the most versatile and readily available.
has been shown to help prevent prostate, breast, cervical,
stomach and other cancers and to slow the growth of
tumors. Diets lacking in lycopene — which appears
to curtail blood clots — have been linked to increased
risk for heart attack and stroke. By protecting against
oxidative damage, lycopene may reduce the risk of
visual disorders and lung disease caused by environmental
Potent source of the antioxidant lycopene
- May reduce the risk of heart disease
- Reduces the risk of prostate and other
- May guard against visual and lung disorders
- Chock full of vitamin C, vitamin A,
calcium and potassium
- Promotes healthy skin
processing robs food of its nutrients, but in the
case of the mighty tomato, the opposite is true. Lycopene
is more concentrated in cooked or processed tomato
products and is also more easily absorbed. Eating
tomatoes with a little fat aids lycopene absorption
as well, so enjoying tomatoes with cheese or olive
oil is both delicious and practical.
not forget the tomato’s other nutrients: it
is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium and potassium.
The fruit’s pH balancing effects have long been
exploited as a salve for dry or acne-prone skin. Because of their natural alpha hydroxyl exfoliating properties, tomatoes are also used for skin rejuvenation in treatments such as wraps, masques and peels in spas around the world.
you savor tomatoes in pizza or curry, or appreciate
them on your skin, the redder the better — the
protection is in the pigment.
(Updated: 05/05/11 CT)