By Dr. Leo Galland
Fresh sliced tomato. Tomato salsa. Tomato soup. Tomato sauce. Tomato paste. The ways you can enjoy this delicious fruit are almost infinite.
And summer is the perfect time to enjoy the all the benefits of tomatoes. The sweet and tangy flavor of tomatoes together with health benefits make the tomato a great part of any day.
Whether you buy a tomato at the farmstand, the supermarket or even grow your own tomatoes, there are a few things you should know.
Tomatoes are excellent sources of potassium and several vitamins:
- folic acid
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Fight Inflammation with the Tomato
Bioflavonoids, which are concentrated in the tomato skin, counteract inflammation and allergic reactions. The main compounds in tomato skin are quercetin and kaempferol. A study from the University of California-Davis found the amounts of quercitin and kaempferol to be higher in organically grown tomatoes than conventionally grown tomatoes.
Tomatoes are one of my favorite inflammation-fighting foods. When you reduce inflammation, you can make your weight loss hormones such as leptin, work properly, allowing you to lose weight. (Learn more about leptin: Increase Metabolism with the Fat Burning Hormone Leptin)
Tomatoes also contain important anti-inflammatory nutrients called carotenoids and bioflavonoids.
Tomato Benefits from Carotenoids
A tomato has beta-carotene, an orange pigment also found in carrots and sweet potatoes, an important antioxidant that protects against damage from sunlight. Your body also converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.
A tomato has lycopene, a red pigment, with demonstrated anti-cancer effects. In Western countries, 85% of dietary lycopene can be attributed to the consumption of tomato-based products.
A tomato contains phytoene and phytofluene, two anti-cancer compounds.
Discover the power of vegetables: Want to Look More Attractive? Eat Carrots
Studies indicate that tomato consumption is associated with a reduced risk of:
- ovarian cancer, especially in premenopausal women.
- digestive tract cancers (mouth, throat, esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum).
- cardiovascular disease.
- asthma and chronic lung disease.
The Tomato and Prostate Cancer
American men who eat at least four servings of tomato products per week have, according to some research, a 40 percent reduction in the risk of prostate cancer. Studies of men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer found that increasing consumption of tomato products was associated with a marked decrease in cancer progression. In one study, when men with prostate cancer ate three-quarters of a cup of tomato sauce a day, cooked in various dishes, evidence of cancer regression could be detected in only three weeks for the men in the study.
One theory as to the benefit for prostate cancer is due to lycopene. Studies in animals, however, found that powdered tomatoes were more effective than pure lycopene, indicating that other tomato components, perhaps phytoene and phytofluene, are also important. Thus far, though, clinical trials of lycopene for prostate cancer have been negative, so more data will be needed.
Health Benefits of Tomatoes Boosted by Cooking
The absorption of carotenoids and flavonoids from tomatoes is greater from cooked tomatoes than fresh tomatoes, since cooking breaks down the tomato cell matrix and makes the carotenoids more available.
Addition of olive oil to diced tomatoes during cooking greatly increases the absorption of lycopene. Oil is essential for absorbing carotenoids from tomatoes in salads or salsa. There is almost no absorption of these vital nutrients from salad eaten with a non-fat dressing.
Learn more about olive oil in Olive Oil or Advil
Organic Tomatoes Have More Vitamin C
Compared to conventionally grown tomatoes, organic tomatoes have a higher content of vitamin C and bioflavonoids.
I hope you enjoy the healthy pleasure of tomatoes now and throughout the year.
Now I’d like to hear from you:
Do you enjoy tomatoes or tomato sauce?
Where do you shop for tomatoes?
How do you usually eat a tomato?
Please share your tomato thoughts by posting a comment below.
Leo Galland, MD
Important: Share the Health with your friends and family by forwarding this article to them, and sharing on Facebook.
References and Further Reading:
J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999 Feb 17;91(4):317-31. Full Text: “Tomatoes, tomato-based products, lycopene, and cancer: review of the epidemiologic literature.” Giovannucci E. Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
J Med Food. 2010 Dec;13(6):1443-50. Epub 2010 Sep 27. “Antimutagenic effects of lycopene and tomato purée.” Polívková Z, Šmerák P, Demová H, Houška M. Department of General Biology and Genetics, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.
Curr Med Chem. 2010;17(23):2547-63. “Tomato lycopene and inflammatory cascade: basic interactions and clinical implications.” Palozza P, Parrone N, Catalano A, Simone R.Institute of General Pathology, Catholic University, School of Medicine, Lgo F. Vito, 1 00168 Rome, Italy.
Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002 Nov;227(10):920-3. “Overview of mechanisms of action of lycopene.” Heber D, Lu QY. University of California Center for Human Nutrition, 900 Veteran Avenue, Room 1-2-213, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1742, USA.
J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Jul;48(7):2663-9. “Occurrence of flavonols in tomatoes and tomato-based products.” Stewart AJ, Bozonnet S, Mullen W, Jenkins GI, Lean ME, Crozier A. Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, U.K.
J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Jul 25;55(15):6154-9. Epub 2007 Jun 23. “Ten-year comparison of the influence of organic and conventional crop management practices on the content of flavonoids in tomatoes.” Mitchell AE, Hong YJ, Koh E, Barrett DM, Bryant DE, Denison RF, Kaffka S. Department of Food Science and Technology and Department of Plant Sciences, One Shields Avenue, University of California-Davis, Davis, California 95616, USA.
Mediators Inflamm. 2010; 2010: 289645.
Published online 2010 July 14. doi: 10.1155/2010/289645.
Full Text:“Chronic Inflammation in Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome”
Rosário Monteiro* and Isabel Azevedo
Department of Biochemistry (U38-FCT), Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, Al. Prof. Hernâni Monteiro, 4200-319 Porto, Portugal
Full Text: "Diet and Inflammation" Leo Galland, MD, Nutr Clin Pract December 7, 2010 vol. 25 no. 6 634-640