There are many health benefits of eating tomatoes. Tomatoes contain compounds that have been proven to help prevent cancer, heart disease cataracts and many others.
Tomatoes are a member of the deadly nightshade family, and as such were considered toxic, causing many conditions like appendicitis, “brain fever” and cancer. In fact, they may have just the opposite effect. Tomatoes were not even eaten in the US until the early 1800s, when an eccentric New Jersey gentleman Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson brought them back from a trip overseas.
Always one to take advantage of a dramatic opportunity, he announced an amazing display of courage would take place on September 26, 1820. He shocked his hometown of Salem by consuming and entire basket of tomatoes in front of a crowd of spectators, expecting him to keel over any second. Obviously, he
didn’t and since then tomatoes have been a staple of the American diet and with good reason.
Starting with the basics, tomatoes contain large amounts of vitamin C, providing 40 percent of the daily value (DV). They also contain 15 percent DV of vitamin A, 8 percent DV of potassium, and 7 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron for women and 10 percent RDA for men.
The red pigment contained in tomatoes is called lycopene. This compound appears to act as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells in the body. Only recently, studies have revealed that lycopene may have twice the punch of another well-known antioxidant betacarotene. Studies conducted by Harvard researchers have discovered that men who consumed 10 servings of tomatoes a week, or the equivalent to 10 slices of pizza, can cut the risk of developing prostate cancer by a formidable 45 percent. However, its benefits are not limited to the prostate. Italian researchers have found that those who consume more that 7 servings of raw tomatoes lower the risk of developing rectal colon or stomach cancers by 60 percent. Israeli researchers have found that lycopene is a powerful inhibitor of lung, breast, and endometrial cancer cells. Research has also indicated that the lycopene in tomatoes can help older people stay active longer. New research is beginning to indicate that tomatoes may be used to help prevent lung cancer.
Two powerful compounds found in tomatoes-coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid-are thought to block the effects of nitrosamines. These are compounds that not only are formed naturally in the body, but also are the strongest carcinogen in tobacco smoke. By blocking the effects of these nitrosamines, the chances of lung cancer are reduced significantly.
When choosing your tomatoes, be sure to pick those with the most brilliant shades of red. These indicate the highest amounts of betacarotene and lycopene. Though raw tomatoes are great for you, cooking them releases even more of the benefits. Lycopene is located in the cell wall of the tomato, so by cooking in a bit of oil, this healing compound is more fully released. In addition cooking the tomato in olive oil allows your body to absorb the lycopene better. Don’t worry about the availability of fresh tomatoes. Tomatoes don’t lose any of their nutritional value in the high heat processing , making canned tomatoes and tomato sauce are both just as viable and beneficial as fresh tomatoes.