Attack of the Healthy Tomatoes
By Paul Rothbart
Here's a fun question: what salad staple makes great soup, good juice, a common condiment, and a fantastic pasta sauce? The answer of course, is the tomato. This wonderful produce was first cultivated in South America and when it got to Italy, the people praised the saints. Tomatoes have a nice acidic flavor and are meaty. Low in both calories and carbs, tomatoes are a good way to satisfy hunger. They also come in different sizes. Cherry tomatoes are convenient little snacks. But beyond all of that, tomatoes are also very nutritious and healthy. Here are some of the benefits of the tomato.
Tomatoes are rich in vitamins, especially Vitamin C. One average size tomato can provide up to 40 percent of the minimum daily requirement of this essential nutrient. Tomatoes also contain Vitamins A and K, which provide a number of benefits for keeping the body healthy. The nutritional content of tomatoes is impressive.
Vitamin A is one of the nutrients that keeps the eyes healthy. It can help prevent cataracts and diminished vision as we age. Tomatoes also contain beta-carotene and lutein, which also support vision and help protect against macular degeneration and other eye diseases.
Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which gives them their red color. But it's more than just a food dye. Lycopene is excellent for heart health and helps to prevent heart disease and stroke, as well as diabetes. Diabetes, bad enough on its own, also doubles the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that tomatoes are a better and more effective way to get lycopene than taking supplements.
Lycopene also can boost the production of collagen, which protects the skin. Research conducted in 2011 found that tomato paste combined with olive oil protects the skin from sun damage. If ever there was a reason to eat Italian food at an outdoor restaurant, this is it. The concentration of lycopene in tomatoes is higher when they are cooked and the olive oil aids absorption of lycopene into the bloodstream.
Lycopene is not finished yet. This amazing antioxidant also fights free radicals in the body that damage cells, which can cause cancer. Studies have shown that lycopene may be linked to fewer cases of ovarian, prostate, stomach, and lung cancer.
So versatile, so delicious, tomatoes are a great vegetable. Although technically a fruit, that does not diminish the health benefits and nutritional value of the tomato. They really could fill in for the apple in keeping the doctor away.
To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Orange Park, Fla.