A Source of:
- Low calories
- Vitamin C
- Alpha- and beta-carotene
- Phytuene and phytofluene
- B vitamins (B6, niacin, folate, thiamin, and pantothenic acid)
Try to eat one serving of processed tomatoes or sidekicks listed above per day and multiple servings per week of fresh tomatoes
Tomatoes are an extremely popular SuperFood and it’s easy to see why: They’re delicious, and in their extremely health-promoting processed form, they’re relatively inexpensive and widely available year-round. They’re a wonderful SuperFood to rely on in the winter because, in processed form, they’re easy to find and make a great addition to winter soups and stews as well as pasta dishes. Despite their checkered past—they were once considered a dangerous food—tomatoes are now enjoyed in cuisines worldwide. Originating in South America, they were first cultivated in Mexico. Today tomatoes are one of the top-selling vegetables in the United States.
We owe a lot to the tomato. It keeps us healthy, even packing a nutritional punch in foods like pizza and ketchup. Research has demonstrated that regular consumption of tomatoes and their sidekicks is associated with:
- Reduced risk for cancer, including prostate, breast, bladder, lung, and stomach cancers
- Reduced risk for coronary artery disease
- Reduced risk for sun-related skin damage
- Reduced risk for macular degeneration and cataracts
Tomatoes have received a lot of attention over the past few years due to their rich supply of lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid, a pigment that is responsible for the rich, red color of tomatoes. A powerful antioxidant, lycopene seems to be able to protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen damage. A number of studies have demonstrated that lycopene is a powerful cancer fighter. It’s effective in lowering the risk for prostate, breast, digestive tract, cervical, bladder, and lung cancers. In addition, lycopene’s antioxidant ability seems to make it an important player in the prevention of heart disease.
(It’s important to remember that it’s the synergy of nutrients in a whole food that usually give it disease-fighting and health-promoting power.)
Tomatoes and Cancer
- Recent studies confirm emphatically that a diet rich in tomatoes helps prevent prostate cancer. In a meta-study of twenty-one studies it was found that men who ate the highest amount of raw tomatoes had a 19 percent reduction in prostate cancer risk. Even one 6-ounce daily serving reduced the risk of this disease by 3 percent.
- Exciting new research shows that high lycopene consumption is inversely related to the risk for pancreatic cancer, a frequently deadly, fast-progressing cancer. In this study, data showed that men consuming the most lycopene had a 31 percent reduction in their risk for pancreatic cancer. Among subjects who had never smoked, those whose diets were rich in beta-carotene or total carotenoids reduced their risk by 43 percent and 42 percent, respectively. (The easiest way to increase your daily lycopene intake dramatically is to drink 8 ounces of RW Kudsen Low Sodium Very Veggie Vegetable Cocktail. It contains a whopping 22 mg of lycopene per 8 ounces.)
Tomatoes and Cardiovascular Disease
- An impressive body of research confirms the protective nature of tomato-based foods in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. One study published recently followed 39,876 middle-aged and older women who were free of both cancer and cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. After more than seven years of follow-up, those who consumed seven to ten servings each week of lycopene-rich foods were found to have a 29 percent lower risk for cardiovascular disease compared with women who ate fewer than 1.5 servings of tomato foods weekly.
While tomato is a major SuperFood, I’d like to call attention to the benefits of its sidekicks watermelon and pink grapefruit. Don’t forget that both these delicious fruits are rich in the disease-fighter lycopene. Some experts say that red watermelon is an even richer source of lycopene than tomatoes. It’s interesting that nature has provided an all-year-round source of this important nutrient: In the winter, we rely on tomatoes in pasta sauces, soups, and stews, while in warmer weather, we enjoy watermelon. Pink grapefruit is delicious all year round. Remember that lycopene needs some dietary fat to be absorbed. This isn’t as difficult with tomatoes, as we often eat them with olive oil, but grapefruit and watermelon may take some special effort. When eating grapefruit, follow with a slice of whole-grain toast topped with mashed avocado and a few drops of hot sauce. Enjoy watermelon as a dessert following a meal that has included some healthy fat.
*This brief summary contains copyrighted material from SuperFoods HealthStyle by Steven G. Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews. Copyright © 2006 by Steven G. Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews Inc., published by HarperCollins; and from SuperFoods Rx For Pregnancy by Steven Pratt, M.D. Copyright © 2013 by SuperFoods Partners, LLC, published by Wiley. All rights reserved.